Before you direct actors; you lead them.

You are the captain of the ship when you direct a movie.  It’s everyone’s job to do their best to make sure that you make the movie you see in your head.

People want leadership. They want to be led by a good leader.

Everyone, especially the actors, is looking to you to tell them the film is going to be the greatest film ever made. So, tell them it’s going to be the greatest film ever made. They need to hear it. Besides, it just might be the greatest film ever made. You never know.

Once, you’ve led the actors; now you can direct them.

Actors are humans. They get cold. They get hungry. They have feelings. If you’re not paying them, treat them like humans. If you are paying them, you have a little more leave way. However, I’d still recommend treating them like humans.

If an actor gives a “bad” performance; it’s your fault. You directed that performance. You cast that actor. So, you have to find a way to make it work.

Rehearse with actors before you get on set. Make sure they “get” the material. Let them know the theme of the movie and how their character fits into the film. Tell them what the character provides for the film.  They may not know. Change the lines if you have too.  Change the lines to suit your actors.  These are the actors you’ve got to work with. Sorry, they’re not Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. You can’t afford Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. Frankly, could you handle Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins? Work with what you got. Be grateful for what you got. The actors want to be as good as Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. Help them!

Do your best to get the best performances out of your actors as you possibly can. Know their strengths and their weaknesses. Play up the strengths! Give them material you know they can do!

Each actor will need something different from you. One actor needs you to be a cheerleader; telling them they can do it.  Another actor needs you to shower them with compliments, so they feel confident in their performance. Other actors need oodles of attention; so they feel important. Give the actors what they need so that you will get the performance that you need.

If all else fails, edit around bad performances.

The better the actors look the better you look. So, yes, do your best to lead and direct the actors and remember they are humans doing the best they can.

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4 Responses to Leading and Directing Actors

  1. The director must be, above all else, courageous. And in the “grace under fire” meaning of the word. Things always go badly sometime during a production. How the director (and producer if someone allowed him on the set) respond to adversity will set the mood and leave a deep impression that will last the rest of that production. Better make that impression good.

  2. Reed Boyer says:

    Directors: “rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.” As Sidney Lumet does – and that’s why he’s on-time and under-budget always.

  3. patch says:

    Directors: take an acting class.

  4. Dan Daly says:

    Good advice. And, as a twist on Patch’s reply …

    Actors: Take a directing course!

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