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Directing tips with Bryan Buckley

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Learning from the mistakes I made in my first interview, I was ready for my next one with Bryan Buckley, co-founder of Hungry Man Productions and two-time Oscar nominee. Different from my last interview, being able to talk to a film director as opposed to a professor made the conversation feel more casual and as a result more authentic with Mr. Buckley’s answers. Although there were numerous valuable insights that Buckley offered me, I was able to take away 3 key lessons from Mr. Buckley that I reckon every director must carry with them before they walk on a film set.

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While on the topic of ensuring everything on set is working smoothly, one of the most overlooked responsibilities of a director is to have a sense of humor. Film sets get incredibly stressful very quickly and it's easy for people to lose hope in their project or worse, get aggravated at others. As a director, alleviating stress by creating a casual, comforting, and welcoming environment will allow for a smoother shooting process and as a result, a stronger film. I always hear stories about some of the world's most successful directors abusing their actors on set with their totalitarian perfectionism. This creates a misconception that I, unfortunately, believed in for a whale which argued that great directors have to be stern, assertive, and have absolute power while on set. When I heard Mr. Buckley's advice on humor on set, I couldn’t feel more relieved and comforted knowing that not taking yourself incredibly seriously is quite a helpful thing.

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Problem-solving is one of the most vital qualities a director can have. How a director responds to the unforeseen and inevitable issues on a film set can determine the outcome of the film. While Mr. Buckley was in pre-production for his 2019 narrative short Saria, he ran into a myriad of problems, whether it was struggling to find a safe location within central America or training non-actors weeks before the scheduled shooting. Being a director means I find creative ways to implement problem-solving skills into the finished product. Since the crew was shooting in Mexico with a limited acting pool,  they decided to make the daring but impressive decision to cast real Mexican orphans as extras for the film, which is the 2017 Guatemala orphanage fire. This decision adds to the authenticity of the film, creating an overall hyper-realistic atmosphere. These examples of how problem-solving can help me while making films prove to me how problem-solving goes beyond simply fixing an issue and using your creativity to distort your limitations.

Film Set

When I asked Mr. Buckley my last question, “What is one bit of advice you would tell any young aspiring filmmaker?” he simply replied to not expect to immediately change the world. He argued film is a slow process and that you grow as an artist over time and not immediately. When Mr. Buckley directed his short film Saria, he did it intending to spread awareness about a forgotten tragedy, and in turn, earned him an Oscar nomination at the 2020 Academy Awards and caused widespread attention to this incident from not only audiences but politicians in both the U.S. and Guatemala. Mr. Buckley reiterated that if you want to make a film that will change the world, you need to understand it won’t happen overnight. As someone who wants to use film to advocate for social issues and spread awareness of forgotten bits of history, hearing this from someone who created a film that, in my opinion, changed the world, opened up my eyes. I feel more comfortable knowing that I can’t expect to change the world immediately, but I still have the power to change it as I grow. I consider this tip to be the most crucial takeaway during the whole interview.

In summary, Mr. Buckley helped present me with advice that I could use as a young no-budget filmmaker as well as a high-budgeted established filmmaker. With these three incredibly helpful tips, I plan to carry on my next directorial endeavor. Each tip serves crucial both on and offsets during pre, during, and post-production. Recognizing the shortcomings that many directors my age make and mixing these three vital bits of insight can help me stand out from the crowd and attract more people to my sets as well as improve my overall directing skills. I tend to struggle with most of the topics that Mr. Buckley talked about, so I consider working on my problem-solving, use of humor, and expectations so my next film set won't be as hectic or stressful as most in the industry. If I keep practicing these skills over time, I might just be able to change the world.

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