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XDeathOrGloryX
05-22-2004, 01:58 PM
so i have a 15 page script written that i plan to start shooting in late june, early july. the concept of the film was to do something where i could play with different visual looks within the one story. (almost like Traffic).

since this film is going to be more of a TECHNICAL exercise, rather than a showcase for my less than stellar writing capabilities, i am planning on using a couple of friends for my cast, since i dont think the characters are developed enough, nor have enough lines to warrant casting these parts with "REAL ACTORS". its basically more plot driven than anything else.

anyhow, im more of a camera operator, turning Director... and was wondering if any of you had tips as far as how to go about getting a untrained actor to "lose themselves in their character"... or how to get them to forget about the cameras and lights and everything else.

any advice is appreciated. thanks guys.

Daniel

Mike_Donis
05-22-2004, 02:26 PM
Rehearsals definitely help.

Spend at least a couple days before shooting with your actors, having no equipment or anything with you...and just go through the scenes, explain to them your ideas, and how you want your characters to behave. It'll let them (and you) focus on what you want them to do on camera, and they'll take that with them on your shoot.

I think that the most important thing to remember is that actors (and specifically "non-actors") need clear direction if you want them to be good. A well-directed "non-actor" can give a better performance than a professional who had no direction.

Barry_S
05-22-2004, 02:31 PM
You might reconsider getting real actors to work with. *There are lots of actors that would like the opportunity to build their experience with a short film. *They're also generally easier to work with than non-actors. *

Non-actors are either going to be comfortable in front of a camera or not. *If you have someone who's really self-conscious, it's better to find a replacement. *Some rehearsal time is good--let your talent run through the scene two or three times--but don't overdo it. *Keep things light--don't be the serious director--make the set fun. *Be as encouraging as possible and if they do a bad take, just ask for another.

A big problem with non-actors or inexperienced actors is ACTING. *Did you ever see Jon Lovitz in those Master Thespian sketches on SNL? *Theatrical-type acting looks very artificial in a film, so you may have to work at getting your talent to dial it down. *

Another key to getting natural delivery is to give actors something to do while they say their lines. *Maybe they're straightening up a room or cooking dinner or painting a wall--give them something to do. *This will make it easier for them to be natural and will look better on film.

THiNSPiRiT
05-22-2004, 02:33 PM
Here's a quick tip also. Are your friends, how you say, fugly? Because if they are, I would either suggest a little bit of makeup or finding less fugly friends. No offense to them, but if this is mainly a technical exercise in film making, you're gonna want it to look good. I guarantee you it will *not* look good if your subjects do not look good. It's a sad truth but it's the way the world is.

Also, if your writing skills are less than stellar, try to be a little flexible with your script. If an actor has trouble saying a line or says it very awkwardly, let them make a minor adjustment so it comes out more naturally for them...

J.R. Hudson
05-22-2004, 02:45 PM
I would definatley consider casting 'actors' over friends. no doubt about it.

Mike_Donis
05-22-2004, 03:37 PM
That goes without saying; casting friends is never as good as casting actors (unless of course you're friends with Tom Hanks and Uma Thurman).

But it sounds like XDeathOrGloryX is trying to more so create something cinematographyically solid, rather than an all around movie (having said that its going to be more of a technical exercise).

I guess if you really don't care about the performances, there isn't really anything to worry about...but if you do, in the LEAST, then getting actors is the way to go.

taubkin
05-22-2004, 03:41 PM
If you want one "Tip" here it goes. Complement their performances after each take. Then you say what you want. Don't go: "Don't do this! you are not that sad.". Instead say: "Great one! Now let's try another without that last look you gave.". Also, don't ever say stuff like "Now, let's do it happier." that will create artificial performances. Either you give them physical actions or you clear up their motives and the situation. Like: "Man, that girl is up to you! Do you know what that mean?! You've won the friggin' lottery!"

Of course the second one is more a matter of style, but the first one you can't miss. Even if it sounds artificial, always encorage them after each take. Actors can be quite needy...

Not having them shy up on you is a big deal, and critics and censorship can be quite castrating...

But I also agree that with friends, things tend to get more complicated. But it's your judgement. If you think they can do it go for it. Casting is a lot about empathy, and when you have that for your actor, everything goes much smoother on set.

