One thing you learn from a career of talking to TV and film directors: They have to focus on both the big picture and the tiniest details at all times. Viewers will probably miss some of the small things directors obsess over, but anyone making a series or movie doesn’t have that luxury. If they miss a small detail, it could become a big problem. At the same time, paying attention to all the small details can be unsatisfying when viewers find those details obvious or unimportant — which they often do.
“When you’re in the moment, you make these little decisions that you think, ‘Oh, I’m so clever!” says Bertie, one of the British team who directed episodes 3, 4, and 5 of Hawkeye. “You’re like, ‘Oh gosh, people are just going to love this, and people are going to love that.’ And then you watch it back, and you go, ‘None of those little things really matter.’ It’s the bigger-picture stuff that you want people to take away with you.”
Bert & Bertie, who co-directed the feature films Troop Zero and Dance Camp, do have some small details they want people to catch about Hawkeye. Bertie gets particularly excited about a moment at the end of episode 5, “Ronin,” where Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) hands an arrow to his on-and-off-again neophyte partner, Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld). “It wasn’t scripted,” she says. “We were losing light, shooting on the day, and he handed her the arrow, and I was just like, ‘Oh, it’s from the comic! That one frame from the Matt Fraction comics!’ So that was a lovely little moment I’d like people to notice.”
For Bert, a mug in Kate’s aunt’s home is a particular standout. “It’s definitely my guilty pleasure, the ‘Thanos was right’ mug,” she says. “Just because on so many levels, that is so incredibly dark. It appeals to my dark sense of humor.”
And Bertie hopes viewers will catch a moment about 30 minutes into episode 3, “Echoes,” where Kate and Clint kill time at a diner while his hearing aid is being replaced. “In the diner scene, I want people to notice that I was the one extra in that room,” she says. “We couldn’t have anyone else in because of COVID restrictions — there was a limit to how many people we could have in that diner. So in order to direct them in that particular scene, I had to have an iPad with with the earphones on, and be at the table behind behind Kate. Check out the cameo there!”
She also points out the high percentage of the lead actors doing their own stunt and combat work, and how it let her and her partner compose long Steadicam shots where the leads’ faces are clearly visible as they’re fighting. “Jeremy is very good,” Bertie says. “He’s like, ‘Just let me do this. Step aside, Joe.’ Joe is his stunt guy. So Jeremy gets in there quite often. He’s very adept, and he’s been going through very intense training for years, both archery training and hand-to-hand. Hailee’s dad is a stunt guy, so she also does quite a lot.”
That particularly came into play during a rooftop fight in episode 4, “Partners, Am I Right?,” where Hawkeye and Kate face off against antagonists Maya (Alaqua Cox) and Yelena (Florence Pugh). “Heidi [Moneymaker], our incredible stunt coordinator, kept talking about how lucky we all were to be able to hold our camera moments with the real actors,” Bertie says. “We could keep the camera moving and fluid around these characters, because we were doing so much of it with the actors. Not to take it away from our incredible stunt team. We were playing with darkness a lot in that scene.”
In general, though, what Bert & Bertie want Hawkeye viewers to notice is how much of the action is driven by emotional beats, rather than by mandates to wedge a car chase or a fight scene into every episode. “I’d love for people to come away with the human story behind Hawkeye,” Bert says. “I think that’s what sets Hawkeye apart, is that it’s a human story. It’s about someone getting back to his family for Christmas. And we’ve all been through two years of a lot of people not being able to go home for Christmas. It’s a very human problem at its core, and I think we all need that right now.”
“One of the things that’s so important with action sequences is that the moment you stop telling a story during an action sequence, whether that’s a car chase or a fight, there’s no reason for it,” Bertie says. “We’re not into doing an action sequence unless it’s progressing the story. So when you think about our three episodes, each one had a pretty intense action sequence. The car chase is Clint going from having no faith in Kate as an archer or an active partner to, during that sequence, becoming enamored of her skills. The rooftop fight has incredible emotion when Kate goes over that ledge. That scene was really building to where Hawkeye realizes he has to protect Kate because he let Natasha down.
“And then in episode 5, you see Clint reckoning with himself as Ronin, and dealing with his dark past. And you see Maya coming to terms with the fact that the revenge she’s been pursuing for years — perhaps she hasn’t got the whole picture. So action sequences should always be telling a story. If they stopped doing that, then we’re kind of switched off.”
At the same time, Hawkeye periodically focuses on long, intimately shot conversations that aren’t as colorful and challenging to direct as a car chase shot with a 360-degree spinning camera inside a car. Bert says they don’t have a preference between shooting action and shooting these character moments.
“They’re both incredible to direct,” she says. “They have such different tools that you use to put them together. As much as it’s incredible blowing up a truck speeding down the road. It’s just as incredible to spend a day in Kate’s apartment, with her and Yelena eating mac and cheese. It’s great to be able to do both. They both have those moments that you seek as a director, just moments of human truth.”
Bertie agrees — either way, they’re building a story, and as long as the viewers get the emotional content, the Easter eggs or small touches don’t matter as much. “For us, it’s just about when people are watching this dynamic between these two characters, and taking in the intersection of all these other characters coming into their lives,” she says. “That’s really what’s important in the story. So the little things you think are so important when you’re shooting actually aren’t in the end.”