In conversation with GoT and Succession Director Mark Mylod
Screen and Film School Brighton were incredibly pleased to welcome Emmy Award-winning TV director and executive producer, Mark Mylod for a recent virtual Masterclass, which gave students a glimpse behind the scenes on some of his most notable productions, including such award-winning series as Succession and Game Of Thrones.
Mark has worked in the US TV industry for 25+ years, putting his name to hugely successful television productions including The Royle Family, Entourage and Shameless. His most sizable project to-date was directing Game of Thrones for three years before getting involved in hit satirical comedy drama series, Succession.
Broadcasting live from his home in Brooklyn, New York, Mark took time to answer questions directly from our students on subjects as varied as directing actors, working on location and what the role of an Executive Producer actually entails.
To kick off proceedings, Mark shared a short clip of a scene from the current season of the brilliant HBO series, Succession, prompting one student to ask what it is about the series that makes it so unique?
“Ultimately, it’s the quality of the writing, isn’t it? In that it’s so vivid.” said Mark after a brief pause.
“There’s always an alchemy, like trapping lightning in a bottle. The timing was very good, coming into the Trump era in the states and in the UK also. It’s a very potent combination of a family drama that’s part high-end soap, part comedy, part King Lear. Plus, it has a nice satirical bite.”
He continued, “Until that point, satire was very out of fashion. So, there was an element where it felt fresh. But it’s just a great script that attracted great talent. One of the unsung heroes of Succession is Francine Maisler, the original casting director.”
Mark went on to discuss working with actors – something which many Screen and Film School students are naturally very interested in. Specifically, he described what methods he finds most effective for building tension on-screen.
“For me, everything comes from performance and working with the actors. In the script, in the rehearsal and in the playing, it’s about identifying what the heart of the conflict is and what is hidden. What is the character holding back? It’s about identifying where the source of tension is within the scene, what is being left unsaid and what pressures there are to ‘out’ that piece of information.”
He continued, “Ultimately, it tends to come down to two people who want different things, or one knows something that the other doesn’t. It’s about identifying that and making sure you can feel it when you watch it. And if you can’t, looking at the pacing, looking at the nuance of the performance, looking at the camera, etc.”
As the discussion developed, one attendee asked what advice Mark would offer to female directors in an otherwise male dominated section of the industry.
“There have been some great strides recently, but nowhere near enough.” Mark stated.
“I can’t change the world. But I can do the work by making sure every episode of Succession that I work on is as diverse as possible. My advice to any director is to make yourself indispensable. Keep making product until it’s undeniable. Do commercials, do music videos, do short films and refine your voice as a director so that your uniqueness catches someone’s eye. Talent will out!”
Before drawing to a close, Mark recalled stories of how he got his start in the industry, failed sacking attempts, and the character-building failures he incurred to get where he is now.
Finally, Mark divulged some sage advice on how to make a living as a director and highlighted some of the pitfalls young directors should watch out for, as well as his two top tips – always be bold and always be prepared to work your a**e off!
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