Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Richard Donner - hard man but good

I accidentally got out two movies directed by Richard Donner. I'm glad I did.

Superman was an old favourite that we got out to see if it still had the same old magic - when Marie as a girl had a crush on Superman, and I as a boy wanted to be Superman.

It certainly did have that old magic - man, Chris Reeve was a great actor. But what really interested me even more than the movie itself was all the background material. From it I learned that a director does far more than 'see' the movie through the camera lens.

I already had an inkling that a director's job was to get the best out of the actors, but Dick Donner really gave me a new job description for a director.

He set the pace. He had enormous energy, which he summoned up from God knows where, because he knew if he let tiredness and the pressure of deadlines set in, it would spread through the cast and crew like wildfire. And in a movie about a flying man, you don't want that.

Before the technology that enabled Peter Jackson to film three movies at once, Donner directed two films in (I think) three locations. What a powerhouse!

Fastforward to 2003 and the next DVD we had to watch - Timeline. I was surprised to find it was the same director, so again I watched the background material. Had he changed?

No. Still irascible, demanding, pedantic but also with the abilities to choose the right people to work with. I think that's the best skill a leader has - choosing people to work with.

In both Superman and Timeline I saw a team of leaders, led by a leader. He gave them the latitude they needed to get the job done, but he also let them know what the standards were.

One thing had changed - in the time of Superman, Donner was fired before he could finish Superman 2. In the time of Timeline, Donner was, as Leonard Maltin says, "a one-man studio" who called all the shots, hired all the crew and experts, and functioned as a consultant.

So if you want some leadership lessons - and some exciting adventure - have a look at Superman and Timeline on DVD.


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