Directing Actors - Is it them, or me?

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  • #16
    The numbers system sounds like a recipe for potential ego shattering. Descriptions to be "more angry, sad.." or some other such adjective is incredibly subjective. The depth of emotion a director may be attempting to pull from an actor may get lost in translation. If time permits and an actor is willing, I've found that delving in to their own personal experiences may be helpful. I recently worked on a project where a character was written with a volatile nature that came on suddenly and unexpectedly. The actor who took on the role was having trouble swinging in to that volatile mode at full throttle. So, I asked him if he had ever known anyone who was bipolar. Lucky for me (unfortunate for him) he had. I asked him to describe that person to me, and recall one of the more intense encounters with this person in as great detail as possible. We talked about possible triggers and why those triggers affected the bipolar person so drastically, and of course, how he felt during these experiences. It helped.

    Actors want to find the motivation of their characters, and understand what their history or back story is. As we know, characters are not just comprised of a list emotions and actions expressed at certain intervals, they are very much alive, living and breathing in your film's story. If a director sees them as such, it may help in connecting with actors as to what he/she needs them to do to get the right portrayal. Anyhow, it could be an interesting avenue to try.
    Lisa Talley
    Video Production


    • #17
      Let's get some of the basics right. No student project should have a producer. Production manager yes. His job is to make sure everything you need is on set when you need it -- cast, crew, equipment, raw stock, wardrobe, props, catering, transportation. The PM is an experienced "filmmaker" who can do a detailed script breakdown. He doesn't have to be a creative genius. He has to be thorough and dependable. His job is to provide everything you need on time and on budget, even if your budget is next to nothing.

      Next item: the DP or camera operator. If you're going to direct actors, forget about operating a camera. Directing is a full time job. We all start as cameramen, so it's natural to feel like that's what filmmakers do. But you can't direct while you're futzing with sticks and lighting and framing. If you want to direct, get a cameraman. Walk through the locations with a script in your hand. Work out the coverage. It's his job to deal with lighting, grip, moving shots, follow focus and whatnot. Be sure it's someone who understands that you might want to change your mind about set-ups and framing when you're shooting. The camera operator has to do a good job of handling raw stock and writing legible camera reports. Pick someone who has ample experience and knows how to match light and color from one shot to the next.

      Next item: sound recordist / boom operator. Again you need someone with experience of listening through a headset and matching sound from take to take, also knows how to record "room tone" (atmos). Minimum video crew is three people: camera, sound, gaffer. The director doesn't do any of those jobs. You're going to direct the cast and crew.

      There are no good actors. Period. Lawrence Olivier, one of the best who ever lived on Earth was awful. He giggled. He forgot his lines. He hid in his trailer. Marlon Brando was such an asshole that he wouldn't feed lines to another actor when he (Brando) was off camera. Barbara Stanwick threw up before she had to do a scene. Half of all the actors I worked with had to be picked up by a driver and sobered up an hour or two before they could function. Amateurs are worse. That's why directors exist. You can do it, but you have to use your eyes and ears and intuition, without looking through a lens, and without futzing with set-ups or lighting or anything else.

      Some actors will never get the scene right, because they're nervous or lack training or experience. Some have no acting facility ("naf"). That doesn't change anything. It's your job as director to get the movie made. Whisper to the actor privately. Give two actors in a scene completely different instructions whispered privately. Relate to them as a professional. Don't rehearse anything. A walk-through for camera is fine. But no performance until you say "roll 'em" and "action!"

      The tone of your voice when you say action is extremely important. Start out casual. Do some easy shots. When it's time to do the hard stuff and the performance really matters, take your time. Say "roll 'em" (or roll to record). Wait. Raw stock is cheap. When the moment feels ripe, put an edge in your voice when you say action.

      Everything else is too difficult to explain here. But I'll give you a hint. Don't tell actors what to do. Ask them questions. Engage them as creative partners. How do they see their character? This particular scene? That particular line?

      Last edited by Alan von Altendorf; 08-02-2012, 02:04 AM.
      Generally supportive of young filmmakers and writers. Blogger