Tag Archives: Film Directing

Film Directing: Make Your Audience Emotionally Engaged

How to  Make Your Film Audience Emotionally Engaged?

Many film school students make the mistake of thinking that film directing is simply telling a story. That is not true.When you get a script, you want the audience to be emotionally engaged in the film and to do that you need their watching experience to have different layers of fun.

I’m going to talk about something that not many film schools are talking about – Film directing is not just about telling “the facts”. In fact, the facts are just the cover to tell a deeper story with deeper meaning.

Don’t sell yourself

Before we start talking about how to make a film that will thrill your audience, it’s important for me to explain, that I’m not talking about selling  yourself to the audience. Don’t do something just because the audience seems to like it right now. If you don’t believe in your film, your audience will feel it. If you want to make a film that will truly be remembered, You must think about your way of telling the story.

Find a good story

Your first step is to find a good story. Notice that I didn’t write “a good script”. First of all pay attention to the story itself. Does the story work without the stylish dialogues and scenes?
It’s hard to define a good story, but generally speaking, it’s a story that will challenge the audience, but more important a story that interests you. You are about to do a lot of story analyzing, so you better like it. Also, make sure the story’s world has to be reliable and also the characters. It also needs to have the dramatic structure.

Have a good main character

The audience has to connect with your character. I’ve talked about how to do that in the Developing Characters post, but generally, you need to have a character that the audience will care about and that will be strong enough to lead us in throughout the story. The audience should really want her to survive and succeed.

Understand your story

The director needs to be able to make complicated interpretations of the script. To do that he needs first to completely understand the story. The process starts with understanding your story’s structure and the dramatic conflict that is developing throughout the film. Back To The Future is a film that you can see the director knew every little detail about the plot, the characters, and their town.

Your director’s vision

Director’s vision is the director main tool to translate the script into a movie. If you’ll find and completely understand your film director’s vision, you’ll make great films. Your director’s vision will guide you through all the important decisions on set.
Your director’s vision is an outcome of the message you are trying to portray in your film – the film’s premise. Only after understanding your vision, you can start directing actors and camera.

Working within a genre

The genres job is to organize some parts of our life and you can find genres not only in films. If your movie is connected to a genre, make sure the script is following the basic genre rules of its genre. Gener films are great to play with because the audience is ready to see a movie with strict rules. You can take these rules and play with them so you’ll have your own twist on them.
First, see the story within the genre rules and then start playing with them, see what rules can you break or stretch without upsetting your audience.
Playing with a genre rule is fun, but it must be connected somehow to the theme of your film. It has to deliver a message. Breaking the rules just to break the rules is worse than simply following them.

Use production design to make

Production design is a film element that many low budget films tend to forget about, but if you’ll handle it right, it can be one of the most important element of your film. After you developed your characters, you can understand the movie’s atmosphere and theme and you can start working on it.  The production design will create your film’s look and should reflect the characters emotions and the movie’s theme. You can also use a storyboard to make things clearer. If you’ll put your mind (and some cash) to it, it will take your film to the next level.  

Know your audience

What kind of emotion do you want your audience to feel towards the film? Is it love? Is it respect? Do you want to impress the audience with big budget production? There are many ways you can turn the film’s watching experience into something worth remembering, but you need to know who is your audience and what you are trying to get out of him.
Every film director needs to find his own way to touch the audience.
In Blood Simple, the Cohen Brothers are making the audience laugh while feeling revolted. Kubrick makes us feel uncomfortable as he built the violent scenes in A Clockwork Orange so we’ll be shocked on one side, but wouldn’t be able to keep our eyes off.
Every director has his own style and you should find yours. This is why it’s important to shoot shorts as much as you can. That way you can test different things and see what works and what doesn’t.

Make your audience participate

A cool trick to make the watching experience more fun for the audience is to make them
a part of the film. One way of doing that by letting your audience know something that the hero doesn’t know. In the movie Hot Fuzz, the main character suspect there is a murder in the town. Everybody laughs at him, but we know he is right because we’ve seen the killer. Horror movies use that trick a lot. We know something bad is going to happen and that’s what gets us excited -the waiting for it.

