Directing Actors - Is it them, or me?

Tylerb

New member
Hey guys.

Now I'm really actually considering to stop doing this short (15 min) film - For one reason.

The acting.

I'm starting to get extremely stressed over the whole affair and every time I meet up with my actors for a rehearsal I come home tired (obviously) and extremely depressed about my movie.

Here are some of my concerns:
- There were no auditions. I had no idea what my actors sounded like and how they acted.
- The film is an action and it is set inside a street with a Capture the Flag game. The main character (male) sounds gay. He's not gay, but because people stereotyped that I really don't think he fits.
- I'm not getting the feel that I want. When I ask them to act a bit more panicky, they stay the same. If they need to jump up then jump back down to dodge a bullet, they sort of half-ass it and crouch like they were about to take a s**t. Even after I ask them it's still the same.
- Because film is much much different from stage (the background training of the actors) I'm not to sure how to be training them.
- My actors can not even stay serious for 10 seconds without making a sex joke or something like that. They deface my script turning a line that says "Come here" and make it sexual while acting it. Then they loose attention.

The fact that we have had to close off a street and we are filming exactly a month away from now doesn't help, either.

So please, help me. I'm really confused what to do. I don't want all this time and effort to go to waste. Should I get a new (4 actors) cast? Re-plan the street closure to later? Please help.

Thanks,
Tyler

A very stressed and confused director.
 

Kim Welch

Senior Member
Staff member
Acting

Acting

Acting is one of the most important and one of the biggest problems in student films. Many times the actors are the friends of the filmmakers. It is better if you get someone from the theater department or an actor willing to work for credit than use friends and family for your actors. Other than that i am not sure what advice to give you tonight. Maybe in the morning :)
 

Tylerb

New member
Acting is one of the most important and one of the biggest problems in student films. Many times the actors are the friends of the filmmakers. It is better if you get someone from the theater department or an actor willing to work for credit than use friends and family for your actors. Other than that i am not sure what advice to give you tonight. Maybe in the morning :)
Thanks man, but the people I am working with I have never known before in my life. They are great stage actors, but seem better for extreme emotion (happy/sad, and happy fun time singing (lol)) But I'm really stuck.
 

amyclarkeuk

New member
Just try and make it work. Problems come all the time with filmmaking but always the show must go on (unless you really do believe that the end result will be worthless,). Always do auditions when casting and when you do audition them film them as well that way you can see if there face works on camera.

Best of luck, its happened to me plenty times before,

Amy
www.amyclarkefilms.com
 

Tylerb

New member
Thanks Amy.

Well the project has gone to shit. It's a long story but my producer (or his girlfriend) ended up firing my cast behind my back because apparently it's his job to fire them.

But on an indie level, is it? I really did want to talk to my actors about it, but he went behind my back and fired them without warning.

Anyway, I still want to do it some time later, but not with him, XD
 

amyclarkeuk

New member
Hi Tyler,

Sounds like you Haven't got the best of crews. I think that the most important part (and also the hardest part) of film making is to find people who you can work with. Your producer had no right to fire the actors without talking to you first. Although perhaps it was for the best.

I remember I made a short film several years ago and the editor (the first editor I've ever worked with) refused to cut a scene together because there was some issues with the continuity. As a result we had to spend another day re-filming the entire scene - which was not necessary since it was a 'just for fun short'. The day later when I went to get it edited again and all of the other footage from the previous days had mysteriously disappeared. As it turned out another film maker in the editing suits had seen my footage - was jealous that it looked prettier than his and recorded over all of my tapes! I never finished that film. True story. I now know to back up everything I shoot.

Its OK to mess up projects when your a student. I've done it many times before and as a result you'll learn a lot from it and be able to run film sets in the future better than anyone because you know how bad things can get and you've learnt how to avoid those problems.

I'd get another producer next time (maybe you don't need one just yet) and definitely audition all actors before filming.

