Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Dumbing Down of Directors, aka "Coverage"

Coverage...the new buzz word among Producers, certainly those that work in the TV industry.

Over the past few years the word 'Coverage', as in, "we have to have lots of it" has become one of the major reasons for filming schedules and attendant costs, to have soared.
Those extra hours being demanded and the Six day week have been imposed on productions and crews in order to get more of it.

What is this thing that crews and Directors have to get more of, and why?.

Let us take a journey backwards in time for a few years to the period when most drama Directors had a theatrical background and not a TV studio one.

In those far off days a Director would arrive on the set fully prepared for the days shoot having done something called Homework.

He\She would know exactly what frame they wanted, whose dialogue would be covered and on what lens size, what reaction shots would be required....BINGO..the scene would cut like a dream and be a pleasure to watch.  The actors  could give a peak performance from being able to time it just right, as opposed to todays technique ...

For example, take a simple little two page dialogue scene, three actors,in a room, even more simple, the script calls for them to be seated, all have lines. This is probably how it is shot today...

At least two wide establishers  from different angles. All the scene would be run.
A two shot one way..all the scene run.
A tighter two shot..All the scene run.
Singles on both actors from the two shot. All the scene run
A reverse two shot, over the third actors shoulder..All the scene would be run.
Singles of the first two actors.all on down the line lenses.. at least three of them  All of the scene will be run.
At least three lens sizes on the single actor All of the scene run.
The reactions would be covered on down the line lenses..All of the scen would be run.
There will probaly be two short tracks, one behind the two sets of actors, at least two lens sizes and then the inevitable rock and roll on the dolly, hoping to catch the pertinent piece of dialogue.
There might be some profile shots of all of the actors , running all of the lines.
This is called Coverage.
It is also nonsense.
This technique is an excuse for not knowing your craft as a Director. My granny, who has been dead for many a year, could direct this crap.

I have  a great deal of respect for most of the Directors I work with but it is now time for them, collectively, to tell their inexperienced media school , two day course, Producers to get stuffed, that they will direct the show, and that a visit to the cinema by the said Producers to watch some classic movies might help.
There is also another immportant aspect to massive overshooting...  The perfomance of the actors, which is the main reason for everyone t to turn up at the studio.

Having spent many years on set watching very closely I have noticed that the vast majority of actors peak in performancse at about take five, at take seven they begin to glaze over a little, by take twelve they have lost it and are in complete robot mode, which makes everyones efforts a total waste of time.

Directors  get your skills back and show some flair.

Edits should not be done by a committee  of Producers in the cutting room, it should done in your hesad at the outset.

The views expressed here are entirely my own , please feel free to disagree.

R J Dodd

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Three out of four ain't bad.

1200  feet underground is a long way down and getting there was a quite a ride.

As coalminers we had to take that journey squatting four to a small cage,there were three other cages on the lift  so that was 16 men in total, it was essential that the ride was a quick one in order to get the next shift of miners underground as quickly as possible.
The solution to that was an easy one, the winchman just took the brake off and the cage plummetted into the bowels of the earth, in freefall.
I suppose it was the forerunner of a bungee jump..totally free falling trying to avoid looking at the shaft wall  whizzing by a few feet away as we went hurtling downwards.. and then the brakes were slowly applied to bring you gently to a stop at your drift level.
I made that ride hundreds of times and never ever got to like it  and I would rather chew my foot off than take a bungee jump.
The point of this little anecdote!!...
There is nowhere on earth quite as dark as a deep shaft coal mine when the lights are switched off, and I don't mean the lights that are every twenty yards or so  along the drift walkway which give off a very dim glow because the glass is covered in years of accumulated coal dust, I mean the darkness after you go through an airlock door into a worked out seam and find somewhere reasonably comfortable to sit, then you switch off your helmet lamp..That sort of darkness...  Total Darkness.

A a young man working down a coal mine was one of the few options available in my part of the United Kingdom, it was either that or being family needed the money.
My problem was that I had no real desire to be a miner....that's where the switching off the lamp comes into it.
As a school child I was an avaricious reader, I devoured every book that entered the local childrens library, every book on every subject in our poorly equipeed school library, and the hunger for knowledge,about everything, never left me, it also cursed me with an unbelievable imagination.

I wanted to travel, to be on the Hispaniola as it sailed across  the Atlantic to find treasure Island, to be with Christopher columbus when he made landfall in America, to fly a Spitfire.. what I did not want to do was dig out coal from a mine several hundred feet you get the drift?

So it  was that the switching off the miners lamp and being in complete darkness  actually illuminated another world.....the one in my mind

I would sit and listen to the drip of water seeping through the cracked stone of the roof, the distant crump of explosives blasting another seam of coal and turn them into something else....Another world

I emerged from my mining days realising I wanted four things in life 1.Travel  2.Money  3. Meeting lots of girls  4. Adventures.
This wild ambition led me to becoming a Director of Photography and latterly a writer along with my partner Mary Lou Clarke

Two of our novels The Sandrunners  and The Stack are available on

So three out of four  ambitions ain't bad, the other one is a work in progress.

Come back to the site and I will let you know how I got on.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Stack a Novel by RJ Dodd

The Stack
What exactly is The Stack?
In this instance it is a massive timber forest in Australia.
Why that name?
When my partner and I were researching the story we met a young man in  London who had lived on just such a place, his family owned a one million acre timber farm and they called it the Stack.
He  never went back there once he had left because he much preferred the bright lights of cities such as New York and London, which he could afford to enjoy as he was now a successful stockbroker, but the idea of such a large property stuck way out in the Aussie bushlands got our creative juices going and we began to research in earnest, including another trip out to Australia, never a hardship for either of us because it  is one of our favourite places and we have travelled extensively in that country.
So now we had a location,what to do with it...?
We had to create the story that would allow us to visit the location and fill it with characters who would want to live there.
That's where my grandfather came in. He was a young lad of 16 when he lied his way into the British Army that was engaged in that most vicious of recent bloody conflicts..  World War 0ne.
No doubt he was excited by the idea of travel, of being involved in some great and glorious adventure, where no one really got hurt or maimed, and all of his friends had volunteered. There was no such thing as TV News in those days so the ignorant stayed ignorant, they would not have seen 60,000 men being shot,killed, maimed in just one day on the battlefields.I fancy the enthusiasm of the worlds youth to enrol might have been a little dampened if they had. However, there he was, straight from a slum town where he had lived in a slum to being one of the heroes of the world..In a place called Gallipoli, a peninsula in Turkey.
Those in High Command decreed that this piece of land must be taken and held to suit their strategic purposes.It cost thousands of Allied and Turkish lives and will be rememberd as one of the major  errors,,among many others, of that gruesome four year encounter.
Grandfather had four brothers in that campaign, one was killed, one lost an eye,one lost a leg and the other one lost an arm,... grandad robbed a bank...of its gold...then he lost the gold in a desperate chase with the Turks who wanted it back.
As he tells the tale it got to a situation where he and his fellow robber, his best mate, could keep the gold and be shot  or get rid and live, obviously he chose the latter. Wise lad.  Or maybe not so wise..  he went on to France where he was gassed and spent the rest of his life struggling with the problems that created.
So now we had another element that we could use in building the base story line for The Stack.
It started life as a script, not unnaturally, as I am employed in the filming business, and it was read by a number of Producers who all liked the basic premise but who all passed on the grounds of the high cost of production..Historic, costumes, foreign locations, war, battle fleets,  aging characters..dadum dida..
So it is now a brand new novel in a shiny new jacket and is available on Amazon..see how we got on!!
RJ Dodd