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Directors Chair
Creating the Director's Sub-World
| Monday, 05.07.2018, 10:00 AM |   (41007 views)

Peter D Marshall

Vancouver, Canada

Creating the Director's Sub-World


By Peter Marshall, Filmmaker Vancouver, Canada



The "subworld" of a film are the feelings and sensations a director creates to arouse certain emotions from the audience.


To do this, the director directs the STORY BENEATH THE MAIN STORY by developing ACTIONS, EVENTS and INCIDENTS that portray the deeper meaning of the story and the subtext of characters.


A film director can use the following steps to help create the Subworld of the script:


1. Research any source that will help you immerse yourself in the world of the story. (Movies, books, TV, internet)


2. Find out what you want the audience to know (to experience, to understand)


3. Research and understand the story so the audience learns something they didn't know before. (About the characters, about the place, the time period)


4. Never take the subject for granted - always challenge it. (Keep finding out more)


5. Deal with the unique characteristics of the story to create a film that is believable. (Even fantasy and science fiction have to be "believable" within the realm of the that particular "unreal" world)


6. Create a world in which the characters are in conflict. (Drama is conflict)


7. Find out what is the story beneath the story. (What is really going on in the story?)


8. What generates the action for a character? (What event motivates the character take action?)


9. What would it take to motivate this character? (An event, a line of dialogue or a certain look from another character?)


10. Everyone has secret lives and fantasies. (What are they for your characters?)


11. What are the central MOTIFS; IMAGES; SYMBOLS? (These help create an image pattern that is repeated throughout the film and they become your visual concept or style.)


12. Find the quality sensation the audience can feel. (What emotion do you want the audience to feel in a scene, then find ways in that scene to achieve it)


13. Know the story on the surface and know how to bring the story to life. (The director as a story teller.)


14. Develop the subtext to make it believable. (What do your characters really want? This can be done through dialogue and certain mannerisms and looks.)


15. Find out what generates the action before it happens. (What event in the scene begins the action?)





16. Build an entire past life for your characters. (Actors do this and so should you.)


17. Understand your characters' behavior. (Know what their motives are for every scene - this will effect their actions and what they do as a result.)


18. Use counterpoint to create multi-dimensional characters. (Unless a person is certifiably insane, every one of us has the capacity to love one person deeply, and at the same time, hate another person or group just as passionately.)


19. Know all the Story Points, Events, Beats and Moments in your script.


20. Interpret the dialogue to find out what the character is really trying to say. (What is the subtext?)


Peter Marshall/Vancouver/Canada

Peter D. Marshall is a filmmaker from Vancouver, Canada. He has worked in the Film and Television Industry for over 35 years – as a Film Director, Television Producer, First Assistant Director and TV Series Creative Consultant.

He has written, directed or produced over 50 hours of documentary and educational programs and his documentaries and dramas have won, or been nominated for, 14 International film awards.

Peter has been a directing instructor at the Vancouver Film School, the Directors Guild of Canada, Victoria Motion Picture School and Capilano College.

Peter can be reached at

Peter Marshall

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