ATTN JMS: Directors on Short Leash?

B5JMS Poster b5jms-owner at
Mon May 13 06:45:05 EDT 1996

Subject: ATTN JMS: Directors on Short Leash?
 No. | DATE        |  FROM
+  1: May 12, 1996: Laura Gillenwater <tworks19 at>
*  2: May 13, 1996: jmsatb5 at (Jms at B5)


From: Laura Gillenwater <tworks19 at>
Lines: 25

Hi, Joe -

>From reading all your various posts (and other sources) I've gotten the 
clear picture that you have a very tight reign on things. Actors can't 
ad-lib, you help design the music and the sets and you help choreograph 
the CGI (am I right so far?). It even seems that you script in some of 
the physical bits for the actors.

So what have you left for your directors to do? From my experience (B.S. 
in Broadcasting and Film and personal amateur acting/directing 
experience), the director does the blocking (movement of actors within a 
scene), gives the actors "business" to do ("Okay, Mira, why don't you 
smooth back Bruce's hair while you say that line"), chooses camera shots 
(distance, angel, framing, etc. - along with the cinematographer-type 
person), and coordinates his/her "vision" with the other departments 
(scenery, costumes, music/sound, etc.).  I know I'm leaving some stuff 
out, here, but I just wanted people to get the gist...

What I'm wondering is, how many of these things do your directors have 
control over and how much control do they really have? How do you work 
with your directors to achieve your vision but, at the same time, allow 
them some creativity and input?



From: jmsatb5 at (Jms at B5)
Lines: 56

It's a very careful and deliberate dance.  The reality is that many of our
directors add a lot to the show in terms of visual style, pacing, and in
working with the actors to bring out the story.  

The way it works...the director gets the script.  The director and I talk
about the script (several times).  The director then also has his own
meetings with the various departments, telling them what he'd like to have
as visual elements (sets and lighting elements and practical on-set
effects like squibs, sparks, exploding walls, that sort of thing).  He
walks the sets, diagrams out the angles, works out the shooting schedule
with the first AD.  

In most cases, the script is written in master shots, i.e, 


Franklin looks at Delenn's lifeless body.  Sheridan enters, exchanges a
serious look with the doctor.  Garibaldi enters carrying popcorn.

And there the director can frame the shot however he chooses.  In some
cases, if I want something in particular, I call out the shots.  As in....


Morden waits at a table as, in BG, an as-yet unidentified NARN approaches.
 Morden doesn't even look up as he approaches and pulls something out of
his pocket.


freshly skewered and ready for broiling.  It's little kitty eyes loll up
at us.


smiles and pockets the kitty.  Nods, as we


and the Narn continues on his way, and we PAN OVER to a sign on the wall:
"Kitties Cannot Hide," as we DISSOLVE TO:

In those cases, the director shoots those specific shots.  

It's once a director hits the stage floor that the main difference and
quality comes through.  A good director enhances a script, brings out
nuances in performance, helps elucidate the story, keeps the camera
moving...the ones I tend to favor are the directors that transmute one
shot into another...going from a three-shot to a two-shot to a closeup and
a reverse all in *the same camera move*.  Ah luvs that kinda stuff.


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