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Film Directing: Make Your Audience Emotionally Engaged

How to  Make Your Film Audience Emotionally Engaged?

Many film school students make the mistake of thinking that film directing is simply telling a story. That is not true.When you get a script, you want the audience to be emotionally engaged in the film and to do that you need their watching experience to have different layers of fun.

I’m going to talk about something that not many film schools are talking about – Film directing is not just about telling “the facts”. In fact, the facts are just the cover to tell a deeper story with deeper meaning.

Don’t sell yourself

Before we start talking about how to make a film that will thrill your audience, it’s important for me to explain, that I’m not talking about selling  yourself to the audience. Don’t do something just because the audience seems to like it right now. If you don’t believe in your film, your audience will feel it. If you want to make a film that will truly be remembered, You must think about your way of telling the story.

Find a good story

Your first step is to find a good story. Notice that I didn’t write “a good script”. First of all pay attention to the story itself. Does the story work without the stylish dialogues and scenes?
It’s hard to define a good story, but generally speaking, it’s a story that will challenge the audience, but more important a story that interests you. You are about to do a lot of story analyzing, so you better like it. Also, make sure the story’s world has to be reliable and also the characters. It also needs to have the dramatic structure.

Have a good main character

The audience has to connect with your character. I’ve talked about how to do that in the Developing Characters post, but generally, you need to have a character that the audience will care about and that will be strong enough to lead us in throughout the story. The audience should really want her to survive and succeed.

Understand your story

The director needs to be able to make complicated interpretations of the script. To do that he needs first to completely understand the story. The process starts with understanding your story’s structure and the dramatic conflict that is developing throughout the film. Back To The Future is a film that you can see the director knew every little detail about the plot, the characters, and their town.

Your director’s vision

Director’s vision is the director main tool to translate the script into a movie. If you’ll find and completely understand your film director’s vision, you’ll make great films. Your director’s vision will guide you through all the important decisions on set.
Your director’s vision is an outcome of the message you are trying to portray in your film – the film’s premise. Only after understanding your vision, you can start directing actors and camera.

Working within a genre

The genres job is to organize some parts of our life and you can find genres not only in films. If your movie is connected to a genre, make sure the script is following the basic genre rules of its genre. Gener films are great to play with because the audience is ready to see a movie with strict rules. You can take these rules and play with them so you’ll have your own twist on them.
First, see the story within the genre rules and then start playing with them, see what rules can you break or stretch without upsetting your audience.
Playing with a genre rule is fun, but it must be connected somehow to the theme of your film. It has to deliver a message. Breaking the rules just to break the rules is worse than simply following them.

Use production design to make

Production design is a film element that many low budget films tend to forget about, but if you’ll handle it right, it can be one of the most important element of your film. After you developed your characters, you can understand the movie’s atmosphere and theme and you can start working on it.  The production design will create your film’s look and should reflect the characters emotions and the movie’s theme. You can also use a storyboard to make things clearer. If you’ll put your mind (and some cash) to it, it will take your film to the next level.  

Know your audience

What kind of emotion do you want your audience to feel towards the film? Is it love? Is it respect? Do you want to impress the audience with big budget production? There are many ways you can turn the film’s watching experience into something worth remembering, but you need to know who is your audience and what you are trying to get out of him.
Every film director needs to find his own way to touch the audience.
In Blood Simple, the Cohen Brothers are making the audience laugh while feeling revolted. Kubrick makes us feel uncomfortable as he built the violent scenes in A Clockwork Orange so we’ll be shocked on one side, but wouldn’t be able to keep our eyes off.
Every director has his own style and you should find yours. This is why it’s important to shoot shorts as much as you can. That way you can test different things and see what works and what doesn’t.

Make your audience participate

A cool trick to make the watching experience more fun for the audience is to make them
a part of the film. One way of doing that by letting your audience know something that the hero doesn’t know. In the movie Hot Fuzz, the main character suspect there is a murder in the town. Everybody laughs at him, but we know he is right because we’ve seen the killer. Horror movies use that trick a lot. We know something bad is going to happen and that’s what gets us excited -the waiting for it.

Filmmaking is all about emotions

Personally, I like films that make you think, but if that’s all they do and they don’t have any emotion attached to it, then the movie was a waste of time. Find the emotion you want the audience to feel in each scene. Every scene should have an emotion attached to it and that emotion should dictate all your directing decisions. For example, a close up is a much more emotional shot then medium shot.

