10 Ingenious Ways Film Directors Beat The Studio

You gotta do what you gotta do to get your movie made.

Zack Snyder's Justice League.jpg
Warner Bros.

Even the smoothest movie production is a creative tug-of-war between the director and the studio, typically resulting in a series of compromises in order to keep both sides at least somewhat happy.

There are of course many examples where the studio simply steamrolls a filmmaker with all of their might, but every so often, there are occasional instances of a director using their business nous to get one over on those pesky executives.

These 10 directors, from venerated icons and Oscar winners to more niche up-and-comers, all pulled off absurdly smart games of 4D chess with the bigwigs at the studio who attempted to mess with their vision.

If you give the studio an inch they'll gladly take a mile, so these directors' well-laid plans ensured that wasn't really possible. They may have had to lie and scheme their way there, but in most cases the final movie proved superior as a result.

It's always nice to see the little guy score a win, especially when they're an artist competing against a commercial goliath whose primary interest is money at any cost...

10. John Ford Only Shot The Material He Needed To Avoid Studio Meddling - Most Of His Movies

Zack Snyder's Justice League.jpg
Paramount Pictures

It's no secret that even the most organised filmmaker shoots far more footage than actually ends up in the movie, and that's become ever-more true in the age of digital filmmaking, without the need to consider the expense of shooting on film stock.

Mad Max: Fury Road, for instance, had a shooting ratio of 240:1, capturing roughly 480 hours of footage for the two-hour final movie.

But even back in the Golden Age of Hollywood (1930-1959), it was extremely common for films to be shot at a ratio as high as 10:1.

Yet a select circle of filmmakers realised that they could minimise the shooting ratio in order to help them maintain creative control. Alfred Hitchcock famously shot at a 3:1 ratio most of the time, and the legendary John Ford was reportedly even stricter.

Ford would shoot minimal takes and only the bare minimum coverage to protect himself in the editing room, but otherwise shot little extraneous material so that the studio couldn't interfere with the end product.

This is allegedly why Ford worked with so many cast members time and time again, because their professional familiarity allowed him to get what he wanted in just a few takes. Ford himself even spoke of his stingy shooting style:

"I don't give 'em a lot of film to play with...I do cut in the camera. Otherwise, if you give them a lot of film 'the committee' takes over. They start juggling scenes around and taking out this and putting in that. They can't do it with my pictures. I cut in the camera and that's it. There's not a lot of film left on the floor when I'm finished."



Stay at home dad who spends as much time teaching his kids the merits of Martin Scorsese as possible (against the missus' wishes). General video game, TV and film nut. Occasional sports fan. Full time loon.