Amy
www.amyclarkefilms.com
 
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Tylerb

New member
Thanks guys for all your support. I live in a small town surrounded by smaller towns and its quite hard not just being able to go to a drama school or ring up and hiring equipment from down the road so thanks :D


@KimWelch

Haha. I have learnt to follow my gut feeling.

If you (or anyone) is a TL;DR person, then feel free to skip, but you might find it interesting. lol.

When I wrote the script, It was for 4 actors - 4 males. I had in my head the exception of 1 of them being female and I was OK with that.

The first actor we found (not auditioned or anything) was female, then she suggested that her friend comes and acts beside her (the main male character)

Now that I look back on that (and fully knowing that actors should be 'best friends') it may have been better to have actors that weren't (close) friends because that could sort of create a barrier between me and them AND also have the power to over throw my decisions.

ANYWAY

This is where it gets interesting.

Jordan (producer) has a girlfriend. She wanted to act. I said no (for extremely obvious reasons - my mind was set on 1 female, 3 male - and the script was WRITTEN for males. After I said "no" to her nagging, she started bitching to me...

Basically, her saying I was a shit director because I was stubborn and not open to suggestion. There is the first *DEAR GOD* moment.

So, I dunno why, but I let her act as another part. I didn't mind the whole affair (apart from the actual actor) and I was adjusting to the idea of it, apart from the fact that the movie required certain roles to be filled and that a female couldn't quite fit them.

ONWARDS.

I decide to re-write the script because the original script was full of things that weren't on the location we had (a street) and were originally designed for a forest. I decide to re-write and get all the problems ironed out. This was 2 months before the shoot, and Jordan said it was a bad idea. I had the script fully re-done in 2 weeks (with school and exams etc)

Now, this is where Jordans girlfriend gets right into it. She wants to quit her actor part and organise for the film instead. I say no, because we don't have anyone else to act. Then she sways Jordan (I know he wouldn't do this on purpose to his BEST FRIEND) to fire my cast before talking to me.

After conversation with them:

Tyler. You couldn't tell them. I know for a fact that you wouldn't. And if you had, you wouldn't have told them the entire truth.

Yes, I would have.

GIRLFRIEND:
Bull.
You would have made out like you were not as rude as you were. You would have tried to protect yourself and your reputation.

ME:
So why are you so hell bent on ruining my life?

GF:
I'm not ruinig your life. Im just getting crap done and out of the way.

ME:
No your not. You hate me.
You wanted me to fail.

GF:
Professionally, yes.

ME:
So you were interfering.

GF:
I didnt want you to fail!
I wanted it to work. It was when you made it fail, that I snapped.

ME:
So thanks Jordan for getting her involved.
As I thought, she made the project go to shit.

JORDAN:
I got her involved in the admin side
due to it faling
'i dint want it to fail
I told you that at the very start
Quote
If this Project fails i will pull out quiet qucik or get someone to help with it cause i hate seeing projects fail
end qoute

And that's basically it. So yea, trust your gut feeling.

*************
@amyclarkeuk

Jordan was one of those people who felt like he knew everything, but only because he worked with people who knew everything.

He didn't really have an interest in film, and instead of getting barriers for the set, he would go onto a website and print out business cards.

Now I'm working with one of my even closer friends who has gotten right into film. Investing in a DSLR, all the cool stuff. We haven't talked about the chance of our friendship being broken but because we want to co-direct each film I think that if one of us does pull out, then the other can support themselves. And I know for a fact that my friend knows no more than me about the industry, if not less, so there is nobody here that will take overall control (I hope it won't be me :O)

And loosing all that hard work would have been heart-breaking. I bet tears were shed :'(

*********

One last question, I was given a screenplay to produce by some random person. I had an argument to Jordan and his girlfriend about how we would go about this.

She brought up the fact that the writer (client) has to direct it. I thought differently. I believed that unless directly specified, a person sold their screenplay to a producer. The producer would then hire people (including a director) to make it. On occasions, the director would write the screenplay himself. The moves that are like that (Avatar, Inception) are always the best ones in my opinion.

