One of the best resources on directing that I have in my library is “Directing: Learn From the Masters.” This text is a series of interviews, with similar sets of questions, asked to some of the most artistically influential, critically acclaimed, and commercially successful directors of film history.
The major strength of this text is that the varying ways that different directors approach answering the same set of basic questions speaks volumes about the personalities, styles, techniques, and approaches to the craft that each director possesses. Very few directors featured in the book ever answer a question in a similar way to another director featured.
Ultimately, the book has several major themes that run through the lives, work, and techniques of the featured artisans. To me – the most engaging thread is the inevitable basic categorical division of directors falling into either tendencies of laissez-faire or obsessive auteurship.
When a director aligns himself with one of those tendencies, he tends to approach every question and situation posed to him in the framework of that tendency – to the point of defining the approach of said director. Still the wide variety of the styles and qualities of the directors varied careers and achievements shows that even when conforming to one of these two most basic tendencies – the results are still vastly different in the careers and films of these most successful masters. It is remarkable to think that two directors could both approach the same set of problems with the same basic outlook on the craft and still find a completely unique form for their work with completely distinct styles.
What the book clearly displays is a blazing confidence and fierce strength of courage and will that mastery over the craft requires. While the attitudes and backgrounds of the directors vary – this remains content and is fortifying to bear witness to.