Thursday, June 27, 2013

Jane Clark on "Meth Head"

What was your filmmaking background before setting out to make Meth Head?

JANE: I took a wandering route to get to filmmaking. I moved to NYC to be a painter when I was 18, and I actually sold a few pieces pretty quickly. During that time, I took an acting class for the fun of it, and got hooked. So now I had two loves. Since I booked the first few auditions I went on, I came up with a brilliant idea – focus on acting and when I was making a living at it I could get back to painting again. Ha!

I moved to LA, and performed in some indie films and theater, and had a recurring role on CHICAGO HOPE, but I was frustrated by the infrequency of the work. I began writing scripts with lead roles for me, only to discover, no one wanted a no-name actress starring in a film, no matter how good the script or talented the girl. At some point, when all the indies I did didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped, I thought I would try directing and producing my own material. If I sucked I would stop bitching about everyone else.

Dog Gone was the trial short. I starred in it with a friend, who co-produced and co-edited with me, and I found I really loved the process behind the camera. The film turned out really cute and it seemed I had a knack for it. From there I wrote/directed/produced and edited 6 more shorts, then produced a feature, Elena Undone, and then set out to tackle Meth Head.

 
Where did the idea come from and what was your process for writing and refining the script?

JANE: My brother-in-law, Dickie, passed away from complications of a Meth addiction at about the same time my friend, John, came back into my life having come through a horrible Meth addiction himself. John brought me an idea for a script and asked me if I would write it for him and we would produce it together.

As I developed the project, I thought it might be interesting to work a taste of his addiction into the film and that gave me a brief glimpse into his ordeal. That project got put on hold, but there was a hook to his story that resonated with me.

I was at the awards show at Sundance, frustrated that I didn’t yet have my feature in hand and, BING, like a literal light bulb in my brain I knew what I would do. I texted John from the show and said, “When I’m home we have to talk. I have an idea.”

The process of writing began with two long days of interviewing John – taking him through his journey – asking very specific questions. John answered without fear or hesitation and his honesty and the depth of the questioning gave me a good starting point for the treatment.

When I got into writing the treatment, I realized the literal story wasn’t going to work because it didn’t have the arc of a film, nor the brevity. As well there were certain things I wanted to say. So I redeveloped it using John’s journey as the root, but growing off of that.

I interviewed other addicts – in particular an addict friend of John’s from back in the day. Her stories were wild – Heidi Fleiss call girl, coke dealer, ex-con. She became the basis for the female addict in the film, Dickie became the third. I watched documentaries and YouTube videos, read books, pulled it all together and from the treatment wrote the first draft.

I am a nut about rewriting and fine-tuning. I’ll go back and do full passes until I feel like the script and the dialogue are grounded. After that, it’s tweaking. I’ll go on a hike and get an idea and go back and add it in. That happens a lot as the script germinates. I also gathered stories from people I would meet who had an addict in the family or had been addicted themselves. I was like a magpie, grabbing the shiny object, when I’d hear a good story.

I write very specific emotional direction into the script so the actor will have as much information as possible on how I see things, so when we sit down to talk, they are already very much in tune with the emotional truth of each scene. I always start with a one-on-one with each person and I listen to their thoughts, their own experiences. Then I take the workable ideas and adjust accordingly to deepen the characters even further. Through rehearsal there continues to be subtle changes. Even on set we switched up lines a couple of times in ways that were simple, but really deepened the action.

The script really is never finished until you are through post-production, truthfully.

 
What was your process for assembling your cast? 

JANE: That was a smattering of things. We started with open calls. I love auditioning, because I love the discovery. One of our leads, Blake Berris, was from the audition process, as was Candis Cayne in a supporting role, plus the majority of day players.

Lindsay Pulsipher’s agent was the same as Necar’s and he introduced me to her. I offered several roles to people I had worked with on earlier films. And I did a direct offer to Wilson Cruz through his reps, because I have loved him since My So-Called Life and I just knew he’d be perfect.

We were still working on the lead role and a strong supporting when I was introduced to a casting director, Shannon Makhanian. Shannon loved the script and jumped in to help. It was through her that we got Lukas Haas and Theo Rossi.

