I mean, in a nutshell, for me TV directing is about answering four questions:
1) What's the overall story/episode about and how to visually portray that efficiently yet effectively?
2) What's each scene about and how to visually present each efficiently yet effectively?
3) Where do we put the camera?
4) What do I tell the actors?
...and doing four things:
1) Getting the coverage
2) Designing cool transitions (between scenes)
3) Being a pleasure to work with while creating a fun yet forward-moving set environment
4) Making the day (getting the scenes listed on each days call sheet)
Except it isn't that simple, really.
And trying to describe it all effectively usually means using words like tone and palette and lenses and frames and angles...and most examples seem like 'you had to be there' sort of thing, or would be better served by a commentary track on a DVD...and before you know it you can end up sounding like director Greg Beeman over HERE describing his experience on the first episode of the second season of Heroes:
I feel I sort of know how to shoot the show these days. The frames are as graphic as possible, super low angles, super high angles, lots of foreground and big big close ups (all in keeping with graphic novel frames to which we owe a big allegiance.) But I’ve also been interested in exploring the edgy faux-documentary style used in movies like THE CONSTANT GARDENER and THE BOURNE IDENTITY movies. A week or so before beginning production I saw A MIGHTY HEART, the Michael Winterbottom directed movie which starred Angelina Jolie. I found it very bold and felt inspired by it. It uses a very modern style, with all handheld cameras and a very captured-in-the-moment documentary style. Even though this is something I’d already been doing on HEROES, I left the theatre feeling that I could push myself further in this direction. I took it upon myself, in all of the sequences that were inherently edgy and tension-filled, to employ this style.
Followed up by:
I used a variation of this style in the scene with Ando and Kaito Nakamura on the Kirby Plaza. The camera was not hand held, but I went on very long lenses and used numerous extras to create numerous foreground wipes. Because of the long lenses the wipes are just quick blurs. And since there are so many of them I was able to cut from shot to shot fluidly. Even though the characters are just sitting there, the numerous cuts and the numerous wipes create an inherent tension. Then at the end of the scene when Kaito realizes he’s marked for death, I changed up style completely and went to a long take with no coverage (i.e. cuts) on a very wide lens.
Anyone still reading? I know I'm supposed to be into this stuff and my eyes were starting to glaze over. Nothing against Beeman at all...hell, I commend him for even giving it a shot (no pun intended). And especially in episodic TV where you, the director, really are only a hired gun...a spruced up traffic cop in many ways. Though it must be nice to have 10-13 days to shoot a TV one hour (the last four eps I did I got 6 days per, and most I ever got to make a one hour was 7 - welcome to Canada)
Film and TV is a visual medium...and it's hard to relate how you came up with the images when there's so many other variables and factors (crew, actors, weather, schedules, budget, etc.) that impact on how those pictures actually turned out. I've always said directing is about making a really specific plan for each day...and then the first time you call 'Action!' more or less throwing it out because - the dog didn't bark on cue, or a cloud moved across the sun, or an actor strolled over and said: "You know, I was thinking..."
Thus a lot of my recounting about what happened usually goes something like: "What I wanted to do was this, and we ended up getting that. But it turned out alright. Actually, you kinda had to be there."
Nevertheless, crashing ahead (my fav 1st AD phrase when trying to plough through a production meeting)...I'll keep trying and we'll see what comes out the other side.
P.S. And no matter what Mazin or Epstein say, I'm taking the 'A Will Dixon Film' credit every time I do a feature, baby. Course I've never done nor have any plans to do a feature, but if I did, boy...if I did (mostly because I've co-written and produced every TV movie I've done).
However, the 'A Film By...' credit should be outlawed.