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December 30 2003

Sean Astin on directing 'Soulless'. ""When I got back from Lord of the Rings, I just said, "Greenie, I want to direct Angel."". An excellent account of an outsider's take on AtS (pages 2 and 3 of interview).

"I had the latitude that a visiting director on an episodic hour drama gets – as much as any director would, I would think… I just didn't take liberties or do more than I might have wanted to, because I didn't think it was appropriate."

Does this help or hurt a franchise? That individual creative talents, like directors who come and go and "are doubleparked" so to speak, are not able to truly stretch their legs in a franchise work that's got a structure and an arc? Is it better for the audience that one person's vision is held steadfast or should it be more of a democracy in the creative bullpen?

I believe there's still a contingent of Star Trek fans who feel Berman did a disservice to the memory of Roddenberry and the entire fanbase when he took over, but Berman converted Roddenberry's vision into something he felt was more marketable and provacative. One can argue he was only doing what he thought was best for the longevity of the series. Who's to say he was right or wrong?

When a Sean Astin steps in to pinch hit for a talent like Joss Whedon, even if it's just for one episode, is it wrong for the newcomer to want to make his mark in the creator's cement? How does one do that when the margins are so narrow?

I don't know if there's answers. I did find this a very compelling and thought provoking interview. Thanks for the link, Simon.
My thought is that the more hats you wear on an episode or series, the more influence you will have, and it doesn't have to be a negative influence. If Astin had written AND directed, or written, directed AND acted in an ep, then he would have been more integral to whatever happened. Plus, if you are part of a number of episodes and help shape an arc, major or minor, that is a factor as well.

I think a good example will be the upcoming episode (not sure which one it is) that David Boreanaz will direct and act in as well. That's two hats. Kiefer Sutherland and William Peterson are producers and actors in their shows (24 and CSI, respectively) so they have more influence, etc.
I don't know much about directing (well, apart from having written and - quite badly - directed an amateur play) but what I find hard to understand is how a man who claims he hasn't seen a full episode of Angel - that man being David Boreanaz - can direct one?
Seeing a final episode would probably be necessary if he was going to be editing the show, but since he's seen just about every episode directed he probably thinks he can direct as well.
I have a theory...

I think all celebrities watch themselves. They watch their work in private with friends or perhaps alone. They critique their own work and flog themselves or they pat themselves on the back or whatever. Then when they are interviewed by people they claim to never watch their own work because for one thing it derails the interviewer. Questions like "which is your favorite episode?" or "which director did you the most justice?" don't get asked, thus avoiding a quagmire of politics behind the scenes.

If the actor claims to have never watched his own work, he doesn't have to answer which director does the best work, or which of his fellow actors steal the face time more, or which script was most diligently recreated to film, or whatever. The celebrity also appears humble, to be uncomfortable with the narcisistic notion of having to watch oneself in a tv show. I bet there's some class all television and movie actors take in Hollywood that tells them they should never admit in public that they watch their own work. They do though. They must.

Football coaches and players alike watch their replays on tape. They have to, in order to learn from past mistakes. It would not be in a performer's best interests to avoid their own work.

But then, if David Boreanaz were to watch his own show, he'd know just how bad his accent is. So maybe he doesn't. I bet you that James Marsters watches his own stuff, like Spike watches Passions.
I actually believe that David Boreanaz really doesn't watch the show. In an interview he said that he watched parts of episodes before directing an episode himself, but not a complete one. He works on the show so he has his own perspective on it and how the job has to be done. If he started watching tapes and see the show from the audience's point of view he'd probably lose that feeling for how he has to do his work and start criticizing himself or try to change the way he acts.
But as aaronsw said that only applies if he doesn't have to do the editing.
Unless the director is also a writer/producer, it sounds as if they don't have much say in the editing process. Sean Astin admits as much in his interview. Even if he'd had the time to give the editor a swath of notes, it's really the editor's job to put it together in a way that's consistent with the show's already-established style and storytelling or visual continuity. The director's responsible for providing enough footage to serve the script adequately so that the editor and producers can fashion it to their liking, as well as to a standard that they set.

Also, DB would be working pretty closely with the DP that's been there all along (Ross Berryman?), so DB gets to call the shots, but an entire crew still have to work together to get the shots. It sounds like hair-raising work, but I doubt they would've given DB the opportunity if they didn't think he was capable of delivering the goods. They've certainly been generous enough with other staff (writers) who've logged far fewer hours on set. It'll be interesting to see what he does.
Well in DB's defense he may not have had time to watch the show, you know because of this little thing called working on the show. :)

Not to mention the last 2 years he has been putting in extra hours doing some 2 unit directing so he could get the chance to helm an episode. Which finally he was able to get but not until some other director went to bat for him. I guess being a writer in Joss's world holds more merit than acting cause the writers get to direct almost from their first scripted episode but it took David, who has camera experience prior to landing his famous acting gig, 4 years of asking for the opportunity before he gets his chance.
After principal shooting there is ALWAYS a screening session before each and every show goes on the air...If DB wanted to see an ep he would have...

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