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For most of his career, Clint Eastwood’s career as an actor has overshadowed his accomplishments as a director. With over 30 movies as a director and two Academy Awards for Best Director, Clint Eastwood is one of America’s most prolific and best filmmakers.
And at a time when special effects dominate the industry, when movies are routinely budgeted over $100 million dollars and when egomaniac directors routinely go over schedule and over budget (that’s you, hack Scorcese), it’s refreshing to see a filmmaker like Eastwood confident and competent enough to make modestly budgeted films ahead of schedule and under budget with an emphasis of story over effects.
So how does Clint Eastwood do it? Well, for starters, he’s been directing for a long time so he has both confidence and experience in his craft. It also helps that he worked in television where the quick production schedules and limited budgets necessitated that a director work quickly and efficiently. The other thing that Eastwood does is his homework. He knows exactly what he wants and needs when he arrives on the set. That way he doesn’t have to waste time figuring things out on the set.
For the next few posts, the Moose will write about some of the various directing techniques that Clint Eastwood uses and how you can use those techniques to better your filmmaking.
The first technique that the Moose would like to talk about is simple enough. Find and trust great material. Of course, this sounds more like common sense than a specific filmmaking technique, but you’d be surprised at how often people ignore this technique. When you’re looking for material to direct, make sure that they story is solid. Any problems that you find in the script when you read it will be there when you shoot it. Make sure the script is sound and all your problems have been worked out before you begin production.
Now here’s where people fall off of the good material bandwagon. When the script is good, leave it alone. When Paul Haggis turned in his first draft for Million Dollar Baby, he expected Eastwood to give him some notes and was prepared to do a rewrite. But Clint Eastwood liked what he read and knew that the story was solid so he started preparing to shoot Haggis’s first draft. In Hollywood, this is the exception, not the rule.
Typically, the standard operating procedure is to rewrite, usually by committee, until you drain all the life out of a story. Oftentimes actors and directors will sign onto a project after reading a great script. The producers and the director take the script through several rewrites (the development process) until the script no longer resembles the story that attracted the director or the actors in the first place. But Clint Eastwood knew that Paul Haggis’s script was solid and had all the story elements that he liked from the source material. Therefore, a rewrite was unnecessary.
Find good material, and then trust your material when you find it. Simple, but easier said than done.Buy the Moose a cup of coffee.