Theo came on pretty quickly, driven by the importance of the issue. Lukas was a little harder to convince. It is a very difficult role, especially for a straight guy. There was a lot of risky behavior and he needed to pull off not only gay, but tweaked out. Lukas, before he got sober, was a downer kind of guy and there is a huge difference. He read the script and said, “I love the script, but I’m not going to do it.” I said that that wasn’t good enough. He needed to talk with me. I was just sure that if he talked with me he’d do it. Well we spent an hour on the phone and he called his agent and said, “The project is great. I just don’t think I can do it.” My response was, “I want him and I really think if he just meets me he’ll know I can be trusted to take care of him.”

It took a while and I was beginning to worry. We were a week out and he was still saying no. Shannon suggested I look for a back up so we did one more casting. We found a great guy – not a lot of experience in front of the camera but an MFA in acting and real talent. He happened to know Wilson and I was waiting for Wilson to call me back with his opinion when I got the call from Lukas’ agents. He was willing to meet. Mind you this was the Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving and rehearsals started on that Sunday. It was a lot of pressure, but in the end it was well worth waiting Lukas out.

 
What camera did you shoot with and what did you love (and hate) about it?

JANE: RED MX. I love the RED. I really have nothing bad to say about it. It’s the third time I’ve used it. We actually did a two-camera shoot, which I also love.

The RED is particularly handy in the editing room because of the density of material. We shot METH HEAD in 14 days and when you are moving fast like that you have to drop or alter shots to stay on schedule. It was reassuring to know what I could create in the editing room out of the material, so there were crucial times when I could say, let’s just set a wide master and I’ll create the moves in post. I know DP’s hate that, and no, it isn’t optimal, but when there is no choice, at least I can trust the RED material to hold up when necessary.

 
What's the upside and the downside of being not only the writer and director but also the editor?

JANE: I think the three things go together. They are all part of telling the story. Knowing the script as well as I did, having breathed it for a year and a half while we waited for financing, once on the set, I was able to confidently make changes and fast decisions. In the edit room as well, I knew where the core of the story was going and having been intimate with the takes from the production process, I knew the options intimately. That meant, when faced with an edit problem (lack of footage etc) I knew my arsenal of takes well enough to find the solution.

I also don’t rely on being the sole arbiter. I get notes on the script through the rewrite process. I use good ideas that are thrown out during production whether it is from the prop person, the actor, or my exec producer. And we did at least 5 small focus groups during the edit process to hone in on what was working and what wasn’t.

 
Did the movie change much during editing and how did you go about making those choices?

JANE: We basically cut the script. The biggest issue was limited setups/limited takes, though I find there is usually a creative fix to that issue. The problem I had was that of shortages, namely I wasn’t able to get a few establishing and montage shots because of rain and continuity issues. I thought I could squeak by without them, but I was wrong so we went back and grabbed those in a couple of hours one morning a few months after production.

But there remained two bigger issues. I cut a few things in the script process that I thought I could get away with (montage sort of things). I cut them because I didn’t think we could afford to do them financially. In the edit I realized, again, I needed them after all, but was stumped as to how to fix the problem.

Add to that one major time jump that the audience just wasn’t getting. That was the hardest issue to face, because I thought I would need to reshoot a whole scene and that seemed really out of my reach, financially.

I had given up and locked the picture, but then I showed the film to Lukas. He told me I hadn’t finished it, and I knew I hadn’t finished it. He said I needed to take off my producer hat and think like the director, and he would help in anyway he could. I knew he was right and once I let go of the “this is impossible” thoughts, I came up with some very simple fixes for the time jump problem. Lukas got us an expensive location for free for one of the montages, my friends pitched in to help with the rest, and with that we went back in one day and got everything we needed.

It was so simple in the end and so incredibly necessary. It was the difference between a decently good film and a really good film.

 
What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?

JANE: The smartest thing I during production…hmmm…there were so many fast decisions that I was later really happy about. One that stands out though – the last day of shooting had a scene at a beach and the beach we were going to was flooded after several days of rain. We pushed the shoot to wait it out, but the rain really didn’t cease until the last possible day to shoot – the day before Christmas Eve. So it was then or never.

On the day we had no idea what shape the beach was in since it was over an hour away. The sky was still overcast; the whole idea of the ocean horizon was ruined. Faced with the uncertainty and needing to finish on that day, I made a last minute decision to stay put and go up to a hill above my house, instead.

