Difficult Scenes To Direct In Movies

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(Director of Photography Lamont Fountain and Director Jillian Bullock) 

Award winning filmmaker Jillian Bullock has worked on her own and other filmmakers’ movies as a director, screenwriter, producer, actor, and fight choreographer. Sometimes she has worn all these titles at the same time. Each hat she wore took on its own unique challenge, but for her as a director she has learned over the years that some scenes are much more difficult to direct than others. Here are Jillian’s top four choices.  

Rape Scenes

Jillian has said that directing any type of brutally violent scene, whether it’s rape or torture, is the most difficult for her. A Sense Of Purpose: Fighting For Our Lives #ASOPmovie #veterans #military #PTSD #militarysexualtrauma #suicide # honor #respect #ASOPtour #jillianbullock#tamarawoods #lamontfountain #johnquinlan 
In “A Sense of Purpose: Fighting For Our Lives” the movie deals with not only with the rape of a female Army Sergeant, but it also sheds light on men who are raped or sexually assaulted in the military.
(Actor Kerwin Gonzalez)
According to the Pentagon, thirty-eight military men are sexually assaulted every single day. Every four hours a sexual assault or rape is reported in the United States Military. A military survey indicated that there were 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact in one year; More than have of the victims are men.

(Actor Kerwin Gonzalez)
The aftermath of military sexual assault can include post-traumatic disorder, substance abuse and homelessness:
Half of military veterans suffer from mental illness; two-thirds suffer from substance abuse problems; and many from dual diagnosis, which is defined as a person struggling with both mental illness and a substance abuse problem.
(Actor Kerwin Gonzalez)

57,849 veterans are homeless on a single given night.

Directing a rape scene is difficult because it’s such a sensitive subject. To make it look real the actor who is portraying the rapist must come off as a despicable asshole to the audience even if he is a nice person in real life. In “A Sense of Purpose: Fighting For Our Lives,” John Quinlan portrays Captain Nixon who rapes Sgt. Diane Torres, played by Tamara Woods. John was naked during the scene and Jillian stepped in to be the body double as the rape victim since Tamara was about eight months pregnant at the time. The other men in the scene, actors David Bazemore, Ben Yon and Nicholas Mangino, who portrayed military men and buddies of Captain Nixon, were also involved in the sexual assault. As the men groped Jillian’s breasts and body and John simulated the rape, it was not only difficult for Jillian to be lying on her back getting “raped” but to direct from that awkward position.  

Love Scenes

Love scenes can be some of the most difficult to shoot for a number of reasons. From a passionate kiss to a full out love making scene when actors are naked, basically two strangers must appear to be in love or in lust with one another. Sometimes, like on the movie “An Officer and A Gentlemen” where actors Richard Gere and Debra Winger hated each other, it makes the director’s job so much more challenging. Between the arguments and screaming matches, it’s almost impossible to get two actors to look like they are in love on film. But a great director knows how to bring out the best in actors, even when they hate each other.  
On some sets, like “The Notebook,” you have two actors, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, who get along so well they end up getting together sexually and having a relationship in real life, at least for the duration of the movie, sometimes even afterwards. Their chemistry during intimate scenes come across the screen so real because off screen it is real. Then you have actors who are just damn fine actors. They work together seamlessly to make sure the audience believes their lovemaking scenes, but afterwards when the director calls cut, both actors retreat to their dressing rooms, and that’s the end of it. No matter what scenario love scenes take on, directors always have a closed set to respect the privacy of the actors. This means only the most essential crew members are on set, e.g. the director, assistant director, director of photography, sound person, lighting person, script supervisor.    
On the set of “A Sense of Purpose: Fighting For Our Lives,” John Quinlan and Jillian Bullock had already established a relationship as friends so they didn’t feel weird doing their intimate scenes. Jillian portrays Jessica Winters, the ex-wife of John’s character, Captain Jake Nixon. As their characters rekindled their love for each other they had to do kissing and intimate scenes.
Jillian noted: “In all the kissing scenes with John, he kept messing up.  We had to do take after take after take.” John said: “What can I say, Jillian’s a great kisser.”
 If actors can get to know each other and build chemistry before they have to shoot love scenes it helps makes their lives and the director’s life much more comfortable. Since Jillian was the director it was a smooth shoot with John because they knew each other for five years prior to beginning work on the film. They had already established a connection which helped make filming their love scenes a breeze.  

Fight Scenes/Action Scenes

Directing fight scenes are challenging because actors must look like they are hitting each other either with a punch, kick, or an object. Even with careful rehearsing and step-by-step choreography actors often get injured on set.  With a fight scene one actor may throw a punch and the receiving actor may bob when he should weave and then the punch connects to the actor’s face. Or a kick from an actor can land a bit too hard to the body of the other actor involved and ribs are broken. With action scenes the same rule applies. During explosions on set, car crashes, buildings falling, etc. actors can be injured. Although stunt men and women are used to ensure the actors don’t get injured, often times many actors want to perform their own stunts. Think Tom Cruise in all of his movies. Any director would be horrified if any of his or her actors were injured during filming. Not only do you want your actors to be safe, but injury could halt production of the movie, especially if it’s the lead actor, and depending upon how severe the injury is. Jillian said it is always a stressful day her as a director when fight/action scenes are filmed.  
(Actors Michael Pleasant and John Quinlan) 

(Actors Sara Osi Scott, Joe Hunter and Tamara Woods) 

Since Tamara was about six months pregnant at this time, Jillian had to be extra careful  how she choreographed the scene to ensure Tamara’s and the baby’s safety. However, Joe did take a hard elbow to the chin from Sara during rehearsal. He took it like a man.
(Actor Robert Murray and Tamara Woods rehearse fight scene as Jillian, in orange shirt, looks on) 

During filming of “A Sense of Purpose” there were a few fight scenes, which were choreographed by Jillian Bullock. Using her extensive background as a martial artist and boxer, Jillian has choreographed fight scenes in other movies as well.  

Crying Scenes

In movies you often see actors cry. However, some actors can’t pull it off and then you have what’s called in the movie business – dry eye crying. This means the actor has no tears coming out of his or her eyes.  It is not a good look on film. To be a pro at crying and how to put off all the emotional essence behind such a dramatic scene look no further than actor Viola Davis. If any actor truly wants to learn from the master on how to bring a heart stopping crying scene to film, she is the woman to study.

(Viola Davis) 

In “A Sense of Purpose: Fighting For Our Lives” there were a number of crying scenes. Being new to acting John had a difficult time bringing tears during a scene he shared with his wife, portrayed by Jillian. Directing John, Jillian explained to him what “method acting” is, which means to dig deep down inside yourself and think of a very painful memory in your past. Use that pain to bring forth tears. After several takes, John was able to conjure up the tears needed to make the scene believable. However, crying, especially when the actor has to do multiple takes is draining on him or her. With professional actors, they can turn on and off tears like a switch. But this takes years of practice or studying with an acting coach. It isn’t something most actors can do right off. In the end, the scene with John and Jillian came off wonderfully. 
(Actors Jillian Bullock and John Quinlan share a tender moment) 


Most people don’t realize how challenging and hard acting is. Actors transform themselves to portray characters, who in most cases, are nothing like them in real life. The true test of any actor is to make his or her character so believable that audiences become engrossed in the movie, play or TV show and forget it’s all just “acting.”   

#JillianBullock #ASOPmovie #JohnQuinlan #TamaraWoods #LamontFountain #JoeHunter #PTSD #FilmMaking #Veterans #Military #Films #Movies