Zoomforce
05-22-2004, 10:44 PM
man this Directing forums gonna be good... :)

I must say getting real talent over friends make a big difference, but for screwing around Friends can be great (and cheap). Even for the Filter DVD we cast models from A pro talent agency ($$) and we are happy we went that route, even sitting in a chair it was amazing how trained talent makes the entire shoot easier.

A tip I picked up along taubkin's suggestion, but blame it on the cameraman (usually me) or sound. If you tell talent they sucked you will loose the mood, but if you say "sorry camera was out of focus, or we got traffic noise, lets try it again and maybe you can try something different" seems to work, and just make sure you wink at your cameraman so hes on the same page.

Taubkin is also on the right page giving analogies for performance instead of emotional descriptions.

XDeathOrGloryX
05-23-2004, 03:20 AM
wow, i forgot that i had posted this question and was scanning this site before i went to bed and found all these replies! thanks so much guys for all the advice.

Mike_Donis: i agree with the rehersals. i plan to do a number of table reads. and run rehersals the day of the shoot as well, while the crew lights and stuff.

Barry_S: i havent seen that SNL bit, but i definately know what you mean about the Theatrical acting. blah. but yeah, most of the actors i have in mind so far have been performers in one way or another for much of their life whether it be musical theatre, or in bands, or dance. so they should all be pretty comfortable with eyes on them, i just hope the CAMERA doesnt scare them. and thanks for the tip about giving the actors something to do. i had heard that before, but completely forgot about it. =)

THiNSPiRiT: haha. i definately know what you mean. but no, the friends i have talked to about doing this are all pretty damn good looking. im actually fortunate to have pretty beautiful friends, so that wont be too big an issue. and i plan on being VERY flexible with my script. i would definately have the lines came across natural, rather than eloquent.

taubkin: directing is definately a mind game, and those are some great tips to use. "Casting is a lot about empathy, and when you have that for your actor, everything goes much smoother on set." -- i definately agree with you there.

John, Mike, Jared: i know you guys are right. and i might reconsider, but i think the reason why ive wanted to go with friends over "actors" is because the story is more visual than anything else. there isnt a whole lot of dialogue. but there are some parts that are gonna require a great amount of "believability"... so i may go the casting route afterall. i guess itll depend on what i see in the screen tests with my friends first.

and that "blame it on the crew" thing is something ive done in the past. its works quite well too.

thanks again everyone. this was great stuff. =)

kylelewis1
05-24-2004, 07:03 PM
A couple benefits to having friends are the flexibility and rapport you already have with your "actors." While the acting may not be as good, I think it is worthwhile to take into account the ability to talk to your friend actors more easily than ones you have hired. Also, if you are spending a lot of time on getting the technical side of things right, if you have friends around, my guess would be there would be less pressure for you to "hurry up and finish." And finally, nothing beats free labor if it is decent enough.

I guess it depends on what direction you want to go with your video. :o

J.R. Hudson
05-24-2004, 07:32 PM
You are correct! Film is a visual medium, and if you do use 'non actors' youll know which of your frinds can or cannot pull something off. Try and get some coverage so you have material to work with. Sometimes, you can tell the story without saying a word.

David Jimerson
05-24-2004, 07:42 PM
Well, professional actors will on average be more "professional." At this level, they probably will not have developed into prima donnas and understand that film is a director's medium.

Mike_Donis
05-24-2004, 07:46 PM
That's all true...

Thing is, XDeathOrGloryX, you seem to be uncertain as to whether or not you want to have good performances or not...It kind of sucks, but it'll likely come down to
Good Performances=Professional actors
and
Bad Performances=Friends...

So I think it'll really depend on how important the acting is to you in this project...if it's truly to expand your tech skills, and you won't be using it for an actual portfolio piece, you might as well use your friends. *But if you're looking for good acting, I can see yourself wanting to pick Professionals.

Barry_Green
05-24-2004, 11:05 PM
and understand that film is a director's medium.

Ah. *Spoken like a director. *:)

To again paraphrase from Bo Svenson... "On the first day, it is the producer's movie. *On the second day, it is the director's movie. *But beginning on the third day, it is the actor's movie." *His reasoning being, three days in, thousands of feet of film will have been shot of that actor. You could still fire the director, but the star will have become indispenable and irreplaceable, so they can get away with anything (and Bo confesses to having been a royal primadonna in his younger years!)