I rewrote the scenes to accommodate the change and we went up the street to shoot. We got the actor and camera set, and started rolling when all of a sudden the clouds parted and the sun broke through. It was like some little miracle of nature – the most beautiful moment and we got it on film.

Dumbest thing…was locking the film before it was ready. And knowing it wasn’t ready, but doing it anyway. Only thanks to Lukas and his honesty was I saved from forever being disappointed in myself.

 
And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you have taken to other projects?

JANE: You can’t help but learn a million things on every film, because each project has its own unique set of elements and issues.

One of the things that will impact my next film is the importance of establishing shots and transitions – get more than you think you need, and don’t save them until the last day, hoping to squeeze them in. Shoot them as you go. I also under-planned my inserts and there were times in editing when it would have helped to explain something a little better or to link two clips that had some continuity issues if I had a few more inserts of things.
 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Debra Eisenstadt on “The Limbo Room,” “Oleanna” and David Mamet

When did you first get interested in acting?

DEBRA: I remember when I was very little being interested in plays and I used to read all the Tennessee Williams plays and all the Sam Shepard plays – all the books that my older sister had on her shelves. This was in elementary school. So I was always interested, always seeking out opportunities to be in plays. But I was never cast.

I think there are two kinds of actors. There’s the writer actor and then there’s the performer/singer actor. And I was always more into the writing of it. And I was always interested in writing, too. But my sister was a writer, and so I always felt like that was her territory. So I went into acting, even though I think for me I had the same feeling for writing.

Acting was very good for me for a lot of reasons, so I stayed with it. I would take the train into the city to take acting classes when I young, like fourteen. And then I majored in theater when I was in college and I went to special summer programs for acting – it was just what I did.

Then when I graduated from college, I started interning at Circle Rep, which I don’t think exists anymore. It was a pretty big off-Broadway theater at one time. And then I would go on auditions through Backstage. And I immediately started getting work in off-off-Broadway plays.

And then I went to an open call for Oleanna, to understudy, and I got the part as the understudy. Then, after a few months of understudying, I had been rehearsing with David Mamet, who was putting in a new actress, and he offered me the part. So that’s how I broke into it, as far as making money and making my living.

From there I just kept getting work as an actress, so I was able to make a living. I did a lot of theater. I did the Wendy Wasserstein play, The Sisters Rosensweig, and then I did the movie The Heidi Chronicles and I did the movie of Oleanna and I was doing television and TV movies – I moved out to Los Angeles.

But the business of acting was not good for me. I wasn’t very happy and I didn’t understand it. Nobody taught me, there’s no book to prepare you for what it is. I had just been acting in classes, which I enjoyed. But auditioning for casting directors and dealing with agents – I was completely green. I had no idea how to deal with these people. I was pretty young, about twenty-three.

I’m always amazed when I see young people who are having careers and are professional, because I got completely lost in the whole idea of having a manager, having an agent, people talking in your ear telling you what you should be doing, what you shouldn’t be doing. I really didn’t like it. I didn’t like the out-of-control feeling. And so I left LA and I went back to New York. I thought if I went back to theater I would be happier.

I went back and I was doing this production of The Greeks, and I played all these parts – it was this epic production that was supposed to come to Lincoln Center – and I had just a miserable experience with that as well. And I thought, I’ve got to make a change, because this career is not making me happy. I was lucky that I could find that out in my twenties.

So I went to film school and I learned how to edit and I learned to do all the things you need to do to make a film. It really opened up a whole new world to me that I changed my life completely and I became a much happier person. Everything just fell into place in my life when I moved into film.

Which film school did you go to?

DEBRA: I went to the New School, because it was around the corner. I really knew what I wanted to do, because I had been writing scripts and had been submitting them to theaters and they were getting rejected. I wanted to be in control; I just felt very out of control. I had very much an agenda, and when I went to the New School they had this thing called The Knowledge Union, which was this amazing place that had all this equipment that nobody was using.

I had friends who were going to NYU and they had to work on their friends’ films and they never got a chance to do a lot of their own work because everyone was doing the same thing. At the New School it was much more of a media studies program and people were not doing much production. So I could be in there all night, learning how to edit and not have to work on other people’s stuff. So I kind of had this idea that I could go in there and make a feature on my own and also get a graduate degree.