Filmmaking is all about emotions

Personally, I like films that make you think, but if that’s all they do and they don’t have any emotion attached to it, then the movie was a waste of time. Find the emotion you want the audience to feel in each scene. Every scene should have an emotion attached to it and that emotion should dictate all your directing decisions. For example, a close up is a much more emotional shot then medium shot.

Tips for Directing Actors

Directing Actors

Directing actors is not easy. Especialy if you have a few main characters in one scene. You need to choreograph every one of them and to pay attention to each one of them during the scene. That is why many directors don’t like or even afraid from directing actors and want to focus more on the shooting part. Now, you may like it or not, but actors are one of the most important parts of your film and directing actors is in my opinion about 50% of directing, so you better learn how to deal with them

If a director can’t make an actor to understand how he sees the character, his all film vision might be damaged. Actors are the ones that bring life into your characters and into the lines of the script. If the actor is good, every face and movement he’ll do will be full of meanings just like every shot angle you choose to shoot. To get the best of your actors, you have to create, as a director, the best atmosphere that works for both of you.

Find your actor’s special gift

the first thing you need to do when you work with an actor is to find what is the unique element, that the actor can give to your character. Every good actor gets to bring something else. Some actors can bring authenticity, some can bring  comedy elements.

Find out what is your actor’s talent and use it.

Directing actors with respect

The director and actor have a unique relationship. The director is the watcher and the actor is the one being watched. That is something that puts the actor in a very vulnerable position. The actor is taking a big risk by taking the front line of the show. Just for taking that big of a risk for your movie, they deserve your respect.

A good actor will bring something personal from himself. If the actor is good he will expose very personal parts from his self  and that also makes him vulnerable. When you direct them, don’t be too harsh and watch what you are saying. Try to create a positive atmosphere. Instead of saying “Let’s do it again and this time doesn’t talk so fast”, you can say “Let’s do it again and this time tries to talk slower”.

Also, try to pay attention to all of the actors in the scene. As directors we tend to forget the small part characters, but they need attention and direction too, so watch out for that.

Develop the character’s world together

Before you start to work with an actor of his character, you should know the character very well and its background. Introduce the actor to the world the character is living in. Think about the kind of movies or music the character likes. Have a paper with everything you know about your character and let the actor add his point of you, but make sure he stays in the world of the film.

What do actors need?

  • First of all, they need a director that know what he wants. There is nothing more frustrating for an actor then a director that is not sure. As we said, they are in a very vulnerable position and they need you to guide them. They need to know that you won’t quit on them until you’ll get what you need from them.
  • Also, help them get in the scene. It’s a good idea to remind them where their characters just came from. Prepare them as much as you can to the scene. Remind them everything they need to know about their character in the certain situation they are acting now.
  • When something doesn’t work for the actor try to find out what is it that creates the problem. it might be the scene itself, the dialogue or even the set.

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Be clear with your directions

Don’t say stuff like “Do it funnier” or “You need to be scarier” This is a very general directing. You have to tell them how to act what you want. A good trick is to use metaphors. Let’s say your actor need to play a guy asking a girl on a date, you can tell him to act as if he is in a job interview.

Working with the actor on a scene

As the director, you must know the text very well before working on it with the actor. You have to know your viewpoint, but also to listen to his viewpoint. Often that kind of thing can spark a new idea. The main thing you and your actor need to do is to find what is the character motivation to every action she takes. What is she trying to get?

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Directing actors are also praising them sincerely

Be very clear with your praises and try to use them in each direction you give. What I’m trying to say is that before you tell them how to fix their acting, tell them what they did right and then what you need them to do differently.

Be patient

With many actors, it might take some time to understand what you need and want from them. Be patient. You don’t need them to be more stressed than they already are.

Working with big time actors

Many directors get scared when they need to direct famous actors. The truth is that there’s nothing to be afraid of. The more experience the actor is, the more it will be easy for you to direct them. What you need to do is to let them do their thing and show them that it is important for you to make their performance look good.

It’s OK to improvise

Personally, I enjoy the rehearsal stage the most. I like to let the actors improvise and see what they can give me each time we are working on a scene. If you let your actors improvise, you’ll be surprised at how many actors can give you good ideas you haven’t thought about. Sometimes improvising can also help the actor to really understand their character.