Anyway: about using friends as actors... yes, you'll start with a better rapport. *But what will you end with? *Filmmaking is one of the most intense pressure-cooker environments that man has devised yet. *And while pre-existing friendship relationships may seem a strength at the beginning, when things start to go wrong, things can deteriorate to where the friendship itself gets put on the line. *And if someone's only there because they're "doing you a favor", that can make for some much-more-tense situations than if the reason the person's there is because they're doing it for themselves to further their career.

If it's a one-day little shoot, sure, drag your friends along. *But if it's something serious, go get real (or aspiring) actors, it will make your life so much easier, not just during the shoot but afterwards.

David Jimerson
05-25-2004, 04:40 AM
Bo Svenson. ;D

You're right, of course, Barry -- but you're also talking about a level well above where we are right now. Most of us are the producers, writers, and directors of our work, so if anyone goes, it's the talent . . .

;)

taubkin
05-25-2004, 08:00 AM
Exactly. You cannot demand anything from friends who are doing you a favor. That's a major obstacle. But if you are a Director that keeps his set fun (and I think that's a goal we all have to aim for, because working for control freaks with major go issues can be incredibly frustrating), you can manage to pull off nice scenes with friends. Also, having more than one is always good to let them distract themselves as they wait. And they will. A long time. If they tend to get to distracted, that can be a problem, so in that case it's better to get a group that's acquainted but not too close.

If you don't have the budget or time to cast, and you fell thay can pull off, do it. You know your friends better than any of us. And it is not like the end of the world. But for most of the times, try to get actors. It's a nice way to meet new people, ad maybe make new friends.

On the other hand, a friend of mine casted one of this commercial actors that tought he was Robert De'Niro. He told me it was pure hell.

The one thing to remember is: Don't be a control freak. If you have your friend with you, you might as well have some fun. It's all about getting your shots, but that is something only you is supposed to know.

Stas_Tagios
05-25-2004, 10:44 PM
A lot of great suggestions in this thread so far.

Here's some suggestions that might apply whether you're working with your friends or pros.

Whether directing non-pro actors and pro actors, I find that how you approach the situation is entirely dependent on the performer. Some actors require discussions of character motivation and backstory, others respond better to simple, specific direction like "be more sad" or "say it faster."

If an actor needs to laugh in a scene, some can fake it well, others may respond more sincerely if you actually make them laugh. Same thing with anger and sadness; some actors can turn on their emotions on cue, others need to work into it, whether in their own heads, or with prompting from the director.

Pros in general hate being given line readings (esp. from a director who's never acted), though some directors do it anyway. Giving an amateur a line reading probably won't cause a stir, though unless you're sure you can say the line better than they are, you might make their performance worse. The trick is to figure out which actor requires which approach, which you can usually do even before you start shooting, or not long after you start.

Spontaneity can many times lead to inspired moments in a performance, but just as often, you may need to give specific direction regarding how you want a line said (e.g., "put the emphasis on this word") or a reaction you want the actor to give.

As the director, you'll usually have a vision of how a scene will be cut together and how it'll fit into the piece as a whole, and it's up to you to make sure you get the necessary pieces to put it all together, meaning you'll sometimes need an actor to a specific bit of business at a certain time or give a certain reaction, and the only way to get them to do it exactly is to spell it out.

Rehearsal, too, is beneficial in some situations, not as much in others. When shooting non-pro kid actors, for example, you may want to do fewer takes to keep the kids from getting bored, and to preserve a freshness to their performance, though if they're non-pros, you may need to shoot enough coverage of the scene to cut around any bad line readings or other performance problems.

In some situations, especially if rehearsal time is limited, I'll do multiple takes of a scene to allow the actors to get comfortable with the dialogue and action (one of the benefits of shooting DV -- shooting as much as you want for almost no money), and usually, their performance improves the more they do it, though sometimes an early take will prove better.

travis
05-26-2004, 01:35 AM
Getting friends ass actors have some advantages. The disadvantages are very well known so i ll stay with the positive staff.
First. You know them well. Thatīs pretty important.
Everytime i work with actor (or real actors/donīt think itīs a good way to describe it) i have to know them well. With friends that work is done. So a lot of times you wontīhave to explain the situation to them. They will understand what you want. Son my tip would be that you take advantage of your common knowledge. I would say things like: do you remember when we met that girl. How i`mpressed you were... You know try to relate it with their personal lifes.

