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Film Director

Name: Paul Rohrer

Tell us about your work---what do you do? I am a film director for independent films , and what I do depends largely on the budget for the project. If the budget is low, the director wears many hats -- directs every department from pre-production through post. I create and finalize each step of the process in developing my vision of the project from beginning to end -- raising the money and budgeting each department, always keeping in mind that every penny go towards what appears on screen. If I have $5, it's better to put it toward the screen final (better wardrobe, better camera lens) than toward personal comfort (McDonald's rather than Boston Chicken)! Directors with low budgets hire and direct department heads and talent and make decisions about talent, sound , make-up , wardrobe , set design and all technical aspects . With every increasing dollar, I can hire these functions out. On a production with a good budget, a director takes care of what goes into the camera and what comes out. What skills are needed? In addition to knowing the camera and what and how the camera can capture, a director needs to know how people's intentions are being used on set. Understand the actor . The more you understand lighting , the more you can communicate what you want it to achieve. The better you know each of the aspects of the production, the better you'll be able to achieve your vision. What was your major? I have a B.A. in Theater and Drama . How did you get started in your career? I've been acting since grade school, but my first professional job was in dinner theater. I didn't really consider directing until I was thrown into it. I was hired as an actor for an industrial, and they noticed how aware I was of all the aspects of what was going on. They asked me to direct an instructional industrial for beer making. It was great fun, and I learned a lot. I'd been coaching actors for years, and realized I had the skill to direct. At the same time, the owner of an acting studio asked me to direct her camera classes, and it grew from there. What experience do you need in this job? On-location training is important. Now, with technology, you can get software and a camera for $5,000 that would have been $100,000 five years ago. Your investment is cheap, and you can go out and do it! Learning how to tell a story with the camera comes with experience. What is the hardest aspect of your job? Accepting limitations -- limitations in money, time, talent, logistics -- you name it. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? Those times when people exceed expectations are most rewarding. And are those rewards in the long or short term? It's a combination of the two. Unless I believe I'm creating a product that will live beyond me, I might not look for the best from everyone on a daily basis. If I look for that each day, I know I will have the best production possible. John McTiernan, the famous action director (Die Hard, Predator, Last Action Hero), says he feels lucky if he gets 50% of his vision on screen. There are just so many aspects -- so many moving parts -- to putting a picture together. And at that level, politics is a huge factor. What are your suggestions for someone considering this field? One of what I might call the saddest parts of this industry today is that technology provides the tools of the trade to everyone who wants to all him/herself a filmmaker. To set yourself above, know the history. If you don't know it, learn it. It gives you a courage, power, strength, knowledge and awareness that you can't have any other way. As individuals, we are more than that individual design. The more we know about who we are and why we are as filmmakers , the better we can express that.