On Monday 20th April, Screen and Film School welcomed Alex Kalymnios for a brilliant virtual masterclass, delving into her international career as a director.
Alex Kalymnios is a prolific television director, who is known for her UK work on Hollyoaks, Becoming Human, Scott and Bailey and The White Princess, as well as her US work including Cleveland Abduction, Salem, The 100 and Titans. Growing up, Alex was always interested in plays, storytelling and performing, but when she began directing her own plays at school, coupled with her obsession with film and TV, something clicked.
We’ve included some of her top tips for aspiring directors below- as well as the full video of the masterclass!
New project? Start with the script.
At the start of a project, Alex reads the script as if she’s the audience – she has to connect with something, find it relatable or interesting, to feel that she can put her own stamp on it. It’s important to know whose point of view you’re telling in the scene, so you need to break down the script. Read it, make notes, tick things you like, put question marks next to things you don’t understand. Look at the character arcs, what are they thinking? Are they growing, have they changed?
Alex suggests reading a script slowly, well, and only once before putting it down for a couple of days (if you have the time!). When you come back to it, think about what you remember from the script. Ask yourself if what you were thinking is still in there and pull out the key images and create a mood board. This doesn’t just apply to directors, either: Alex says that she loves it when heads of department bring their own ideas to the table too, as it shows their passion for the project.
Working with actors? Comfortable is key.
A huge part of any director’s role is working with actors. Alex’s main goal is to make them feel comfortable on set, and how she does that varies per person. She always aims to meet them before they get on set, then forms a relationship of trust with them. This may just be hanging out or having a chat, whereas some actors need rehearsals and constructive notes. This is important: just telling an actor to do it ‘faster’ or ‘differently’ isn’t constructive; remind them they’re in a hurry or recap the events that have happened before this scene if they’re not conveying the mood the script asks for. But let them interpret it their own way too – Alex recommends seeing what happens naturally on set before changing anything too much.
Feeling stuck in the edit? Try watching your work in mute.
Growing up, Alex would have to watch Twin Peaks in mute – the VHS recorder was broken, so it could only record the picture and white noise. She credits this for helping teach her the language of storytelling; before she goes into the edit, she watches rushes in mute to look at the visual rhythm of a scene before any sound effects have been added. That way, she can work out if a pause needs an extra second or if it could be cut a fraction sooner without being distracted by the accompanying sounds.