They told me that you can’t do that, you can’t make a feature for your thesis, but I did, because I knew I could. The technology at that time was just changing to digital and so everything was getting very easy and it was much easier to do on your own.

My first short was called The Guest and it got into a lot of film festivals and it did pretty well for a short film. Then my second film, which was my thesis film, was Daydream Believer. It was very guerilla style and I enlisted my friends and it was really just a fluke that it won awards and did really well.

I had also met my husband at this time and after I won the Spirit Award for Daydream Believer, a month later I got pregnant. But I also had gotten an offer to work with Good Machine. But because I was pregnant and all that, everything kind of fell through with that project.

So I had to start from scratch with The Limbo Room, which I shot when I was pregnant. I was five months pregnant and I was thinking I was never going to be able to make a film again; and this was my second child. So I’m a good example of a mom who’s making films really on the fly, because I have to.

I’m hoping that I can keep making movies, even though my priority really is my kids, which I think is the battle for women: You want to be able to have a family, but you only have a certain amount of time realistically.


How did The Limbo Room come about?

DEBRA: My sister and I had been working on a play. I really wanted to write a play about an understudy, because I had started understudying and it was this whole backstage world. The whole idea was just so bizarre to me: you’re trapped backstage while this play is going on out there. And you’re in this little room in the back and you have to listen to what’s going on out on the stage and you may (or may not) go on. There are just so many metaphors going on within the idea of an understudy.


When I was doing Oleanna, I was the understudy. When I walked into that play, David Mamet’s wife was the actress and she had been doing the play for a long time. And was suffering horribly from playing that role. Every night she got beat-up on stage and every night the audience would cheer. It’s just a hated character. And I thought that I would be immune to that. I played that role in Oleanna for a year and I realized, in retrospect, that it really did depress the hell out of me, playing that role night after night.

So that was one element I was interested in: what’s real and what’s not real and how you take on the character – you are this character but you aren’t this character. Then this whole microcosm that’s happening backstage with the understudies and the actors.

So we wrote The Limbo Room; we finished it in a summer, and then I shot that film in nine days. I got Melissa Leo at the last minute.

And then I edited it over the course of a year. As soon as I finished the rough cut, I went into labor and had my baby. Then it went to Slamdance and the Sundance Channel has played it. It won some awards, too, so it’s not bad for nine days and $30,000 dollars.

And I edited it on my laptop; it was really funny, I took my laptop in, because I was having some problems with it. I said I had edited a film on it, and they said that I couldn’t, that you couldn’t edit a feature on a laptop. But somehow I was able to. It’s one of those things, where if nobody tells you “no,” then you can still do it. Because I had no idea I couldn’t edit a feature on my laptop. If I had gone to them before I edited my film, I wouldn’t have even tried. So it was lucky that I didn’t.


What sort of prep did you do in order to be able to shoot in nine days? How much rehearsal did you do?

DEBRA: I tried to do a little bit of rehearsing with the actress who played Ann, in my apartment. Very little. I mean, very, very little.

We did a couple of readthroughs before we shot it. And we would shoot the rehearsal a lot of the time. And this time I had Jay Silver shoot the film, I did not shoot it myself. He did a great job. Basically, everybody worked for nothing.

Like, with Pete Dinklage – I didn’t have anybody for that part. The woman who I offered that part to was insulted, because she wanted to be the lead. So then I called Pete Dinklage, who’s a friend of mine, and he was happy to come and do it. He was a known actor and he had no problem coming in and doing this.

He’s so great to work with; we went to college together. He was in the middle of shooting another movie and he literally left that set, came to where I was and without any reservations just did it. He was so great, so funny, and everyone loves that scene the best in the movie. He was hilarious.

And Melissa Leo, too, was so great. It was very last-minute. She read the script and then I met her. She definitely was testing me. She was great. We’re very good friends now. And she’s really tried to help the film as much as she can. Everyone who worked on it was so supportive and so great and so easy to work with.

For my next one, I just hope I keep incrementally getting better at what I do. I’m not looking to do a huge budget feature. I like working in this way; I like not having a very big crew. And I like having the autonomy. So I’m hoping I can find a balance there, too, where I’m not losing money. So far, I’ve broken even, pretty much, on both my films, which is amazing. Except for legal fees, maybe.