Tips for Directing Actors

Directing Actors

Directing actors is not easy. Especialy if you have a few main characters in one scene. You need to choreograph every one of them and to pay attention to each one of them during the scene. That is why many directors don’t like or even afraid from directing actors and want to focus more on the shooting part. Now, you may like it or not, but actors are one of the most important parts of your film and directing actors is in my opinion about 50% of directing, so you better learn how to deal with them

If a director can’t make an actor to understand how he sees the character, his all film vision might be damaged. Actors are the ones that bring life into your characters and into the lines of the script. If the actor is good, every face and movement he’ll do will be full of meanings just like every shot angle you choose to shoot. To get the best of your actors, you have to create, as a director, the best atmosphere that works for both of you.

Find your actor’s special gift

the first thing you need to do when you work with an actor is to find what is the unique element, that the actor can give to your character. Every good actor gets to bring something else. Some actors can bring authenticity, some can bring  comedy elements.

Find out what is your actor’s talent and use it.

Directing actors with respect

The director and actor have a unique relationship. The director is the watcher and the actor is the one being watched. That is something that puts the actor in a very vulnerable position. The actor is taking a big risk by taking the front line of the show. Just for taking that big of a risk for your movie, they deserve your respect.

A good actor will bring something personal from himself. If the actor is good he will expose very personal parts from his self  and that also makes him vulnerable. When you direct them, don’t be too harsh and watch what you are saying. Try to create a positive atmosphere. Instead of saying “Let’s do it again and this time doesn’t talk so fast”, you can say “Let’s do it again and this time tries to talk slower”.

Also, try to pay attention to all of the actors in the scene. As directors we tend to forget the small part characters, but they need attention and direction too, so watch out for that.

Develop the character’s world together

Before you start to work with an actor of his character, you should know the character very well and its background. Introduce the actor to the world the character is living in. Think about the kind of movies or music the character likes. Have a paper with everything you know about your character and let the actor add his point of you, but make sure he stays in the world of the film.

What do actors need?

  • First of all, they need a director that know what he wants. There is nothing more frustrating for an actor then a director that is not sure. As we said, they are in a very vulnerable position and they need you to guide them. They need to know that you won’t quit on them until you’ll get what you need from them.
  • Also, help them get in the scene. It’s a good idea to remind them where their characters just came from. Prepare them as much as you can to the scene. Remind them everything they need to know about their character in the certain situation they are acting now.
  • When something doesn’t work for the actor try to find out what is it that creates the problem. it might be the scene itself, the dialogue or even the set.

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Be clear with your directions

Don’t say stuff like “Do it funnier” or “You need to be scarier” This is a very general directing. You have to tell them how to act what you want. A good trick is to use metaphors. Let’s say your actor need to play a guy asking a girl on a date, you can tell him to act as if he is in a job interview.

Working with the actor on a scene

As the director, you must know the text very well before working on it with the actor. You have to know your viewpoint, but also to listen to his viewpoint. Often that kind of thing can spark a new idea. The main thing you and your actor need to do is to find what is the character motivation to every action she takes. What is she trying to get?

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Directing actors are also praising them sincerely

Be very clear with your praises and try to use them in each direction you give. What I’m trying to say is that before you tell them how to fix their acting, tell them what they did right and then what you need them to do differently.

Be patient

With many actors, it might take some time to understand what you need and want from them. Be patient. You don’t need them to be more stressed than they already are.

Working with big time actors

Many directors get scared when they need to direct famous actors. The truth is that there’s nothing to be afraid of. The more experience the actor is, the more it will be easy for you to direct them. What you need to do is to let them do their thing and show them that it is important for you to make their performance look good.

It’s OK to improvise

Personally, I enjoy the rehearsal stage the most. I like to let the actors improvise and see what they can give me each time we are working on a scene. If you let your actors improvise, you’ll be surprised at how many actors can give you good ideas you haven’t thought about. Sometimes improvising can also help the actor to really understand their character.

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These are some general tips for working with actors, I plan to post more articles about directing actors that will go deeper, so let me know if there is something that interest you the most.

The only exercise I can recommend you to do is to ask someone to direct you. Try to be an actor is someone film and see what it’s like. Try to see where he makes you feel bad and when he gives you good directing. I also recommend starting to read a little about acting. You can read books about acting or articles on the subject and interviews too.