Members of the Australian Directors’ Guild have had the chance to hear from some of the country’s most established filmmakers over the past five months as part of the ADG-40 ‘First-Hand’ sessions.
Consisting of 40 weekly one-hour webinars fronted by industry mentors, the initiative is due to start again this week following a short break, with Claire McCarthy (The Turning) to share insights from her career on Thursday.
It comes after contributions from Gillian Armstrong, Rachel Perkins, Rolf de Heer, Samantha Lang, Corrie Chen, Ben Lawrence, Ana Kokkinos, Megan Riakos, Josephine Mackerras, Robert Connolly, Garth Davis, Sally Aitken, Jub Clerc, Kriv Stenders, Tom Zubrycki, Anna Broinowski, Peter Andrikidis, Jasmin Tarasin, and Glendyn Ivin.
The sessions are moderated by ADG strategy and development executive Ana Tiwary who is responsible for collating questions from those tuning in.
She has tried to focus on topics covering the practical aspects of directing that cannot be learned from a book, film school, or searching the internet.
“We cover a variety of subjects, including big picture career questions on the role of the director, breakthrough moments and navigating the screen industry, as well as highly detailed craft questions such as lens selection, blocking, rehearsal process and shot lists,” she said.
“It is knowledge that can only be taught by those who have learned through first-hand experience, directing for many years.
“Directors often screen-share and show how they prepare for a shoot or they go in-depth into how they shot a particular scene.
“Besides going deep into a particular aspect of directing, each week we also discuss big-picture topics such as cultural safety, directors’ agreements and how best we can look after our mental, physical and spiritual well-being.”
In the inaugural session, Armstrong shared her own journey as a director while also speaking about the leadership role directors play, including being good listeners, having respect for cast and crew, and practising diplomacy to achieve artistic vision.
The conversation took an introspective turn a month later when Davis, director of Lion and Top of the Lake, detailed his philosophy.
“The big one that I have learnt in my career is that your instinct is never wrong,” he says.
“Your instinct will speak to you in certain parts of the process, and I have to say when I look back on going against those choices, I have always made the biggest mistake.
“Ray Lawrence once said in one of his speeches to look after your mental health. Remember, filmmaking is just filmmaking and life is life. So, create a balance and if you can do that, the two can feed each other really beautifully.
“Your filmmaking can enrich your life and your life can enrich your filmmaking.”
Other first half highlights include Rachel Perkins’ session towards the end of July, in which the Total Control director said the best piece of advice she received was from her father Charles Perkins, who encouraged her to always follow the more challenging path, a sentiment that would go on to inform her choices across life and work.
Perkins says the sessions would form an “amazing archive” for the next generation of filmmakers.
“Directors hardly ever get to see how other directors work, so this is a great way to get a glimpse into different ways of visualising scripts and bringing stories to life on screen,” she said.
“I look forward to watching the other sessions as soon as they are up on the ADG website.”
According to the ADG, attendance for the first 20 sessions has been between 60 to 100 each week, with participants ranging from film school students to emerging and mid-career directors. Tiwary said she was grateful for the “big hearts and generous spirit” of the mentors that have offered guidance in the opening sessions.
“It is such a great experience moderating these webinars each week,” she said.
“I have found that each director has had such a unique journey and how they view the role of the director, their process and approach to directing are all vastly different and so fascinating. I have also discovered that what is common between all the directors is that they are incredibly passionate about their craft and collaborators.
“They are so humble and are constantly improving their skills and they are extremely generous in sharing their insights.”
The next ADG ‘First-Hand’ session will be held on Thursday, September 9 at 6pm. Find out more information here.