INTERVIEW: Director Diana Valentine Talks Visual FX, The 100, NCIS, And More

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Science fiction series The 100 starring an ensemble cast featuring Eliza Taylor (Christmas Inheritance) and Bob Morley (Neighbours) is entering its seventh and final season, and veteran director Diana Valentine is adding her talents to popular series.

In The 100, humanity is living on a space station after Earth became unlivable. Since resources are scarce, criminals are often thrown out the airlock. Another rule requires that couples only have one child. Extra children are locked away … for now. At the start of season one, 100 juveniles are sent back to Earth to learn if the surface is habitable. Six years later, The 100 has presented some incredible sci-fi moments in an evolving storyline that’s created rich and wonderful lore.

PopAxiom got a chance to pick Diana’s brain about her career in the film and television industry.

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As a kid, Diana, “loved watching movies.” The same could be said about a lot of us, but she took her love to another level. “I would perform parts of them for my family to get laughs.”

Diana’s attraction to the silver screen went with her to school. “I signed up for school plays and loved to sing and perform.”

Naturally, Diana thought acting was her calling. But she learned early on, “It wasn’t.” She explains why “I couldn’t deal with how arbitrary the casting process was.” Then Diana “moved into the stunt world because I had always been athletic.”

Supervising Scripts

The amount of people involved in an average Hollywood production is staggering. One of the Waldo’s in the sea of craftsmen, make-up artists, writers, and actors is a script supervisor. Diana did the job on dozens of projects and says, “Attention to detail and organization,” are key parts of the skillset required for the job.”

She elaborates, “Knowing what is important and what is not when dealing with continuity. Story beats and why they’re important to the episode.”

Now as a director, how did her script supervising experience help? “All of these things helped me as a director for different reasons. When you’re running out of time, you have to know what’s most important to make your episode work.”

What are some vital parts to making an episode work? “Getting the beats, knowing what shots to lose, and concentrating on getting the shots you need to tell the story.”

Most importantly, Diana says, “… being organized in the beginning, so you’re able to make those decisions in crunch time.”

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Visual FX

Diana’s worked on NCIS and The 100, and both shows share a few FX similarities. “With both The 100 and NCIS, the FX shots would typically be things like bullet hits or things exploding. Smoke, fire, and wind are also used in many episodes of both shows.”

However, The 100 is a science fiction show that adds visual FX into the mix. “… shows like The 100 use many more VFX shots than shows like NCIS because it is a futuristic show and deals with things that aren’t in our everyday world, like a huge space ship or wormholes. So these things have to be created.”

What’s the biggest challenge of working with VFX? “Not being able to see how something is going to look while you’re shooting is definitely a big challenge. Because of this, you’re hoping the shot that you designed to work with these VFX shots will actually work.”

But as I mentioned, there are a lot of people involved in a production. “Luckily, you have a post VFX supervisor with you when you’re shooting to help with that.”

A little practicality makes things more manageable too. “It’s easier when you have something that’s partly practical and is being enhanced with VFX. It’s also challenging for your actors to act when something is not actually there. I give them huge props for being able to do that so well!”

Preparation and crunch-time decisions make all the difference. “Because VFX shots take additional setups to get all the pieces needed to create the effect, you have to take into account the additional time needed for your prep and decide what’s important in those crunch times.”

Directing Different Shows

Diana’s worked on a lot of TV shows. As different as projects can be, it all starts with reading a script. While reading a script, Diana tries to, “… read it once just for the story, but sometimes as I’m reading, a shot will jump into my head, and I do jot those down.”

Diana shares some of the processes of joining a show for the first time as a director. “… I watch the entire previous season and any episodes available up to my episode.”

As you might’ve guessed, Diana is all about preparation. She goes through this process for two reasons. The first is to “Familiarize myself with how a particular show is shot. Many shows have a look that carries through no matter who directs, and it’s important to know what that look is.

The second reason, “So I know what the relationship between the characters is at this moment in the series because, on long-running shows, those relationships change over the course of the series.”

Diana explains what often happens, “Production on every show will give you scripts or finished episodes to watch that impact or lead up to your episode, so you know if there are things that should influence where you take your episode.”

Do directors get a look at a show’s Bible?” “I’m sure they have them, but usually, if I have a question, I ask the writer or script supervisor. If they didn’t know, then I would kick it up to the creator or showrunner.”

Wrapping Up

Who inspires Diana? “Coming from script supervising, one of my earliest heroes was Mimi Leder because she came from my world and has directed some of my favorite series. Because of her, I pushed forward, even when I kept running into walls.”

Diana continues, “Directors who tell great stories are the ones who inspire me the most – I love a great shot, but if you can move me with the way you tell a story, that’s the most important thing.”

So, who moves Diana? “Nancy Meyers and Ron Howard.”

Diana adds, “There are a lot of great directors being given a chance to shine now, and I’m loving what they are doing!”

If Diana could be part of a remake, what would it be? “I think it would be a lot of fun to do a remake of The A-Team! But with women and men on the team. The team was made up of some great characters, which made for some great comedy and crazy action!”

Diana’s rejoining NCIS, this time in New Orleans. But what’s coming next from the director? “I’m in post-production on a limited series I directed for a new streaming platform that will launch this year. It’s been great because I’ve been involved in more of the post-production creative aspect of it, such as scoring, post-production sound, and VFX. You don’t get to do that when directing episodic.”

Are you a fan of The 100? Is the final season on your watch list?

Thanks to Diana Valentine and Impact24 PR for making this interview possible.

Want to read more interviews like this? CLICK HERE.

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Ruben Diaz
Writer, film-fanatic, geek, gamer, info junkie & consummate Devil's advocate who has been fascinated by Earth since 1976. Classically trained in the ways of the future.

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