Authors of the Month: Maria Viera and Tom BlomquistPublished: March 17, 2014
Eye of the Storm: Directing for Film, Television and Emerging Media
Maria Viera, professor emerita, Theatre Arts, and Tom Blomquist, associate professor, Film and Electronic Arts
Published in 2013 by Kendall Hunt, this 284-page textbook presents a fresh approach to directing instruction. Going beyond the so-called “nuts and bolts” aspects of the director’s role, Storm is designed to help media artists understand the subtle processes of successful collaboration with key creative team members. “What this book is about is collaboration,” Viera explained. “Other books on direction tended to deal with production management details, cameras and lenses. This book is about how a director actually deals with screenwriters or cinematographers or editors in the real world. This is not the auteur theory.” Blomquist added, “Being a director is as much about conflict resolution and motivating people effectively as it is being an artist. We have tried to demonstrate to our readers that having strong people skills are vital to a director and that’s just not something that is taught in most film schools.” But the text goes on to deal with emerging media by explaining the new terminology that accompanies it. “Most other books on direction do not address episodic television, reality TV or voice direction. They assume that everyone is going to make theatrical feature films. In the first five years of a filmmaker’s career, they need to know the terms and practices used by the industry so that they are not caught unprepared,” Viera said. The authors felt that many other books dealing with direction lacked practical advice about working with actors. “We felt there was a need for that,” she said. “When most famous directors write their books, they tell anecdotes. But this text offers its readers the terms and techniques that they really need to work with actors. The first thing we suggest is that would-be directors take an acting class. It is an easy way for directors to learn the basic terminology that actors use.” Other chapters address such topics as casting, rehearsal and set performance. “Another special quality to this book is its chapter on script analysis which I based on my background in theater,” she said. “Film students can get carried away with lights and equipment, as if they are the most important tools for a director. This book offers filmmakers the chance to see the field in detail. It takes the best practices of theater and adapts them to film.”
The advent of the new communication technology has gone a long way toward the democratization of the arts, she believes. Blomquist, who is also an active member of the Directors Guild of America, agrees. “We have included quotes from top craft experts that are surprisingly candid about what they do and how they do it. Some of their advice goes against some popular film school mythology.” “The strongest message in this book is how to assemble and work with a creative team,” Viera said. Blomquist pointed out, “Actors and crew members are not going to follow a director to the ends of the earth simply because he or she has the title of director. Loyalty like that has to be earned throughout the prep process and then one shot at a time on the set. Too many students and aspiring directors learn that lesson the hard way.” Viera first joined the university in 1984 after earning her doctorate from USC. She retired in 2013. Blomquist earned his B.S. from Southern Illinois University and began his teaching career after many years in the entertainment industry. He also has taught at USC, the American Film Institute and Chapman University.