I am reading a book about Cassavettes "Cassavetes on cassavetes" By Ray Carney.
It talks a lot about the job with the actors. Cassavetes allways works with friends (they were actors too) but the way he direct them was more like they were friends.
Itīs a very good book if you wanna find tips on how to direct people (characters he would say)

THiNSPiRiT
05-27-2004, 12:29 AM
A lot of great suggestions in this thread so far.


Pros in general hate being given line readings (esp. from a director who's never acted), though some directors do it anyway. *Giving an amateur a line reading probably won't cause a stir, though unless you're sure you can say the line better than they are, you might make their performance worse. *The trick is to figure out which actor requires which approach, which you can usually do even before you start shooting, or not long after you start.



This is soooo true although I probably never would've thought of it. Many times you overlook something like this simply because you figure you're just going over the line. I never thought how something like this could affect the actor's performance but it really can... a lot!

JonnyMac
05-27-2004, 08:03 AM
As an actor, the only thing I hate more than being given a line-reading is the director's inability to give me the backstory or motivation that drives that reading. *Believe it or not, acting is work too -- but most of our work takes place away from the set so nobody sees it.

A tip for you writer/directors: Be prepared to answer questions about the characters you've written, because if you can't, giving (experienced) actors line-readings is going to be be met with a lot of resentment.

Terry_Lasater
05-27-2004, 09:27 AM
"I never said all actors are cattle; what I said was all actors should be treated like cattle."

-Alfred Hitchcock

Ingrid Bergman, triying to make Hitchcock help her understand the motivation for the feelings of her character told Hitchcock:


I dont feel like that, I dont think
I can give you that kind of emotion

and Hitchcock replied:

Ingrid -- Fake It

To anthony Perkins: Don't wory Tony, it's only a movie

When an actress asked Hitchcock if her right or left profile was better, he told her, "My dear, you're sitting on your best profile."

Mike_Donis
05-27-2004, 12:51 PM
he told her, "My dear, you're sitting on your best profile."

LMAO!

Terry_Lasater
05-28-2004, 12:35 PM
Yo, Ingrid (or whoever)... you got served! * ;D

Alfie done called you out!

gearman
05-30-2004, 12:16 PM
either you have it or not,,,no matter how much you try to rehearse...if the actors dont have it, then they will never have it...get real actors.......

Mike_Donis
05-30-2004, 01:12 PM
I'd actually tend to disagree, gearman. Actors, both professional and not, all need sufficient direction to give a good performance. Professionals obviously tend to do a better job, but with great direction you can get a relatively decent performance from a non-actor. They may not have that 'quality' that the best professionals have, but they'll get the job done.

Stas_Tagios
05-30-2004, 10:58 PM
either you have it or not,,,no matter how much you try to rehearse...if the actors dont have it, then they will never have it...get real actors.......

Even "real actors" have to start somewhere; Keisha Castle-Hughes was terrific in "Whale Rider," for example, but she'd never acted before. The lead actor in "Bicycle Thief" was ostensibly an amateur, and IMHO, that's one of the greatest movies ever made.

Still, I do agree that in some cases, someone who's uncomfortable or wooden in front of the camera, may just not have it in them to ever appear natural, no matter how much you try to mold their performance through direction and editing, and it winds up being a waste of your time and effort if you cast them.

Ideally, you discover this before you shoot. If not, you end with Jake Lloyd's performance in "The Phantom Menace."

David Jimerson
05-31-2004, 07:49 AM
The lead actor in "Bicycle Thief" was ostensibly an amateur, and IMHO, that's one of the greatest movies ever made.


??? :P :-/ :-X :-X :-X :-X :-*

Will . . . not . . . go . . . off . . . topic!!!! * *:D

But other than that, Stas, good post!

Barry_Green
05-31-2004, 03:56 PM
If not, you end with Jake Lloyd's performance in "The Phantom Menace."

Er... I don't know if Jake Lloyd can act or not. But if he survived the audition process for that role, the odds are that he's a very good little actor. But you've got to look at that film and see some other terrible performances: Sam Jackson... Natalie Portman... these are incredible actors who ended up on camera with lousy performances. Is it the actor? Or is there perhaps a common thread -- the director? After watching Natalie Portman in "The Professional", I refuse to believe that the "Queen Amidala" thing is her fault. That lady can act. And so can Samuel L. Jackson. I think George might have more to do with the quality of Jake Lloyd's performance than even Jake did.