But maybe on the next one I can have a little more money and a little more time and I can make an even better film. Because I think, if I’m given the opportunity, I could make a really good film. I love working with actors and actors love working with me – I understand them. I’ve always had great experiences with the people I’ve worked with.

How far did you take The Limbo Room on your laptop?

DEBRA: I can only edit up to a point, so I hired this editor, Jennifer Lily, who has been the assistant editor on big, big movies. She had a system in her apartment, so I gave it over to her and we fine cut it there together.

And then once that was done, I got a professional sound person to come in and do sound effects. That’s really where I put the money. Because I didn’t pay the actors, and I didn’t pay for anything, really, because it was all digital. But I knew that you’ve got to put money into the sound, that’s really important.

I was lucky that I got to work with real professional people, who do professional sound for big movies, who were willing to work on a small movie because they liked it.

Obviously, nine days doesn’t give you a lot of time and there are going to be mistakes and all that kind of stuff. I think for the limitations I was given, I’m really proud of it. And I learned a lot.


What did you learn, as a filmmaker, from your work as an actress in the movie Oleanna?

DEBRA: I worked with David Mamet on the stage production; I had already done the play for a long time before I did the film. So it was like we were doing the play again when we did the film.

David’s method of working with actors is very different than my way of working with actors. He just basically gave me three Super Objectives for each act, which is kind of genius. So he said, “In this Act, you’re seeking help, in this one you’re doing this, in this one you’re doing that.” And that was really the extent of it.

The thing that I learned the most from David was how he led. He’s a great leader. And I think that’s what I took away from it.


How did he demonstrate that?

DEBRA: It was the way he treated everyone. He treated everyone with the utmost respect. It was a very tight ship; everyone felt like they were part of what was happening, from craft service to the grips. Everyone felt like they were special.

I’ve been on sets where people are really unhappy and miserable and cursing the director because he’s disrespectful. That’s what I learned from David, the way he respected everyone. And I think that’s probably one of the most important things to learn.

You’re their director, and people are not going to work for you and do the things you ask them to do if they’re feeling unappreciated. And he was really good at making everybody feel totally worthwhile and appreciated and important. That’s a lesson that could be easily overlooked, but when I compare it to other situations where the director is just not really present and not making everyone feel important and appreciated, it definitely shows.

In the past, I’ve been in a situation on shooting a movie where the director is just really rude and really disrespectful to the actors. And everyone takes their break and that’s what they’re talking about, they’re talking about how they’re feeling they’re being disrespected. And then it shows up in the scene. It’s like a domino effect.

David’s a very, very smart man and he knows exactly what he needs to do to make everybody feel good. I think that’s his strongest thing as a director and that was the biggest lesson I learned on that film.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Carrie Preston on "That's What She Said"

What was your filmmaking background before setting out to make That's What She Said?

CARRIE: I have been an actor my whole life, so I always look at story-telling through that prism. About 13 years ago, I was awarded a Fox Foundation grant to take an intensive five week filmmaking course. I learned a lot in a short amount of time.

At the same time, James Vasquez, one of my closest friends from Juilliard, showed me a screenplay he had written for himself to star in and he wanted me to direct it. So, we joined forces with James' partner Mark Holmes, and Daisy 3 Pictures was born.

I directed 29th and Gay, our first feature. It was like a really concentrated film school. The film did tons of festivals and ended up selling. We then went on do a short film called Feet of Clay that I directed. It also did the festival rounds.

Ready? OK! , our second feature, was written and directed by James, and I played the female lead. Again, we did a lot of festivals and sold the film. We keep learning so much from each experience.
How did you become involved in the project and what was your process of working with writer Kellie Overbey?

CARRIE: Kellie and I met playing sisters in a play at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, CT. In the play with us was Marcia DeBonis.

Kellie showed me a play she had written called Girl Talk. I immediately fell in love with it and said to Kellie, "You have to let me direct this and we have to put Marcia in it." So I ended up directing it on stage in NYC. The play really went over well, but what really excited me was the idea of turning it into a movie.

I put the script in screenplay format and laid out to Kellie how I thought we could open it up. She took that and ran with it. It took us almost 8 years to get it made, but neither of us ever wanted to give up. We worked really well together and were a good team on set and off.
 
Can you talk about how you raised your budget and your financial plan for distribution and recouping your costs?