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These are some general tips for working with actors, I plan to post more articles about directing actors that will go deeper, so let me know if there is something that interest you the most.

The only exercise I can recommend you to do is to ask someone to direct you. Try to be an actor is someone film and see what it’s like. Try to see where he makes you feel bad and when he gives you good directing. I also recommend starting to read a little about acting. You can read books about acting or articles on the subject and interviews too.

Film Directing – The Triple Take Method


Shooting With The Triple Take Method

A few weeks ago we’ve talked about the Master scene method. Now I want to teach you another film directing technique called “The Triple Take method” and sometimes also called “The Overlapping Method”. It’s a very easy method and the purpose of this directing method is to cut in action while maintaining continuity.

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The triple take method is a great method especially when working without a script and for documentaries, but also great for scripted scenes.

How does the film directing technique works?

The main idea here is to start each shot with the last action of the shot before it, so those two actions are now overlapping. Let’s say you have a scene where the actor is opening his house door, entering his home, walking to the TV, opening it and sits on his couch. You will shoot him opening the door and getting inside the house in one angle, then you want to shoot him walking to the TV in a different angle, so you tell the actor to stop, change the angle and now you will shoot him walking towards the TV, but the actor will to go a few steps backwards and start the shot from the part of stepping inside the house, so you will have that action in both angles. Now he is walking to the TV and you want to shoot the part where he turns it on in a different angle, so again, he will take a few steps back and play the action including turning the TV on. Now we want the part of him sitting on the couch in a different angle, so we’ll tell the actor to stop, we’ll change the angle and tell him to start from the part of turning the TV on (which we already filmed in the angle before).
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As I said it’s a very simple method, but I would shoot also a master scene to make sure the editor will have somewhere to turn to if something went wrong and we didn’t notice. Also, remember it’s a very technically scene that might be hard for the actor to work with, so don’t use it on emotional scenes.

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Film Directing – Auditioning Actors for Film

Auditioning Actors – Rules & Tips

Auditioning actors is a field that many beginners at film directing are taking for granted, It’s a very hard and long process that many directors choose to not be part of. I think the reason is because this is a stage where you have to make great decisions. You don’t want to do a mistake at this stage. In these days you have more options than ever, so making a mistake is even more scary.

Auditioning actors is also a great chance for the director to hear his texts being played  for the first time and it’s a great opportunity to test scenes that you weren’t sure about them. That’s why I’m going to give you some tips for setting up auditions. I think that there is nothing worse than getting stuck in production. When you find a good actor that can act and listen, you did 90 percent of your actor’s directing job.

The main idea is to play with the actor. Try different approaches to him. For example, you can let a guy play a female role in the script and vice versa and see what happens.

Casting Director

The auditioning of actors is a complete field we can talk about for hours. That’s why, if you have the option, use a casting director, It can be great. Today the casting directors, in my opinion, don’t get the respect they deserve, but I really think it’s an important role.
These are the skills needed for a casting director: good communication, better identification of talent, good management ability, the ability to direct and paying attention to detail.
The director needs to explain to the casting director what he wants what his vision for the film is and the specific role

Advertising the audition

The possibilities for advertising your auditions are diverse. You can advertise on Facebook, acting groups, industrial sites, acting schools and so on. Once you post you are looking for actors, you will probably be flooded with e-mails from dozens of actors. That’s why you should try to a specific description of the part as you can. You should describe the character name, age, important characterization points and two interesting sentences about it. If the physical description is important, you can add that one too.
Most actors will send you photos and resumes. Often there is a temptation to check only the images, but it is very important to read their resumes too.

Rent a room for auditions

Do not audition actors in your home or your friend’s home. It shows the lack of professionalism and can be a little intimidating for actresses. It is worth investing a few dollars renting rehearsal room.

Auditions forms filling

While the actors are waiting for their turn, give them to pre-fill a form that will include date, the name of the production, below that, make room for actor information: name, address, home phone and mobile, email and the role he is faced.

Schedule your auditions

All the actors auditions should be between 10 and 20 minutes, tops! You should have someone to be with the actors that are waiting in the hallway. There should also be refreshments.