Mike_Donis
05-31-2004, 04:03 PM
I never thought of it that way, Barry...Jake Lloyd *did* beat out all those kids in the auditions...so he must have been at *least* better than most of them...

All the actors gave quite wooden performances, you noted Portman and Jackson....what about Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor. They're awesome, too, but seem bored in Star Wars...poor Georgie :P

David Jimerson
05-31-2004, 07:02 PM
Well, it's hard to give more than wooden performances when termites could have a feast on the dialogue.

The sad thing is, the first ten minutes of Phantom Menace kicked ass -- right up to when Qui-Gon and Obi Wan ran like little girls in the face of robots with (gasp!) shields. At that moment, the Star Wars franchise began a snowball roll that continues to this day.

Mike_Donis
05-31-2004, 07:06 PM
Well, it's hard to give more than wooden performances when termites could have a feast on the dialogue.

True...


The sad thing is, the first ten minutes of Phantom Menace kicked ass -- right up to when Qui-Gon and Obi Wan ran like little girls in the face of robots with (gasp!) shields. *At that moment, the Star Wars franchise began a snowball roll that continues to this day.


...And True!

Stas_Tagios
05-31-2004, 09:10 PM
Okay, granted, Lucas is primarily to blame for the suckiness of TPM, from the horrible writing to the stilted performances. And it's hard to imagine anyone being able to deliver the film's tin-eared dialogue well. As for Jake Lloyd, perhaps judging his acting ability from TPM may not be entirely fair, but take a look at his audition footage on the TPM dvd... not too good.

Still, Lucas is ultimately at fault, since he chose the actors. Perhaps because actors are in front of the camera, they take much of the blame for turning in a weak performance, when it's just as much, if not more, the director's fault for casting either a bad actor or miscasting a good actor.

Mike_Donis
06-01-2004, 07:52 AM
It definitely is the director's fault as much as it is the actor's themselves. Unless of course the producer forced the director to cast someone, which could also make for a mis-cast part.

But I stick to the fact that even a mediocre actor can give a good performance with great direction.

Barry_Green
06-01-2004, 10:13 AM
In my experience there are basically three camps: there's real actors, there's non-actors, and then there's the middle ground, those who want to be actors.

Real actors are absolute gold. *Nothing ruins an independent movie quite as quickly as bad acting. *Real actors (who have been properly directed and given the right material to work with) are just magic.

Next in line are the non-actors. *These guys can give tremendous performances. *The key is, they have to already be the character. *Don't ask them to be something they're not. *Put them in a situation on camera that they face in real life, and they can do just fine. *Ask 'em to step outside that, and they'll flop.

The worst of the bunch is the wanna-be actor, who wants to ACT. *You can see these guys coming from a mile away, they "get into character" and put on this mask of anonymity and try to control their inflection and the pacing of their speech to deliver the most impact... blah blah blah. *It comes off canned and fake, because that's what it is. *Fake. *Real actors can put themselves into the role so deeply that they become what they're saying. *Non-actors actually ARE that role. *But the wanna-be actor, who wants to give a "performance" -- that's what you need to stay away from. *You'd have to be a magician to get a believable on-screen character from someone trying to "act".

David Jimerson
06-01-2004, 10:17 AM
The worst of the bunch is the wanna-be actor, who wants to ACT. *You can see these guys coming from a mile away, they "get into character" and put on this mask of anonymity and try to control their inflection and the pacing of their speech to deliver the most impact... blah blah blah. *It comes off canned and fake, because that's what it is. *Fake. *Real actors can put themselves into the role so deeply that they become what they're saying. *Non-actors actually ARE that role. *But the wanna-be actor, who wants to give a "performance" -- that's what you need to stay away from. *You'd have to be a magician to get a believable on-screen character from someone trying to "act".

*cough* Quentin Tarantino *cough*

Neil Rowe
06-01-2004, 10:19 AM
barry ..that post was DEAD ON.. absolutely gold.
david.. lol actually so was yours..bwahahahaha :)

Mike_Donis
06-01-2004, 10:20 AM
hehehe...good points said by all :P

limehouse
06-04-2004, 05:37 PM
I would humbly suggest reading "On Directing Film" by David Mamet.

here it is. (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0140127224/qid=1086395744/sr=8-4/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i4_xgl14/103-1492572-6267803?v=glance&s=books&n=507846)

It's a fast, short read and it'll give you an amazing new sense of how simply you can get good performances!