CARRIE: Our previous films were super low budget (no budget) projects, so we understand how to create films with minimal resources. However, in the case of That's What She Said, I knew we needed more money than we had before.

We had several backer's readings. We sent the script all around. We begged and borrowed. I taught myself how to write a business plan, which was a very useful tool. Eventually, we were able to bring on five individual investors, who joined us in meeting the budget.

As for distribution, we got offers after our Sundance premiere, and we settled on Phase 4 Films. They gave us a NY/LA theatrical run and were able to get us on all VOD, DVD and digital platforms.
 
What camera(s) did you use and what did you love and hate about it?

CARRIE: We shot on Super 16mm film. Those cameras were fantastic for a run and gun shoot in NYC. I wanted the majority of the film to be hand-held, and these cameras are much easier to shoot that way than a tricked out Red or Alexa.

We were able to shoot with two cameras on some of our bigger days, which was so helpful in editing. I love the way film looks, and when I picture New York in my mind, it always looks like film to me. Kodak was so helpful and gave us great deals on film stock. So it was a win-win situation for me.
 

How did the movie change in the editing and why did you feel the changes were important?

CARRIE: Anita Brandt Burgoyne was my editor, and she was tremendous. We got along famously. I absolutely love the editing process. There's nowhere I'd rather be than sitting next to a brilliant editor and creating the film out of all the pieces. You go from the possible to the definitive, and that is both daunting and thrilling.

In the case of TWSS, we pretty much put the script on the screen. But there were some things that we lost or rearranged in editing, and it was all in the service of clarity, which is very important.

What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?

CARRIE: The smartest thing I did was rehearse for three days with the actors in the actual locations with the DP by my side.

The dumbest thing I did was try to shoot on the lower east side close to Halloween at 2 in the morning on a Saturday night. We made it work, but it was definitely our biggest shit-show.

And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you have taken to other projects?

CARRIE: I learned that you have to be profoundly prepared so that you can have the flexibility to roll with the daily punches and still make your day.
 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lesli Linka Glatter on "Twin Peaks"


What did you learn from directing on Twin Peaks?

LESLI: I directed four episodes and that was a huge turning point for me.

There was a scene in the pilot for the show in which Michael Ontkean is talking to Kyle MacLachlan. It's in a bank, in a room where you look at your safety deposit box. In the middle of the scene, on this table, is this moose head. They play the whole scene in this room and no one ever refers to the moose head. The scene is incredible.

So, when I got to know David, I went up to him and said, "How did you ever get the idea to put the moose head on the table?" He looked at me like I was kind of crazy, and he said, "It was there." And I said, "What do you mean it was there?" He said, "The set decorator was going to hang it on the wall," and David said to the decorator, "Leave the moose head."

Something just cracked open in my brain: "Be sure you're open to the moment. Be sure you see the moose head on the table. Don't try to control things so much that you're not open to what's happening in the moment."

That was a great lesson and a huge turning point for me.

From Steven (Spielberg) I learned, "Do your homework and never pretend you know what you don't, because someone is going to be there who knows and you're going to get caught." Which was all about planning and control.

And from David I learned, "Yes, do all of that, but be sure you're open to the moment."

This may be an ignorant question, but how do you get a TV show to the exact length required by the network?

LESLI: It's a bloody drag. A lot of the times, the scripts are too long. And if you have a story that's really great, some things are just going to have to go. I think it's horrible, but that's how it is. They're not going to change the time because of you, so you have to conform to what it has to be. It's really unfortunate.

At what point can you tell that you're going to be in trouble, length-wise?

LESLI: I can tell now by reading the script. I can read it and go, "Ah, this is way too long. We're going to be ten minutes over." Also, you don't have that much time to shoot.

One of the good things about directing TV is that you learn very clearly what the dollar scene is and what the five-cent scene is. You have to know what your important scene of the day is; if you're going to divide the day up, that's where you're going to want to spend the bulk of your time. And the scenes that aren't important you need to move through quickly. So you have to find a way to shoot them that's going to tell the story. But if you have a very emotional scene that's the turning point of your story, that's where you want to be spending your time. It's not all equal. Directing TV really teaches you how to do that. Because you have to.

What advice would you give to someone who's thinking about pursuing a directing career?

LESLI: Be sure you really want to do this. Follow your dreams. And listen -- but don't listen -- to how difficult it is.