To start out this year of 2019, I hung out with a really great friend of mine, Dennis Hill! I met Dennis around 2007 at a film festival - I was a student then, but had been a fan of his work - he’s been seen in shows ranging from The Wire to American Horror Story to the award-winning webseries The Record Keeper. We were able to collaborate on a sci-fi concept called Star Thieves, and have taken it to several film festival and comic cons across the states. You can check out the IG here for awesome photos and more info.
In working on Star Thieves and other projects, Dennis has embraced becoming a full-fledged producer and writer as well - he’s one of the hardest workers I know. It’s always a blast to hang with this guy. Check him out on IG!
Dennis, I know that you’ve been in the industry for a bit, what do you do?
DH: I’m an actor and producer.
You’ve been on both sides of the camera, but especially as an actor. What do you look for in a first or second time director?
DH: The first thing I look for in a beginning director is confidence. Confidence usually lets me know that they know just about everything there is to know about the subject at hand, and that I don’t have to worry. If you look flustered as the leader, it makes everything seem unstable. That will invite fear amongst the team, which is a slippery slope. Everyone looks to the director for... direction. It’s war out there (as I’ve learned recently) and everyone on the team needs a good leader.
From the acting side, what’s some mistakes you’ve seen new directors make when working with the talent?
DH: The biggest mistake I’ve seen directors make is not creating a space for actors to feel comfortable to create. The best way to combat this is by telling the actor that they can have the first two takes to portray the scene/character however they want. Let them know that whatever they do with the scene they can do no wrong. Helena Bonham Carter once said, “Acting is like painting blindfolded. You can’t see what you’re creating in the moment. We can only feel.” That’s why we need to know that the director trusts us, and in return we can apply their adjustments to what we’ve displayed. It’s a two way street. Also, as a producer, if the director is calm, everyone else is usually calm. This brings up my point about exuding confidence. People just want to be around a person like that, especially if it’s backed up with knowledge and hard work.
What traits do you personally look for in a beginning director?
DH: There’s nothing better than having a director who’s excited about an idea just as much as you are! In my opinion, if a director wants to just go out there, have fun, make something really cool, and stay professional at the same time... there’s just nothing better. I got into this business for the same reason most of us have... we want to play.
What would you say to a director jumping into features?
DH: Have fun! And don’t be afraid to try the ideas that you always wanted to see on film back when you were dreaming about this opportunity.
Is there a film that you think all new directors should see?
DH: I don’t have one because I’m not sure what a director should look for in a movie, but I would tell them to watch all the BTS of Star Trek, the first of the new series that J.J. Abrams directed. He delivers a perfect example of a director who loves what he does and having a lot of fun “playing,’ on a very high level, with his team. To me, that’s what it’s all about.
NOTE: Interview has been edited for clarity.