So, what are your thoughts?

And once again guys, thanks so so much for your support. It's nice having someone who actually knows and can relate to my problems :D

-Tyler
 

amyclarkeuk

New member
Hi Tyler,

Your right about the script. If someone has handed the screenplay over directly for you to produce then surely they want you to direct it? Some writers want to direct too but I think most people start out with the writing directing dream then choose one or the other. I'd contact the writer and be sure about where he wants the project to go.

I still want to write and direct my films, however I have realised that my stories are better if I send my scripts to other people for feedback then draft, then get feedback, then draft.... to the extent that the script I'm writing now is just the core of my original idea surrounded by the input of others. I'm unsure if I can even put myself down as the writer any more.)

I hope that your new business partner will work out better than the last one. I work with my boyfriend a lot on film sets - a lot of people have said it wont work, but it does because were close and can be more honest with each other and try our best not to argue in front of people,)

Best of luck,
Amy
www.amyclarkefilms.com
 

Victor Ramirez

Moderator
Most Likely You

Most Likely You

Most likely you. Great actors are serious about their work.

You stated that they are "great" actors but then tell a story about them being unprofessional. This can be due to a director losing control on the set.

Recommended reading: Judith Weston - Acting for Directors

Also, if you're in Los Angeles or check out her travel schedule, her workshops are phenomenal.
 
Directing can seem very abstract compared to many other departments. I read an article called, The 7-Step Film Directing Formula
by PETER D. MARSHALL that really helped shine a light on something that could help bring the necessary performance out of an actor. The first 3 steps speak volumes,THE STUDY OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR, STORY, and PERFORMANCE. The link is below:

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2SEvI3/filmdirectingtips.com/archives/5361/

I also found it helpful when dealing with stage actors to relate to them that they don't have to "go all out" because with film there is no one sitting on 300ft away that can't see them. Also, describing that when working in front of the camera it has the power to pick up and magnify the smallest of movements, and that the power they have as an actor is in the eyes, made a huge difference in performance.

They usually relate good with numbers as well. For instance, if I had someone that was really intense, I would say something like, "Your intensity level was awesome! It was a 10! Let's try a take or two with your intensity at about a 7, and see how that works." That get's the the point across to come down a notch without shattering their self-esteem. I hope this helps. :)
 

Tylerb

New member
Directing can seem very abstract compared to many other departments. I read an article called, The 7-Step Film Directing Formula
by PETER D. MARSHALL that really helped shine a light on something that could help bring the necessary performance out of an actor. The first 3 steps speak volumes,THE STUDY OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR, STORY, and PERFORMANCE. The link is below:

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2SEvI3/filmdirectingtips.com/archives/5361/

I also found it helpful when dealing with stage actors to relate to them that they don't have to "go all out" because with film there is no one sitting on 300ft away that can't see them. Also, describing that when working in front of the camera it has the power to pick up and magnify the smallest of movements, and that the power they have as an actor is in the eyes, made a huge difference in performance.

They usually relate good with numbers as well. For instance, if I had someone that was really intense, I would say something like, "Your intensity level was awesome! It was a 10! Let's try a take or two with your intensity at about a 7, and see how that works." That get's the the point across to come down a notch without shattering their self-esteem. I hope this helps. :)
Thanks man!
 

Victor Ramirez

Moderator
They usually relate good with numbers as well. For instance, if I had someone that was really intense, I would say something like, "Your intensity level was awesome! It was a 10! Let's try a take or two with your intensity at about a 7, and see how that works." That get's the the point across to come down a notch without shattering their self-esteem. I hope this helps.
Please never do this with real actors. For example, if you say, "that was a 5, let's do a 10!" The actor may believe they were doing a 10. Now where do you go from there? You will lose the actor from that point.

There are no directing formulas.
 

Lisa Talley

New member
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.
 
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?

.
 
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