I once paid quite a bit of money to attend a workshop on how to be a successful director. I don’t remember what credentials the presenter held, but he managed to turn me off within five minutes of starting his presentation. His first piece of advice was that a director needs to establish dominance by firing somebody. It didn’t matter whom or why, just pick somebody more or less at random and fire them.
This is the dominance theory of film directing and it’s not for me. I’m ashamed to say I tried it out once on a CBC production in Toronto. I like a quiet, focused set. My hope was that, while the crew would not shape up to make me happy, they would shape up to keep the first AD safe from criticism. So I growled loudly at my first AD: “If you can’t get me quiet on this set, I’m going to get somebody in here who can.” Doing my best to sound angry and nasty.
And then I felt so bad about myself that I never tried being dominant again,
All I can say about this theory of directing is: Don’t be this guy, eh.
I walked out of that expensive workshop after a mere five minutes of listening to the jerk strut and preen his way around the stage. I demanded my money back with the excuse that my back was giving me trouble and I couldn’t stand to remain in the seat. I suppose I could have just told the organizers the truth, but there would have been consequences for that friend of mine who talked me into buying the ticket. Truth can be a dangerous thing to use indiscriminately.
I got my brother, Ed “Bear” Scott, to work with me on Terminal City Ricochet, despite my feelings about nepotism. Mostly I wanted him on set because his day job was as a prison guard. He handled a pistol grip shotgun every working day, and knew how to do so safely. Ed knows me. He knows that I’m a pussycat by nature. And this is what he told me about the crew: “They are terrified of you, you know.” Shaking his head in disbelief.
“You’re kidding,” I told him.
“No I’m not. They are totally terrified of you.”
“What have I ever done to make them afraid of me,” I asked him.
“That’s what I can’t figure out,” he said. “But they are.”
“Must be just the title,” I said.
We had a lot of real guns on that set. Ed told me about a conversation he had with the props master. “You’re going to have an accidental discharge if you do that,” he told the guy.
The response he got roughly translates as “Fuck off. I know what I’m doing.”
And then five minutes later, KABOOOM. One of the pistol grip shotguns went off, to everybody’s surprise, especially the surprise of the props master who was holding it, fortunately pointed straight up in the air.
Ed gave him a look, but didn’t say anything. He’d been in that position himself.
Terminal City Ricochet had a couple of incidents on set that resulted in me having to fire the safety officer, out of self defense, and replace him with the head of the stunt man’s association. More on that in my next post.