Directing: What I’ve Learned So Far, Part 1

May 19, 2009 at 3:15 pm 1 comment

On Actors:

If an actor has trouble committing to an audition, they’ll probably have trouble committing to the actual shoots.  If you can’t get them to go to an audition, drop ’em (I don’t mean knock them down, just take them out of consideration for the role).  It doesn’t matter how talented they are, professionalism is the key.  When you actually begin principle photography, and the actor you begged to go to the audition, doesn’t show up on time (or ever), you’ll be kicking yourself in the butt.  Better to go with a ‘less talented’ actor that will commit; maybe you have a chance to showing off your true directing skill by actually working with the actor to get the performance you want.

Movie-making is like a relationship: it’s all about sacrifice and meeting others half way.  If you have an idea for a character, and the actor portraying that character has a totally different idea, it’s time to collaborate.  Effective collaboration means listening.  Take time to understand what the actor wants, then in detail describe what you want.  Be willing to try the scene how the actor wants to try it, and make sure you get a take the way you want it.  However, a portrayal of a character must be consistent throughout the movie, so there’s a good chance the actor might disagree with how the character should be played for the entire piece.  One of you needs to concede.  As director, it’s your vision that is the primary creative force in the project, so, unfortunately for the actor, your idea of the character must take priority.  But, don’t be a dick about it; the actor must still understand where you are coming from, regardless of whether they agree or not, so make sure your are ‘directing’ your actor appropriately.

Have the answers.  Essentially, this means knowing your script inside and out.  Everyone is going to have questions, especially actors.  You’d better have an answer.  If an actor has a question about, say, his or her motivation during a scene, you need to know why that scene is there, why the actors are saying what they’re saying, and, most importantly, what the characters want.  This can be achieved by studying your script and taking copious amount of notes.

Make sure you take time to hold auditions, and unless your friends are talented actors, try not to cast people you are close to just because you need someone to play a part.  During the audition, test the actor to see if they take direction well.  If they are reading a side, or have a monologue prepared, ask them questions.  Quiz them on the character and the decisions they’ve made.  Then, ask them to try it another way, to make a different choice.  See if their performance has changed, and ask them if they liked the new way better.  Anyone can memorize lines, good actors can play a role well and the talented actors are the ones that can adapt and take direction.

Coming up: Part 2 – On Crew

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Entry filed under: movies, Personal, television. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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