Last summer, I had the incredible opportunity to work with Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum a.k.a., Liz Allen, as an intern. In the past, she has directed both film and television and when I met her she was directing a couple episodes for various television shows.
In my own future I hope to direct as well, and though last summer I thought I wanted to direct television, my scope of interest has changed slightly, leaning toward film. I must thank Liz significantly for this because her insight into the industry really guided me in the direction I didn’t realize I wanted to go.
One of the main reasons I realized I wanted to direct film is because I learned that every episode of a television series is usually directed by a different person. This means that often times the director is very limited in their creative decisions. Sure they’re permitted to exercise their own vision a bit, but overall each episode has to match with the ones that come before and after. This is in order to maintain continuity and a sense of connection. If each episode felt like it was directed by a different auteur, the series would be all over the place and might lose its audience.
In order to maintain the core “feel” of the show, the director of photography as well others on set work with the director to ensure the flow of the episode. That’s another reason why I realized I wanted to work with film: the director is a guest on most television sets. The rest of the cast and crew has been working together for a few weeks, months, or even years whereas the director walks on for a bit before walking off again, only to be replaced by the next. This doesn’t make them any less of a team member, but I’ve always enjoyed building projects from the ground up and finishing them with the same people. Being able to direct one episode is any honor, but I would definitely get too attached and want to stay onboard.
My third reason is that I’ve learned to love the process of creating something really beautiful, but with an end date. I think films are strong in that they are stand alone projects that have an expiration date. Television can often go on for many seasons and by the time it wraps, the show is completely different from how it starts. At the same time, sometimes films aren’t necessarily long enough. They tell a story, but have to condense it into a palatable time span. Working with Liz was unique because she had done both film and television and was able to talk about the pros and cons of each. Because of this, I’ve come to realize my perfect medium would be somewhere in between: a mini series like Chernobyl, an epic like Game of Thrones, or a show that feels like a film broken into episodes, take Twin Peaks.
All in all, my experience working with Liz was really incredible. She was very kind and taught me a lot about the industry. I learned that in order to figure out what you want to do, you need experience in doing what you don’t want to do. That sounds a little contradictory, but if you would have asked me a year ago, I would have had no interest in working with films, but now, my perspective has completely changed.