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Michael Wisniewski March 10th, 2005 06:54 PM

Directing techniques / working with actors
What techniques do you use for working with actors?
How do you adjust for actors who come from different acting styles?

Actors please feel free to chime with what you like and don't like when working with a director.

Richard Alvarez March 10th, 2005 07:13 PM

What techniques do you use for working with actors?

Cattle prods are no longer allowed, so I find honest communication, open dialogure and respect to be the next best thing.

How do you adjust for actors who come from different acting styles?

It's more of how the actors adjust to each other, remember, they are reacting as well as acting. Best place to take care of this is in casting. Second best place is in rehearsals, third best place is on the set, and of course, your final refuge is the cutting room.

If the Director doesn't know how to articulate what he wants, the actor is shooting in the dark.

What techniques do you use for articulating your vision?

Wayne Orr March 10th, 2005 09:32 PM

Richard makes some very good points, but when he says "articulate what he wants," he gets dangerously close to what is known as "result directing." This is where the director approaches the actor and says, "You are really angry. This guy really pisses you off." Or, "You are in love. I want to see "love" all over your face." Actors are looking for things to "do," that will lead them to their "objective." Do I believe the young man who directed "Sky Captains" got into all this? Not for a moment. They cast talented people, and hoped for the best. And that's the way it plays out.

Directing actors is just like any other talent; it takes education, skill, and practice, practice, practice.

Look for a book, "Directing Actors," by Judith Weston.

Wayne Orr, SOC

Richard Alvarez March 11th, 2005 08:56 AM

Indeed, Result Directing and giving Line Readings, are both no - no's. Unless you are directing small children. And some directors tend to think of actors as small children.

The best thing to do is cast the best actors you can get, and allow them a bit of freedom to bring something to the part. Good actors wil usually manage to surprise the director with subtle variations on a scene. A good actor, will do the homework for his character, and bring the back story into the part.

Sometimes, because of time constraints, they don't know the back story, for logistical reasons, maybe they don't even have the whole script available to them. Here, the director must tread a fine line between giving line readings... "Say it like this" and being incredibly vague... "I don't know, can't you just give it more..... ooomph?"

The Director must understand what he wants of the CHARACTER in the moment of the scene. If the actor is not giving the director what he wants/needs... the director must be able to articulate that to the actor in a clear, efficient and respectful manner. In short, the Director must DIRECT not DICTATE. There is a decided difference between a director and a dictator... in every sense of the word.

I've worked on both sides of the lens/stage , and I know that virtually every actor I know has to do a bit of directing. I think every director should spend a bit of time doing SOME acting.

There's a big difference between saying "Say it faster." and "I need a sense of urgencey here." - The latter being the better way to direct. It allows the actor to bring the motivation to the line.

Of course, you might be one of those directors who truly believes "All actors are just cattle." And, if that is your philosophy, then trust me, it will be self fulfilling.

Luis Caffesse March 11th, 2005 09:14 AM

This has been said in various ways in this thread, but I'll throw in my 2 cents anyhow....

I've found from my experience that the most important thing about directing is communication.

Actors cannot give you what you want/need from them if you cannont clearly communicate it.

Take a step back from that and you'll realize that it presupposes the director KNOWS what he wants.

So, I would say that a clear vision and intelligent communication are the key.

I use the term "intelligent" communication, because to me that means knowing not only WHAT to say to an actor, but what NOT to say. I've seen many directors overload their actors (as well as their crew) with information they don't need. It's a matter of getting to know your actors, their personalities, and their style.

More times than not I see people complain of 'bad actors' or 'inexperienced actors,' and very few beginning directors realize that the failure is mostly on them as directors.

There have already been some very great points on this thread -

1. Direct, don't dictate.
2. Take Acting lessons.
3. Approach every actor with honesty and Respect.

Some good books I've read:

David Mamet has a great book on acting called "True & False"

Meisner's book (I forgot what it's called)

Stanislavsky Directs (written by one of his assistants, dry but full of good info).

Good luck!

Glenn Gipson March 14th, 2005 07:49 AM

Although this is not DIRECTLY related to the original question, acting rehearsals are even MORE important then the type of directing style that you choose (just as long as that directing style is not extra-confusing.) Most first time movie makers never rehearse their actors before getting on the set, and the result is that they often only achieve “TV-quality” acting. Of course, if you have a top-notch experienced movie actor, then one probably could get away with little to no rehearsal time (but even they ideally prefer rehearsals.)

Cleveland Brown March 18th, 2005 04:56 PM

<<<-- Originally posted by Richard Alvarez : What techniques do you use for working with actors?

Cattle prods are no longer allowed -->>>

What about hitting them over the head with a hammer?

Sorry I couldn't resist.

Zach Mull March 19th, 2005 05:40 PM

Glenn is so right about rehearsals - in projects where I rehearsed some scenes and didn't on others because of time constraints, the rehearsed scenes came out much better.

I also agree that establishing communication, trust and respect is important, and I have a good technique for starting that kind of healthy actor-director relationship. I now tell my actors before we rehearse or shoot that I'd like their input on the performance and scene, and I ask them to suggest minor line and blocking changes during the scene. As long as you don't have to stick to your script word-for-word, this is a great way to show your actors that you trust and value them, and it might give you some new material or a different perspective on the performance. Even if you end up rejecting their ideas, I think asking for actors' input makes them more comfortable with both their performances and the director.

Cleveland Brown March 19th, 2005 06:07 PM

<<<-- Originally posted by Zach Mull :Even if you end up rejecting their ideas, I think asking for actors' input makes them more comfortable with both their performances and the director. -->>>

Actually this is a very effective tool in dealing with nearly all of the poeple involved in your production and in gernal dealing with poeple. Everyone has intelligence and they like to be treated as such. Some people will not really care very much to give input but will always appreciate the offer. I would be careful however not to let this give the impression that you are not on top of the production in question. Just my 2 cents.

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