2009 Directors Special Report: Dougal Wilson

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Credit: Phillip Simpson; art direction by Damien Bellon
What's the best lesson you've learned about directing?
One of the best lessons I've learned is to imagine everything will go as badly as possible on a shoot. Because if you prepare for the worst, it will always be pleasantly surprising if anything goes right. And if it doesn't, you're already prepared for it. Or you've got a good excuse prepared. So, for example, if you need an animal to do something, make sure you see video footage of it doing it. Better still, go and visit the animal and see it doing what you need it to do with your own eyes. Or if you need some kind of contraption to work, go and see it working at the production designer's place. Or if you need an actor to perform a certain way, make sure you see him or her doing it at the casting. Never say, "Oh, it'll be alright on the shoot." Because in my experience it never is. On one of my first ever shoots people were supposed to get dug up out of holes in the sand on a beach. Except the holes kept flooding and caving in, and we ran out of time. It was horrific. I think that experience, like some kind of childhood trauma, has given me a preparation complex ever since.

Having an established career, what do you wish you had known when you were just starting out?
Do I have an established career? Woohoo! I wish someone would have told me that one day I'd have an established career. Then I could've relaxed a bit more. My words of advice to young directors would be to "roll with the punches." Don't get too down about disappointments, because there will be loads of them. I don't want to sound pessimistic, but you will lose out on jobs to bigger directors. It's just part of being an underdog. But remember that if you're tenacious and don't give up, one day you'll be disappointing a young director by winning the job yourself! Hooray!

What are you still trying to figure out about the job?
Every time I think I've figured this job out, and imagine that during my next project it'll be really easy and I'll be swanking about on a golf course making the odd phone call to get things ready, I'm still up all night drawing storyboards or waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat worrying about casting. It doesn't seem to get any easier. But somehow I enjoy it. I suppose it's good to be involved in something you really care about. And I don't actually play golf.

Credit: Phillip Simpson; art direction by Damien Bellon
Watch some of Wilson's spots

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