News & Notes

Directing 101 with Joan Darling

by Ryan Linthicum

“I don’t know the answer to that yet.”


According to legendary director Joan Darling, this is the most important phrase a director can say. This is just one of the many little tips Joan gave her class of aspiring directors at this year’s Script DC workshop.


People from all over the country gathered at American University’s School of Communications to listen, learn, and practice their movie-making skills with some of the country’s greatest minds in the industry. Script DC hosted television and movie director, Joan Darling; award-winning filmmaker, Ann Zamudio; independent film producer, Lisa Thrasher; and many more luminaries of the industry.


It was an honor to be in Joan Darling’s directing class. As the first woman nominated for an Emmy for directing, she is not only an amazingly talented artist, but she also has a plethora of knowledge and stories about the industry. At the beginning of the class, Joan passed out “Darling’s Handy Household Hints”. This 27-item list includes tips like “watch where you stand at rehearsal and put the camera there,” But there are also tips like “A film is a soufflé. A bunch of different ingredients blending under your hand into something that has a life of it’s own” and “beware the helpful actor”.


Besides her Helpful Hints, “always listen to Joan” was the motto of the class. During the all day seminar, students broke into groups made up of 2 to 3 actors and a director. This was an opportunity for student directors to practice creating a scene. One by one, each student preformed their scene and opened themselves to Joan’s thoughts. Though her criticism was unique to each scene, she told every director that “the devil is in the details.” Good advice to anyone – director or not.


What I took away from this class wasn’t just how to visualize a scene or use method acting, but how to see the big picture. Working with people isn’t easy. It requires real skill and practice. There are so many things I learned from this class, but above all else, I will remember that Joan is always right.

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