[Editor’s Note: Welcome to Diary of a Web Series, the column that offers you an entertaining look into the machinations of a zero-budget web series made possible by an idea, fortitude, and democratized tools of production. For all the background on why we started publishing Diary of a Web Series – and why we think it’s great – check out the first installment right here. You can watch the web series the diary is about, too. It’s called STRAY and it’s good. Click here to watch it. And you can catch all the installments of Diary of a Web Series right here.]
I didn’t go to film school. I don’t know anything about blocking or lighting or anything remotely useful with regard to capturing motion images of humans and their environs. I don’t know how to operate equipment (I struggle with setting up lights or a simple tripod). I don’t even know the jargon, which is crucial when attempting to sound smart. So how did I end up the director of several web series? By complete accident.
“You know you’re the director, right?”
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That was my director of photography, an actual filmmaker, who I thought directed the first season of my web series, STRAY, my foray into filmmaking. According to him, I had directed the season. I did an internal double take.
“Umm, no I didn’t,” I rebutted. “You did.”
“What you did for season 1, that was directing,” he affirmed.
“But I don’t know anything about framing or anything useful or practical or filmmaker-y.”
“That’s why we’re here: to do the technical, practical stuff,” my producer/assistant director said. “We’re here to back you up.”
“You know the story, you know the shots you want, and you know the performances you want. That’s directing,” my DP stated matter-of-factly.
I felt like a scam artist. It didn’t feel like I was actually doing anything. I was just surrounding myself with people who were doing real work while I preened and pontificated. I wasn’t a filmmaker. I was a writer who fell ass-backwards into a web series.
At any rate, I didn’t like the title of director, not just because I felt ill-equipped to carry out its responsibilities but also because it felt pretentious. This is how I imagined Director Pablo at a dinner party, probably wearing something black and a tiny scarf that does nothing to protect you from the cold:
“What do you do?”
“…am a director.”
“Oh wow, what do you direct?”
“…am a director!”
This goes on for a while.
But then something dawned on me: I had told this story to myself before. When I first started writing, I hesitated to call myself a writer. My excuse at the time was that I wasn’t “published.” When a magazine finally published one of my pieces, I said, “Well, this isn’t a well-known publication.” When a piece of mine was eventually published in one of the largest national newspapers, I said, “Well, I’m not a writer because I don’t write for a living.”
Every time I achieved something which I previously deemed the prerequisite for calling myself a writer, I moved the goal post. I accumulated published articles and stories over the years, fiction and nonfiction, and still hesitated to consider myself a writer. Eventually, I realize that writing, as with any creative pursuit, is an erratic, nonlinear endeavor. To apply traditional 9-5 standards to writing (or any creative pursuit) is to set yourself up for continuous heartbreak. I was doing the same thing with directing.
My breakthrough with writing wasn’t to internalize that I was a writer, or to develop the self-confidence and courage to call myself a writer. I just stopped caring about the title. All I knew (and know) is that I loved writing, so I did it. A lot. And that’s how I feel about directing now.
Am I director? I don’t care. I just know that I enjoy filmmaking, and I’m going to keep doing it. If the things that I do to get my web series or short films done amount to what some consider directing, so be it. Call me a director. Just know that I am not buying any tiny scarves.
Pablo Andreu is not a creator or a scriptwriter. He’s certainly not a filmmaker. He’s just a guy who decided to make a web series called STRAY. It’s a bromantic comedy featuring a brash gay dude and a nerdy straight guy. He hopes it’s funny. By some inscrutable alchemy, his scribblings have wormed their way into The New York Times, McSweeney’s, and Slackjaw.