What are you looking for when you cast an actor

You really should know what it is you are looking for when you are auditioning actors. Maybe the role you are casting is one that demands the actor to give parts from his life outside. Does the actor ready for that kind of  vulnerability? I will talk about it later on this post and will explain how to do that, but I will mention it now too – you need to check if your actor can listen – not only to you but also to the actor he is playing with. The important element you should check is can the actor take the lines you gave him and make them sound like they are his own.

Pay attention to the small details


When auditioning actors it’s very hard to find in a few minutes if an actor can really act, so what you have to look mainly is his charisma and screen presence. Note the actor immediately as he enters the room. Pay attention to his body language, is it conveys security or insecurity? note his walking style, the way he sits, does he talk too much? Did he come unprepared? If the actor got some information about the character he is faced, pay attention to what he wore in honor of the audition.

Audition Management


Actors audition begin with an introductory interview. The actor will talk to the camera and say his name and age and preferably also a phone number, in case the form get lost. You can ask questions like, what have you done lately? What was the most enjoyable role he played so far? What were your experiences of previous productions? and so on.

“The most important job of the director is casting. If you can cast your film in an interesting way, then you’re 50 percent there.”

Susan Seidelman

You should also tell them about yourself. Your experience and how did you get that movie. Explain how many days of filming are ahead, and how many days of rehearsals are needed. note their responses. If they are too hesitant, you might want to give them up.

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Sometimes you may prefer to do only the first reading of the text. At this time, the actor gets the text for the first time at the audition. He will probably ask questions about the text (you can learn a lot about the actors from these questions). I like to start by just telling them to just do their thing. That way I can see what they are able to bring without my direction. When they start acting, note his acting and the character he brings you. Does he have something good you have not thought of before? If something does not work for him, try to let him do the part standing up. Sometimes it is a good idea to give them a direction just to see if they can follow a direction, so it’s a good thing to bring one even if you don’t feel it is needed.  Let them read the text for themselves first, then adjust them a little in order to see how they understand what you are saying, then give them a completely different direction. What is important here than the way the actors act, is how they change their acting in accordance with your instructions.

Set a relaxed mood

Keep in mind that the actor is very tight and probably you will be stressed too. Try to calm him down with respect. If the actor does not fit, you may want to tell him gently in place, instead of having him sitting on the phone days in anticipation for your call.

Working in pairs

If there’re roles such as lovers couples, mother, and son, etc., you should invite them to audition together and see the chemistry.
Generally, you should let the actor act with another actor so that it is easy to produce emotional responses.

Shoot the audition


If it possible,
shoot the audition and if possible, let someone else do it and tell him to shoot it from several angles. On the other hand, it is advised that the camera man won’t be too noticeable because it can put pressure on the actor that way.
The camera man should take as many close-ups as he can, to see facial expressions and as many medium shots, to absorb body movements.

Sometimes it is advised to shoot actors when they are not aware of the camera. Suppose as assistant director gives the actor notes between takes, He can sit where the other actor is sitting then the camera man will take the actors reactions while he listens.

Decision-making and Last tips


If you’re debating between two actors on one character, it is better to go for the actor with more experience and talent than the one that looks better.

In low budget movies, it is very easy to find yourself compromising the process of auditions with actors you do not feel complete with them. Try not to let that happen. If the actor is not really enthusiastic about the part, the audience will feel it.

Just remember, as Jack Nicolson once said, Once you cast someone for a movie, that person is perfect for the role.

Film directing – Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Film Director?

The Film Director Requirements

Learning how to direct a film is kind of fun stuff, but there are a lot of responsibilities that are coming with it. Eventually, you are going to be in charge on a lot of money, so let see first if you have what it takes to become a film director.

Know the filmmaking craft

Before you start directing a film, make sure you know the film directing fundamentals and film directing techniques. It’s been known that the job of the film directing is to tell a story with pictures and sounds, but the truth is that In film directing the story is being told also through actors, art design, clothes design, dialog styles and more. You are in charge on all of that. That’s why the director must have knowledge in all the filmmaking departments like script writing, camera and lightning techniques, sound design, video editing etc. If you’ll look at the most respectable directors, you’ll see that many of them have a gift at least in one of these departments. Find yours and develop it.

