Directions for Directing Actors

Recently I participated in a workshop which had the intent of developing skills for directing actors. Though for the most part, I wish to pursue a career in the producing sides of filmmaking, I still see the need to learn such skills to help expand my knowledge of film. Also, I do want to try my hand at directing later on in my career, so this understanding of director to actor relationships is invaluable. So I wanted to use this workshop to help expand my knowledge on the subject.

This workshop was designed around extending upon preexisting knowledge. So this means that for me I had to draw from a foundation of information that I was taught a year ago. Walking into this class I had an idea about how the director and actors work together. For instance, I had an understanding regarding the workflow with rehearsals and character building. The process of cold reads of the script and the director exploring the character with actors; all to help the actor familiarise with the character which can result in better performance. Another key concept I understood was that as a director you had to make them comfortable with you. If an actor is comfortable and trusts a director, it will allow them to feel safe and bring forth true emotions to the role, or even perform more sensitive tasks. Another key thing that I remember is the use of action verbs when giving directions to actors. instead of saying phrases such as “act angry”, which results in actor thinking about the direction rather than performing,“abuse him’, is more natural for an actor to follow. This is because they know the end goal their character and what they need to do achieve it. All of these aspects combine when directors work with actors to help deliver a favourable performance on set.

So let’s now move onto what I was able to take from the masterclass. Well for starters I was able to direct my fellow my peers which helped me understand the processes further. Because I was able to direct I was able to see first-hand the importance of correctly using the preparation stage. An important role of the director is to understand their vision of the script in and out and be able to efficiently communicate this idea. I was asked a few time by the actors about their characters relationships and backstories to help them understand the characters there playing. If I hadn’t had prompts from the lecturer about making sure I had thought about everything I wouldn’t have had an answer for my actors. I also saw the importance of action verbs for the first time. Some of my peers were using resolve directing (the opposite to using action verbs), which resulted in weaker performances and confusion from the actor. Once my peers were able to switch from giving resolve directions, to using action verbs there was an instantaneous change with the performance. The actors were able to understand much clearly what was being asked of them. Though there are few things I wish to learn more on, such as how to work with actors during production, as the masterclass had a very heavy emphasis on the pre-production work with actors.

Nevertheless, there are various of things I can take from this class and transfer to my own work, including times when I am acting as producer. First off I now can see the strength of rehearsals for actors and directors alike. As a producer now know that rehearsal times are necessary for scheduling if the actors and directors both agree they need it. Not only will it give time for directors and actors to build their relationship, it will help make the shoot more efficiently when it comes to filming, as the director and actors have a foundation to work from. Also, now seeing how efficient action verbs are in terms of directing, I will aim to utilize them as much as possible whenever I get the opportunity to direct. Finally, for more of the times, I work as assistant director, I will make sure the actor is comfortable on set at all times, especially if a scene is more sensitive. If there is something or someone on the set that is causing discomfort for the actor, I will try and resolve it to the best of my ability. This is that idea that if the actor is comfortable and happy is able to bring their best performances to the table.

So, in conclusion, this masterclass was a great learning experience for me to partake in. I was able to take my preexisting knowledge about directing actors and put into use. This allowed me to see the effects of different techniques, such as action verbs and character breakdowns. These skills are not just gonna help with directing actors, but also allows me to best work with actors on set, to make them the most comfortable. All in all, I believe these masterclass has truly helped me gain more confidence in working with actors.

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