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Communication Conundrum: Finding the Right Words on Set

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AlexisStarting out as a filmmaker, it is easy to picture directing a shoot to be simplistic and efficient. Unfortunately, starting out, it is also easy to misunderstand what it actually takes to effectively communicate with the people on set. At a young age, many of us have merely dabbled in the area of directing a video shoot and/or short film and have found that the communication needed on set is a lot more complex than what meets the eye.

From personal experience, I have found that the ideas that are bursting at the seams in my mind are usually just mediocre when spoken into words. So what is it that makes ideas sound so substantial? What words can be sewn together in an intricate manner to form a physical idea that can be shared with everyone on set? What words can be shared so that the cast and crew can experience the magic going on in the director’s head? I cannot speak from experience, however, I can speak from observation when I say that the leader (in whatever the circumstance) that leads by example with a level head usually has more followers than the leader who uses the volume of his or her words to determine how well the idea will be communicated.

People are people, plain and simple. They must be treated with respect no matter how minuscule their job on set is. Once the person leading on set forgets that even the smallest set hand is in fact a person; that is when I believe productivity is lost. Rather than yelling the same words over and over, find new ways to formulate a sentence. An expansion of one’s vocabulary may be necessary when diving into communication.

For example, say you wish for the actors in your film to be “extremely sad.” Rather than repeating yourself trying to get your set to understand what you wish to see happen, change it up. Instead of telling your actor to be “extremely sad” over and over, tell them to show “morose behavior.”

Leadership in life, especially on set, is complicated; however, it can be simplified. Many times, leadership is gained through wisdom, while wisdom is gained through experience. If you are just starting out in life, figuring your way through the maze of entertainment and beyond, it may be in your best interest to invest in yourself. Invest in your leadership skills by reading leadership and filmmaking-based books to get one step ahead of the game.

Here are a few that I have found to be beneficial:

–       The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

–       Developing the Leader Within You by John C. Maxwell

–       The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John C. Maxwell

–       Andrew Jenks: My Adventures As a Young Filmmaker by Andrew Jenks

–       Producer: Lessons Shared from 30 Years in Television by Wendy Walker

As a college student, it is important to remember that it is never too early to start investing in yourself, your skills, and the way you communicate with people. Successful people do not schedule a time in the future to chase after their dreams; they believe there is no time like the present. Plant a seed of improvement within yourself to truly become the filmmaker (or person) you wish to be.

Alexis McDonough

About Alexis McDonough

As an aspiring Director of Photography, Alexis McDonough is currently entering her third year of college at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts as a Production major. Born and raised in the outskirts of Miami, FL, Alexis has always shown a curiosity for telling original and untold stories. She currently resides in the city of Los Angeles, CA and in the mean time of receiving her degree, she takes pride in advancing in her cinematography and editing skills alongside developing her natural story telling abilities. Making the decision to pursue film as a lifestyle at the age of 15, Alexis has taken advantage of several outlets to advance in filmmaking. Among these are internships and job positions that allow her to creatively exude her ideas and passions. Alexis enjoys indulging in her favorite films, creative writing, and reading novels and self-developing leadership books. With a strong work ethic and passionate personality, Alexis looks forward to writing for Ms. In The Biz. She sees this opportunity as an outlet for creativity and looks forward to networking, new experiences and opportunities