Visualizing abilities

In the article The film director’s vision I talk about how to translate the script into visual shots and concept that it unique to you. On the next articles I am planning to talk about the tools that will help you do that like storyboard and shooting script,
but the bottom line is:
While you are visualizing your movie (which is the main job of the director in In film directing), you’ll need to do it through the departments mentioned above. You will learn how to develop your visualization skills with practice.

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Film as many short films as you can

Like everything else in life, film directing is all about practice. Shoot as much as you can and offer yourself to participate in as many productions as you can. Shooting a lot of shorts will also help you to get your deepest artistic voices, out of the system until you’ll find the one that works best for you. You have to be ready to deal with the fact that most of your first shorts will be bad ones and that you can only learn In film directing by making mistakes.

Find your own true voice

As a film director and an artist, you will have to find your inner voice- the one that separates you from all the others. You’ll have to be real honest with yourself and listen to it very good. I recommend reading my article, Find your inner voice, to learn better how to do that. Understanding your true voice is not enough. you will also have to keep it as your guide through all the trip. That means to watch out from what other people say, but also to watch out for yourself. Don’t try to show out how smart and artistic you are and focus completely on what the movie really needs.

Become a leader

The different betweena In film directing and other arts like a poetry or a painter is that the film directors have to lead a big crew after him. You’ll have to be good with people and also know how to push them to their limits, so you can take out the best from each one of them. You’ll need to be able to guide them, inspire them and supervised them all at once.You’ll have to make decisions that sometimes will be against the view of your crew. You will also have to lead with confidence. There is nothing worse for actors and crew member than to follow a director that is unsure of his actions. If you don’t know what to do in certain situations, don’t be afraid to console with the right crew members and then make a confident decision. Sometimes the producers will try to change things in your script to lower the expenses. Unless you really agree with their changes, it will be your job to defend the script. With all of that, you’ll have to remember that you are working with artists, and an open mind is needed too.

Recommended books on film directing

Film Directing- The Master Scene Method

Using The Master Scene Technique

The Master scene method is the first tool you’ll use when you approach a scene. No matter how much you’ve worked on your shooting script, there is always something that can go wrong on set and you’ll miss it . The master shot technique method comes to the rescue in such cases.

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The master scene method is one of the films directing fundamentals techniques that began during the silent movies in the 20’s. It was a time when video editing wasn’t as easy as it is now.

The Master shot method means to shoot the whole scene in one long take in a wide angle ( See types of shots article) with all its important elements and then you can move on to shoot the coverage shots like the over the shoulder, medium shots, close-ups etc.

Now,

In the editing room, if you find you missed a shot, you can go to this cover shot to the rescue.

Master shot method tip
When shooting a scene in a room, the master shot will usually be in the opposite corner. If you are shooting outside, just look for the farthest spot that will cover everything in the shot.

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A few tips about working with master scene method

Before I’ll tell you how to do this the right way, here are some tips you need to know:

  • Start the shooting with the master shot before the coverage shots to prevent problems in the continuity of the scene.

  • When a scene is too long or has a complex movement, it is recommended to break the Master shots into 2 masters.

  • Watch for the 180-degree rule (see rules of the camera) while you shoot the master and the coverage.

  • When you plan the shooting script breakdown, think about the time it will take to change the lightning from the master shot to the coverage shots.

  • Make sure you start the shot from the beginning of the scene until the ending of it.

  • Master shot method can also be used to add a certain atmosphere.

When this method is done properly, the audience will barely feel it was made to cover faults.

Shooting in one take is not as hard as it sounds

Don’t waste too much time on it. It’s not a big deal if the actors make mistakes. It all If an actor gets confused in the middle of the scene, you can take the second take from that point.

So this is a very basic but useful film technique that is used a lot in Film directing.

I recommend to read also about The Triple- Take Technique.

Recommended books on film directing

The Film Director’s Vision

Finding Your Director’s Vision

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In this post, I’ll teach you how to understand and develop your director’s vision. You will  see that it’s not that hard to take any script you want and make it unique and original.

