Who are three contemporaries that you admire, and why?
Will Sharpe - Hiro Murai - Alma Har'el
All three of these artists are obviously committed to approaching their filmmaking with pure intentions — and it shows. In their work, I sense a clarity of instinct that I’ve come to believe all great artists have.
They each seem to have an internal drive or itch that allows them to continue to tell stories from a very guttural place, not allowing outside trends or influences to disrupt their flow or, for that matter, redirect their pathway.
I respect that a great deal.
Please share 3-4 pieces of work that exemplify great direction, and explain why.
Landscapers - This series completely grabbed me. The experimental storytelling choices worked so well within the context of the narrative and never felt forced or like they didn’t belong. I hadn’t really seen a directing style quite like Will's before, and I just fell in love with his creative vision. It inspired me and reminded me to always listen to my instincts.
[Filmmaking] simultaneously feeds me and makes me hungry.
Phantom Thread - Obviously, Paul Thomas Anderson is one of the greats (if not The Great). This film inspired me so deeply—the pacing, the color palette, the performances, everything…true mastery. PTA managed to tell this incredibly complex relationship through performances with few words and quiet nuances. I always return to this film as a gold standard.
I May Destroy You - The voice of this series is singular. It doesn’t follow anyone’s preconceived rules of storytelling but obviously comes from a true artist and her perspective. The rawness of these performances and the structure is a nod to the direction. Michaela Coel had a vision and didn’t allow all of the voices surrounding her to get the best of the vision. It’s steadfast and clear.
Above: Directors/creators Will Sharpe, Hiro Murai and Alma Har'el - three contemporaries Cave admires.
What do you like most about the work that you do?
I like that it simultaneously feeds me and makes me hungry. Two sensations that remind me I’m alive.
What was your journey to becoming a director?
My journey was long, but so are most directors’ journeys. Even if you knew it was what you wanted when you were eight years old, it’s a long and ongoing path to become the thing - and the journey just goes on and on as long as you want to keep putting in the work.
Unlike other mediums, you can’t simply practice directing in the same way a painter can practice a brushstroke.
My journey began with dance performance, then experimenting with visuals and live performance mixed. After college, I started producing; I worked in advertising and then post-production. I was always working, whether I was a PA or a Data Wrangler. I just kept bouncing around.
Eventually, I went into making music videos but didn’t even really have an agenda at first. I kept thinking, “I’m making short dance films,” but of course, at a certain point, I really fell in love with the team sport of filmmaking and finally got comfortable with the fact that I wanted to direct. Music videos, commercials, short films; I was eager to get as much experience behind the camera as possible.
Does switching between long-form, episodic and commercial work help you creatively? What have you learned from the differences and similarities?
It does - especially as I was starting out directing. Each format requires slightly different skill sets, so I’m learning more about my strengths and limitations each time. It also keeps you sharp.
Unlike other mediums, you can’t simply practice directing in the same way a painter can practice a brushstroke. So many things must fall into place to even get to set - lots of people, money & ideas - so I think it’s best to be open to all sorts of experiences. You’re also exercising your voice in different ways and being posed with questions constantly: What’s it like to have a client vs. no client? What pacing of work do you most enjoy/least enjoy? What scale of budget are you comfortable with? Where do you shine vs. shutdown? And so on…
Above: Landscapers, Phantom Thread and I May Destroy You; Cave's pick of films that exemplify great direction.
What is one thing all directors need?
Who was the greatest director of all time? Why?
Mike Nichols. His ability to think on his feet, create a special and comfortable atmosphere for actors, and his commitment to truth-seeking through writing and performance. I wish I could have met him.
Did you have a mentor? Who was it?
Several. I’m always seeking guidance. Barry Jenkins, Adam Mckay, Kevin Messick, and my long-time dance teacher Kathleen Hermesdorf who sadly passed away in 2020.
I’m always seeking guidance.
I look at these names as I type them and think, "How the hell did I get here?!"
What’s changing in the industry that all directors need to keep up with?
I think it’s about keeping up with yourself, practising self-reflection, and continually asking the question: “What excites me?”