Welcome to The Nick Taylor Horror show! Carter Smith is a writer, director, and photographer who has directed such movies as The Ruins, Jamie Marks is Dead, and the recent Into the Dark film for Blumhouse, Midnight Kiss, which is now available on...
Welcome to The Nick Taylor Horror show! Carter Smith is a writer, director, and photographer who has directed such movies as The Ruins, Jamie Marks is Dead, and the recent Into the Dark film for Blumhouse, Midnight Kiss, which is now available on Hulu.
Carter has had a really interesting career, having shot fashion photography for publications including Vogue, GQ, and W Magazine. Carter’s directorial career began with directing commercials for clients such as Lancôme, Tommy Hilfiger, and Tiffany's. In 2006, Carter directed the short horror film, Bugcrush, based on a short story by Scott Treleaven. The film won the Short Filmmaking Award at the Sundance Film Festival, which led him to directing features. We hear his entire origin story, thoughts on the state of queer horror, and do a fair share of geeking out about our favorite movies of 2019.
All of this and so much more on today’s episode of the Nick Taylor Horror Show.
As always, here’s a summary of key takeaways from this conversation with Carter Smith.
- Remain on the radar. Hollywood is a business where producers and executives are bombarded with multiple projects, timelines, people, meetings and concepts simultaneously, at all times, non-stop. In other words, they are some of the busiest people in the world and if you are lucky enough to be in an active conversation with them about a project, it’s unfortunately very easy for them to forget about you. Therefore, you have to find a way to remain on their radar. When Carter was being considered to direct THE RUINS, his first feature project, Dreamworks, the studio behind it, was speaking to a ton of other directors, including huge names like Roman Polanski. This was Carter’s first film, so to remain on their consideration list, Carter sent short but sweet emails to remind the producers that he was still very interested and passionate about the project. I’m willing to bet nobody else did that - as you can guess, Carter got the project. The big lesson here is that as important as talent may be, being top of mind is critical when it comes to getting your movies made. If you’re in conversations with busy executives, find a way to remain in touch without annoying.
- Prep for your actors. Carter has directed a number of significant actors including Liv Tyler, and his key for giving them what they need to serve their performance is simply intense preparation. This seems like a given, but a lot of directors fail to do the more comprehensive development work required to accurately build a world and build a multi-dimensional character. When directing, you need to know everything there potentially is to know about your characters so if certain questions come up, you’ll either have the answer or have a way to find it. This kind of comprehensive prep work may sound extremely daunting but Carter recommends using the book THE FILM DIRECTOR’S INTUITION: SCRIPT ANALYSIS AND REHEARSAL TECHNIQUES by Judith Weston. It’s a thick read but offers an incredible amount of insight about uncovering the material you’ll need to serve your actors through a series of exercises. Carter was even gracious enough to send me a copy of this book just at first glance I’m loving it more and more. The lists of quotes from directors and actors alone are worth the price of the book. Highly recommended. Again, that’s The Film Director's Intuition: Script Analysis and Rehearsal Techniques by Judith Weston. Carter, thank you again for the copy bro.
- Take up other arts that will serve your filmmaking. Carter is a professional fashion photographer, and has been for years before he began directing. He states that the photographer's eye that he developed helped him tremendously as a director because it forced him to find a way to tell a story in a single frame. If you can tell a story in one frame, imagine what you can do with 24 frames per second.
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