Birth of a Nation director Nate Parker got directing advice from Mel Gibson
When it comes to acting in, producing, writing and directing your own movie I can imagine that there’s a bit of stress involved. This is especially true for men like Nate Parker, who sat behind the director’s chair for the first time on his movie THE BIRTH OF A NATION, which he also stars in. So, naturally, he sought out a lot of advice.
During an interview with Variety, Parker talked about how challenging the new experience was and how he went to seasoned directors to get their advice on his flick. He was able to sit down with Edward Zwick, who used his own movie GLORY to give Parker advice:
I reached out to Edward Zwick. We went through, frame by frame, DEFIANCE and GLORY— the battle scenes. He was like, “This is what I did, and what I would have done differently.” It was an education few people get.
But Zwick was not the only person Parker was able to get an education from. He also reached out to another Oscar winner with plenty of experience with period pieces:
I also reached out to Mel Gibson. Maybe three months later, I get a phone call — “Nate, it’s Mel.” “Mel who?” I took maybe 30 pages of notes. His best advice was don’t work on Sunday. He said: “You need a day off you’re going to direct yourself. I did this for seven months on BRAVEHEART. You need time for recovery and reflection — just sitting, drinking tea.” That’s exactly what I did. On Sunday, I would go into a dark room and drink tea.
In the interview Parker also mentioned how he didn’t originally want to direct the movie, instead wanting two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington (who directed this year’s FENCES) to helm the movie.
I wanted Denzel [Washington]. It would have been his project period. But I had a big list of demands. You don’t give a director demands!
In the end, Parker directed the movie himself, embracing the teachings of the battle-worn directors. Now, the movie is leading the Oscar-buzz pack heading into awards season. So, clearly, he took the great advice to heart. From both Zwick and Gibson, Parker seems to have gotten a fantastic crash course in directing. Zwick advised him more on technical matters, whereas Gibson taught him how to stay relaxed behind the scenes. This is the kind of advice most directors dream they had when they started. However, Gibson is not the first person I think would be giving advice on how to stay calm. But I guess it works for him. Did you see that HACKSAW RIDGE trailer?