Director Bethany Rooney took time out of her busy schedule while she was in Vancouver directing an episode ofArrow to speak to a packed theatre of VFS students from Film Production, Writing for Film & Television, Acting for Film & Television, and Entertainment Business Management. Bethany's impressive list of director's credits include such long-running classics asBrothers & Sisters,Ally McBeal, andDesperate Housewives. With over 25 years in the business, the longevity of Bethany's career has defied Hollywood odds, where less than 15% of directors are women.
Shelley Stein-Wotten, a current Writing for Film & Television student, attended Bethany's presentation and shares her experience with us.
Guest post by Shelley Stein-Wotten
"Always create your best work and collaborate in a meaningful, respectful manner."
Sage advice from acclaimed television director Bethany Rooney, who graciously answered questions from VFS students during a recent presentation.
"If you can't collaborate," she said, "you shouldn't be in film-making."
Bethany has directed nearly 200 episodes of primetime television. As a freelance director, she travels from show to show, and has seven days for prep and eight or nine days to shoot. This season, she's directing episodes for eight different shows, including Arrow, Nashville, Hart of Dixie, and Criminal Minds. Bethany talked about how a director has to dive into the culture of each show, to learn and appreciate the unique storytelling methods and connect practically instantaneously with the producers, writers, cast, and crew.
She also has to be the leader.
"I walk onto a show, I may or may not know people, and seven days later, I'm the boss," she said.
With such a tall order, collaboration is obligatory, and, Bethany said, requires a two-pronged approach: first, pipe down and listen; second, offer intelligent ideas.
Collaboration permeates every aspect of creating television. As a writer keen on working in television, this was a valuable message for me to hear. Collaboration doesn't just happen in the writers' room when you're developing and scripting a story, it happens on set too. A good relationship between the director and the writer is essential and only makes the show better.
A story may germinate in a writer's hands, but each person involved—the director, the DP, the wardrobe stylist—puts their own subtle imprint on a show. With so many voices and creative approaches involved, positive communication and cooperation is critical—everybody needs to be on the same page as far as tone—and that's what contributes to making great television.
A big thank you to Bethany Rooney for her inspirational visit, and to Shelley for sharing her experience!