Directors impose a recognizable style or world-view on a movie, mostly by making choices. And some directors have asserted that their most important choices are made before a single foot of film is exposed--when they select or write a project that suits their temperament, and when they "cast" the project with actors and behind-the-scenes collaborators. These are, after all, the people who will offer them a range of options to choose from on the set. During production, in fact, the director's job often seems to consist of answering an endless series of questions raised by department heads, from "Where should we put the camera?" to "Should Tom wear the red hat or the green hat?" It is the sum total of all those choices that constitutes the work of the director. In an intensely collaborative medium like film, of course, every contribution can be vital; an assistant director with stand-out crowd-control skills, for example, could be crucial to the impact of an action scene. But if a film is to be a coherent work of art rather than a scramble of individual gestures, a single coordinating sensibility must dominate. Be they geniuses or hacks, the director is the one person who must always have the big picture in mind, while considering how any given detail will add to the overall design or help propel and clarify the story.
"A good director has a vision of what they want the movie to look like, what they want to express. You're painting pictures with film -- with sound and light."
Read more of the In-Depth Interview with The Old Settler director Debbie Allen here.
Debbie Allen is the director and co-executive producer of The Old Settler, the first production in the new PBS national television drama series PBS Hollywood Presents. Ms. Allen also stars as spirited and outspoken Quilly in the drama.
A two-time Emmy Award winner for her role as inspirational dance teacher Lydia Grant in the hit television series Fame, Debbie Allen is a multi-talented artist whose distinguished career as an actress, dancer, singer, choreographer, director and producer has made her a household name. She is the recipient of numerous additional honors for her work in television and theater, including a Golden Globe Award for Fame, Emmy nominations for Polly and The Debbie Allen Special, a Tony nomination for Sweet Charity, and a Tony nomination and Drama Desk Award for West Side Story.
During Fame's five-year run, Ms. Allen made the transition from acting to directing. In addition to choreographing and starring in the series, she helmed several episodes. In 1988, she took the reins as both director and producer of The Cosby Show spin-off A Different World. She later directed the television movies Polly and Polly: Comin' Home, both of which starred her sister Phylicia Rashad, and Stompin' At the Savoy, as well as episodes of such popular series as Quantum Leap, The Sinbad Show, and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. She also choreographed the Academy Awards for five consecutive years.
On the big screen, Ms. Allen has been seen in such films as Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, Ragtime, and The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. She was a producer of the acclaimed feature film Amistad, a project she developed for years and brought to Steven Spielberg. In addition, she is currently artist-in-residence at the Kennedy Center where she has created four highly successful dance-driven musical productions. Ms. Allen is executive producer of the WE: Women's Entertainment series Cool Women and the author of two books, Brothers of the Knight and Dancing in the Wings.