John Marrs, who I co-founded the upcoming Tombstone Film Festival with, must have been a little surprised when I suggested we should not include a Best Director category for our awards ceremony. Most of you might be surprised to hear it too since I am a movie director, but I don’t believe giving an award for that work is necessarily fair.
Some questions first: what exactly does “Best Director” mean? Is it an assessment of the overall success of the project? In that case, isn’t “Best Picture” (awarded to the producers at the Oscars) the same thing? Is it an evaluation of the filmmaker’s vision, how consistent and encompassing it is? I ask because I really don’t know.
As a director, I’d suggest the only way to estimate the “best” would be to spend every day on set with each contender, to see the filmmaker work with actors, the crew, and carry out his or her vision. Because you see, here’s the problem with judging the best director of a film from a ten thousand foot view: how do you really know the director was responsible for the finished product? I’ve been on sets where the director didn’t even watch the scenes being filmed, where the director provided little to no direction of the actors, where the director was more concerned with socializing and taking pictures with the talent than making the movie. If that movie turns out well, the director will most likely get credit for its quality from objective viewers who have no idea what actually happened. I’ve seen directors propped up and supported by producers, cinematographers, assistant directors, and even actors who literally carried the film (and director) over the finish line like slaves supporting the throne of a sleeping king. No matter what, filmmaking is collaborative but you’d be shocked at who is really doing the work, calling the shots, and getting it done on some of these movie sets.
The more I’ve witnessed these things, the more I’ve realized that some great movies I have loved for years may not have been the result of the director. I wasn’t there to see what he or she did so how do I know who was responsible? It has even called into doubt the work of filmmakers who have consistently created good films, one after another, because they’re often supported by the same team, project to project, who may secretly be the ones making it all happen.
I’ve received several directing awards over the years and I don’t really know what any of them signify. Unless someone watched me and my fellow nominees do the job, which is more akin to that of a football coach or battlefield commander, they’d have no clue who is the “best”. That’s why I suggested to John that we forego a directing award and instead have the Best Feature and Best Short awards at our Tombstone Film Festival be shared by the director/producers. At least then we can give credit to a wider net of creatives who may have been responsible for the film.