Mike_Donis
06-04-2004, 05:41 PM
Thanks for the link!

JonnyMac
06-07-2004, 09:21 PM
I'd actually tend to disagree, gearman. *Actors, both professional and not, all need sufficient direction to give a good performance. *Professionals obviously tend to do a better job, but with great direction you can get a relatively decent performance from a non-actor. *They may not have that 'quality' that the best professionals have, but they'll get the job done.

I will respectfully disagree -- saying that actors all need sufficient direction is like saying the DP needs a lesson in gels for every job. The amount of direction required, especially for experienced actors, is entirely dependent on the script.

How do you define "great direction" when it comes to the actor? I have my ideas from the actor's point-of-view, but I'd love to know what a director thinks "good directing" vis-a-vis the actor is.

In my opinion, most directors think they know something about acting but haven't got a clue. The reason -- as I've stated before -- is that nearly all of the actor's work happens away from the set. This is where a great director shows him/herself: by discussing the script with the actor so that the result is known before our process starts.

Mike_Donis
06-08-2004, 05:18 PM
Well, I'd say that it takes great direction to make a truly memorable performance, mostly because the director has to make sure that the performance works perfectly within the film.

For example, it's not usual that every single person has the same idea in regards to how characters interact , be them actors, directors, producers, etc. Because it's his job, the director needs to be able to do what is neccesary to get the best performance out of the actor. If an actor is, without being told what to do, doing a perfect job that follows the director's vision, then it's the job of the director to make SURE that the actor doesn't do anything else. The director would have succeeded by NOT doing anything with that actor...and his job was done well.

Example: Tom Hanks is starring in a movie of mine. Odds are, he's going to give a brilliant performance regardless of what I tell him to do, but if I choose to take the film in the 'wrong' way, and give him bad direction, he'll not be as good neccessarily as he would have. So it would be my job to make sure I didn't interfere...I'm still in charge, but my decision is to let him do what he's doing, so I'm still technically directing.

But putting all that aside, normally, and ESPECIALLY when we're *not* dealing with Tom Hanks, and it's just an average, run-of-the-mill semi-pro actor, he WON'T be insanely brilliant without competent direction. Usually, these actors AREN'T something special, because on average, they're just average.

I'm kind of rambling now, but what I'm saying is that I feel directors need to make sure their vision is being played out as they want. If this is happening, regardless of the WAY he's getting what he wants, then all is well. Then it just comes down to whether or not the director is good, because every other aspect, by default, will.

Man I wish I could actually have Tom Hanks in a film of mine :P

JonnyMac
06-09-2004, 06:25 AM
Tom Hanks, like every professional actor, will give a director choices because in life there are many. * The difference between Tom Hanks and what you call "run of the mill" actors is that Tom will bring you many more choices, but probably be headed in the direction you want to go -- this is a product of talent, dedication to his craft, and experience. Of course, if you do get a chance to work with Mr. Hanks he's going to make sure that you know what you're doing by asking you a lot of questions about the story and the characters -- these are questions EVERY actor (who knows what he/she is doing) wants answered. The nice thing about being Tom Hanks is that directors will answer the questions happily; those of us that aren't Tom Hanks don't typically get the same courtesy.

Regardless of the actor's experience, it is the director's job (as you point out) to know where the story and the characters are going. *In another thread [screenwriting, I think] someone made the comment that what's happening is less important than why it's happening. * I absolutely agree with this statement, and believe the director should be able to articulate the why of things for every element of the story. Without "why" less experienced actors tend to play the problem, instead of experience the problem truthfully (which viewers experience as good acting).

It would be nice if directors would recognize that their on-set life would be easier -- with actors of any caliber -- if they'd communicate "goal" and "why" for story and character early in the process. *I worked with a director once who wounldn't answer my questions before we shot -- and on set I was forced to ask because logical human behavior could allow the character to go in two wildly different directions (this was a supporting character, so not fleshed out as well as the leads, hence there were fewer [almost none] clues to the characters goals). Thankfully, the director answered my questions on the set and we were both pleased with the results. That said, he could have made my life a little easier by communicating the character's motivation (which is not specific in the script) before we started shooting.