There is an old saying that if you can’t explain something to others, you probably don’t really understand it yourself. If you can’t you explain your vision in words, you don’t understand your director’s vision statement. Since The director is actually a form of a movie creative supervisor, the director’s vision statement is his leading tool of every production. The film director is in charge of all creative departments and they need to understand the way he has interpreted the script.

When the director knows his film director’s vision statement completely, he can translate the script into visual shots inside the shooting script. Off course, the director’s vision doesn’t stop here. The vision has to be in the director’s thoughts during the whole process.

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2 steps before working on your director vision statement

  1. The first time you read the script, you should notice what kind of images are appearing in your head while reading. Pay attention to sounds, locations, and emotions that are popping in your head.
  2. Watch different movies, paintings, read some books, listen to music, everything you think that will inspire you about this story. Do it with artists and arts you really connect to and not just the respected ones. Try to see what is it about them that connect you.

How to develop your director’s vision

The director’s vision will be expressed through the style of the film, the visual look, the editing and the sound design and music. The director is usually the one that is calling the shots for that kind of decisions. He does not have to be a specialist in all the filmmaking areas, but he needs to know the language of cinema to be able to express his point of view. Learn all the camera angles and movements  and all the types of camera shots and learn their emotional strength. Every aspect of filmmaking can be a tool you’ll use to express your vision.

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Find your film director’s vision through movie’s theme

The film director has to be an expert on portraying a message. The first step should be to understand your theme or the premise of the

The theme of the movie is, what this movie really all about in one or two sentences. It is the premise of the film.  For example the movie Back to the Future is dealing with changing your future, but it is not the main theme of the film. It is not the subtext of the film. The subtext theme is “true love is stronger than love out of mercy”. In Little Shop of horror, the story is the about a deranged and murderous plant, but the subtext of the story (The theme) is about capitalism in the modern world.

When you understand the film’s premise, you’ll understand the scenes. If you’ll know what’s the emotion behind the scene, you will know how to set the light for it. Even aspect ratio can deliver the director’s vision.

“The reason it’s important to have this (the theme) is because most of the time what a director really does is make decisions. All day long: Do you want it to be long hair or short hair Do you want a dress or pants? Do you want a beard or no beard? There are many times when you don’t know the answer. Knowing what the theme always helps you. “
Francis Ford Coppola

 

So this is what you’re probably asking now:

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How to understand your theme and vision?

The director’s vision should not be a political argument or a philosophical idea that you can copy. It should be a personal point of view of the director. Your point of view is something no one can copy and you also cannot be copied from elsewhere.

So how do you find your vision?

I’m going to explain it now:

  1. When you read the script for the first time you should write the thoughts that pop into your head while reading. You can write them on the script. Write everything you feel about each scene.

  2. Your next job is to understand why you were drawn to the script.
    It is usually the main character that attracts directors. As a director, you must decide what is you want to focus on the plot or the characters.

  3. Think about the values in the script. Are their ant values you identify with? Go through the film’s script and check the values you most identify with. There are directors that write the biography of each character. It helps them to understand the character motive and its nature and basically what it represents in the film.

  4. Go through each scene and see what is the subtext of each one of them. Write them down next to the scene title
  5. Eventually, understand what you want to achieve from the viewer. Do you want his love (like comedies usually), or you rather impress the audience with a complex story.

Quick tip
The important things to pay attention to when you work on your theme throughout the film are the moral of the story, the smaller themes in the script and the subtext throughout the script

 

Sticking up to your vision

It is very important that once you find your vision, you’ll stick to it.
Sometimes you might find a lot of pressure to change things in a way that’s against your vision (usually from the production company),
you have to make the decision of how much you want to sell from yourself, in order to make that film.
Here is  to sum it up:

“Trust yourself so that the mistakes you make are the ones you’ve made and not something you’ve made because you were afraid to do what you wanted to do. Own your mistakes, then you can own your successes.
Try to be as good a listener as you are a speaker.
Don’t just put the emphasis on saying things. Listen!”
Jennifer Lynch

Learn more about director’s vision

To learn more about this subject. I really recommend reading the book The Director’s Vision: A Concise Guide to the Art of 250 Great Filmmakers. This book is about all the classic Holywood big directors and their visual styles. It is an excellent tool for insparatioin and to understand how to develop your uniqe director’s vision.