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?

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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. 

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