If, as you suggest, directors communicate their vision early getting there will be easier. *That's not to say that direction on set will not be needed or even desired by the actor -- even Tom Hanks (you hire us to fulfill your vision; that's what we want to do). *Sometimes things don't work -- and that goes for every actor, even Tom Hanks. *Experienced actors notice when things arent working; they notice because everything feels like acting and not living. *That's when a good director will work with the actor for move the scene in a direction that does work, and remains consistent with the goals of the project.

Yes, I would love to work with Tom Hanks too -- it's on my "things I want to do someday" list. ;D

Barry_Green
06-09-2004, 12:07 PM
Every aspiring director should read that post.

Mike_Donis
06-09-2004, 01:43 PM
JonnyMac, that *was* one hell of a post. Thanks!

taubkin
06-09-2004, 01:49 PM
I agree with ou mike. Also Agree with you Jonny. And of course I agree with Barry.

Yes, Every actor needs good direction. The director is the leader. He knows what he want and he has the reasons. Some are pretty obvious, some are not, and the last are the things that make some movies more than storytelling (or bad storytelling). Not that storytelling isn't great on itself, but I think movies are a little more than that (very little). And I love them for this little extra.

Every actor needs good directing, because the best of the performances could be ruined by a lousy movie. Not because they don't have the sufficient knowledge to produce a good result by themselves. In fact, a good performance is the one that fits in the movie (kinda like commercials: a good commercial is one the client approves).

But it's not that easy. It's not a puzzle. As soon as you see a film with an actor, it changes from you ideal conception and you also have to adapt. You adapt the actor to the role, but you also adapt the role for the actor. So you need a good actor, to fit in the role, and you need good directing, to make the role "fittable". Not to tell him what you want him to do, but to build a movie as you shoot (and as you rehearse) that will accomplish the same as you envisioned before production.

And actors have one rigid limit to their vision of the movie: they don't see their role in anyone else's skin. Thats a very important bonus we have as directors. To give us parameters to judge and to give us reasons to get someone else.

So everybody is crucial, we can be all happy and feel important and learn not to get snob on anyone.

JonnyMac
06-10-2004, 03:43 PM
And actors have one rigid limit to their vision of the movie: they don't see their role in anyone else's skin.
With respect, I think you're wrong about that -- only egomaniacal actors (and there really aren't that many) see themselves perfect for any role. A real actor will recognize when they don't in fact fit into a role, and work with the director to either make the role fit them better, or bow out.

On a humorous note, I was once called to an audition and I was the only caucasion actor there, everyone else was African-American. Nobody said anything when I signed in, but in the green room somebody looked at me and asked, "Are you sure you're supposed to be here?" I replied, "Yep, my name was on the list -- I guess I'm the 'ringer'." We all had a laugh, but I didn't book that job; I obviously couldn't mold myself to the race requirement of the part.

taubkin
06-10-2004, 08:24 PM
Yeah I know what you mean. I'm not trying to offend the acting class by saying they are all egomaniac, in fact actors seem to be very humble in my experience.

But actors don't cast themselves, that's what I mean. That is one very important part of directing (or at least should be) that it's completely up to the director.

On a casting call, you very seldom hear "I think I would be wrong for this part". Not because of ego issues, but simply because generally, they aren't still very tuned on to your artistic intentions while they are applying for the job...

JonnyMac
06-10-2004, 08:34 PM
On a casting call, you very seldom hear "I think I would be wrong for this part". Not because of ego issues, but simply because generally, they aren't still very tuned on to your artistic intentions while they are applying for the job...
Keep in mind that if you've invited an actor to a casting session, then it is YOU who has put them in the running. Perhaps at this stage you're not using a casting director, and if not, then you must be very clear about your character breakdowns when you have open casting sessions. If you don't have a breakdown or are ambiguous, then there is no possible way for an actor to know that he or she is not right; especially since on many projects we only get sides, not the whole script.

This gets back to a point I made early about the director's responsibility to be good communicator. It starts with the casting process.

taubkin
06-12-2004, 03:41 PM
This gets back to a point I made early about the director's responsibility to be good communicator. *It starts with the casting process.

