Note on Directing for the First Time

The first episode was also the first time I’ve directed anything, whether on stage or for the camera. I was terrified on the morning of the shoot — afraid that things wouldn’t go well, that my ideas wouldn’t work, that the crew would think this was stupid, and mostly that I would let the actors down and they would feel untalented because I hadn’t put them in a position to succeed.

We started rolling the first shot and they started improvising their scenario (this was what turned out to be episode 4 with the CIA agent and informant on the park bench). I didn’t know how long to let it to go or exactly what I was really looking for. I wanted to cut the camera about three minutes into the first take but I waited for another two minutes while I thought of something to say to the actors.

In later episodes, I was prepared for these moments and had a plan. It’s good to have go-to’s in your back pocket for when you don’t have any specific notes or adjustments, something I learned from Stephen Cone’s incredibly awesome directing class.

It occurred to me later that screwing up the moments between the first and the second take could probably tank and entire scene or day or even project.

I realized after the first episode that I needed to have more prepared in terms of story. So I had an outline of the beats and I had to have specific things for the actors to try, specific tactics that they could use.

The humor often came from details, and I wrote some of those details into the initial treatments. Some of them I jotted down as ideas in the outline, and some I jotted down while we were filming.

I like collaboration and many good ideas came from the crew.

Directing is the easiest way to hang out with your actor friends.

The actors I worked with are very good and that made things easy.

Each episode was only about 2-3 hours to set up and shoot, with camera rolling for 50-90 minutes of that time. Basic setups, minimal lighting, etc.

There isn’t much movement of actors or camera in this series. I want to do more visual storytelling in my next project. Better to isolate one variable to get the hang of it before adding in other variables, is my thinking at least.