Directing Actors Tips

Directing an actor

Directing actors is not easy. You need to choreograph every one of them and pay attention to each of them during the scene, and while you’re doing that, you need to remember that their job is making them very vulnerable. That is why many directors don’t like or are afraid of directing actors and want to focus more on the shooting. I hope you don’t feel like it. If you want your acting to be good, as a director, you need to treat your actors with respect, and this is what I’m going to talk with you about today. Now, you may like it or not, but actors are one of the most critical elements 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 understand how he sees the character, his all film vision might be damaged. Actors are the ones that bring life into your characters and to 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 your actors bests, 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 start work with an actor (even at the first rehearsal) is to find what is the unique ingredient that the actor can give to your character. Every good actor gets to bring something else. Some actors can bring authenticity, and some can bring comedy portions. There are many Rehearsal Techniques and your job is to find the right one for your cast.

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 huge risk by taking the front line of the show. Just for making that big of a chance 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 private parts from himself, and that also makes him vulnerable. 

When you direct them, don’t be too harsh and listen to what you are saying. Try to create a positive atmosphere. For example, 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 trie 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 care and direction too, so watch out for that. 

I also recommend you to take an acting class. This will help you to understand how actors feel while acting. 

Develop the character’s world together

Before you start working with an actor of his character, you should know the character’s nature 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 the role and let the actor add his point of you, but make sure he stays in the film’s world.

What do actors need?

  • First of all, they need a director that knows 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 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.
  • 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 it is that creates the problem. It might be the scene itself, the dialogue, or even the set. 


directing two actors

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 the actors how to act what you want. A good trick is to use metaphors. Let’s say your actor needs to play a guy asking a girl on a date; you can tell him to act as if he is in a job interview. You need to set clear goals and direct the exact actions that can lead to these goals.

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 perspective. Often that kind of thing can spark a new idea. The main thing you and your actor need to do is find the character motivation for every action she takes. What is she trying to get?

Directing actors is also praising them sincerely 

Be very clear with your praises and try to use them in each direction you give. I’m trying to say that before you tell them how to fix their acting, tell them what they did right and 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 essential to make their performance look good. 

It’s OK to improvise

I enjoy the rehearsal stage the most. I like to let the actors improvise and see what they can give me each time we work on a scene. If you make 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.

These are some general tips for working with actors, I plan to post more articles about directing actors that will go more in-depth, 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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