Absolutely. We are on the same page, for sure. :)

Not always I get to have a casting call only with people that I find adequate. And that's exactly what I meat. Casting is a hell of an important part of directing.

Especially for me. I tend to cast an actor that I think will work, and let him build his character alone. I usually don't but in. It's fun to see multiple colaborations on the set, and you see the film being built as it goes. I think it's only essential that the director don't let it grow away from it's intended shape, but I'm not into very nerdy directors. Although I can see there are exceptions.

That being sad, I'm not very experienced on it, I'm just a film student who did a couple of little projects for fun...

JonnyMac
06-13-2004, 07:10 AM
Yes we are in agreement; you don't ask actors where to set the camera, so why would we ask you to build our character? That said, we need to know your vision, because our work takes time too. If you're communicating your vision up front (and it seems like you are), you're doing a big service to your actors and I'm betting you have happy experiences on set. I wish more directors had your attitude; most see actors as props that talk....

TheGreenOne
09-21-2004, 08:53 AM
Great posts people. There were some really good points, particularly about how to diplomatically tell your actor that they screwed up. I also appreciate how many of you recommend acting to learn how to direct actors...I have done a ton of acting (mostly stage) for the sole purpose of directing. It has made all the difference in the world.

I've discovered that some of the best actors out there are non-actors who think it would be "fun" to be in a movie. On one shoot we found a guy with a really cool car so we cast him. I didn't even meet him until we were on set. He blew me away with his "natural-ness." This can be a risky proposition though...make sure to have an out. Conversely, we had actors from the agency who couldn't act their way out of a paper bag...no lines for them :)

Lesson learned: never bring on cast or crew based on the merit of their resume

Mike_Donis
09-23-2004, 07:55 PM
Casting purely based on resume definitely isn't a good idea - you always want to cast people you've met, and people who have a likeable quality in them. There's got to be something that gets you to notice them, something in the way they look, talk, or behave - this will make your movie more interesting, even if nobody knows *why*. All great actors have charisma of some sort, and most of them aren't "perfectly" good looking. The sublte flaws let us know they're still humans, and therefore even more attractive than someone with a perfectly symmetrical face.

Thing is though, most people don't have this quality, and I've found that most professionals do; odds are that you would find that someone with a long and impressive resume likely has this quality, and you won't get that quality from your average joe.

stationhouse
12-13-2004, 04:06 PM
hey
i'd say if you can try and get actors, go for it. in philadelphia, the film office has a great hotline. i post for free and in return i get about 150 headshots of people willing to work for free. If you want to continue making films it is somethign you should learn to do sooner rather than later. i stalled because i was intimidated and regret it.

i have also had some luck, i think, with non actors. the big trick here is really looking for people who are right for the part, who can communicate your ideas without having to even say the dialog. for my film it took me about 5 months to find those people.

basically - if someone has talent, experience or not, you are halfway there. if they are not comfortable with the camera, you are in trouble and there won't be much you can do to correct it. work with them and do improv and line readings for days before shooting. get them comfortable with each other, with the flow of scenes and the film overall. good luck!

David_M_Payne
02-21-2005, 03:18 PM
Lots of great tips here, thanks all!

David

stationhouse
02-22-2005, 10:14 AM
The worst of the bunch is the wanna-be actor, who wants to ACT.

this is so true! Non actors can be great, but once they these in between people can drive you nuts. They are often divas too and don't realize they need you as much as you need them. grrr.

mroczkowski83
02-26-2005, 06:56 PM
Have you guys ever seen a film called "Bicycle thief"? well it was shot with all non actors. Lots of them. the movie is brilliant, simple, and very emotional. was shot in the early 1940's in italy. you will like it. a good and passionate director can turn anyone into a great performer. the problem is with bad directors. they simply shout a command at the actor and when they dont get what they expected, they feel turned off. IF YOU DONT DESCRIBE THE EMOTIONALLY DRIVEN MOMENT TO THE ACTOR YOU WILL GET RESULT DIRECTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

lebroz
03-16-2005, 05:01 PM
I'm my own actor, so far no success but everytime i watch my work %23 of the time I am amazed at what I can do... All on little to no budget...

tip... Act in your own work if you have real soul and passion, like me

didnt break into mainstream entertainment, still pounding on the door

not 1 soul believes in me,

I feel the hinges of hollywood collapsing because of my natural power