View Full Version : tips for a first timer?

11-05-2004, 11:46 AM
Tomorrow is my first time directing anything more than 5 min long, AND with actors and crew who arnt all personal friends.

It's a school project not a big deal, but ive picked up some nice little directing tips here and just wondering if anone had a neat tidbit they've found useful. Anything about dealing with shy actors, or any actors, things to be aware of on set i havnt thought about, just anything u guys use that might make my first time a better experience.


Zach Lien
11-05-2004, 11:49 AM
beware of the "attention getter" person. Some people just need to be the center of attention and have to always try to be a clown. Just be stern. It pisses me off when someone interupts a serious moment or something and breaks the mood. especially when its a film that you've spent a ton of time on.

The more cooperative the poeple- the smoother and faster things will go. Remember- be stern- just let them know that you are in control.

11-05-2004, 11:57 AM

Nothing keeps a shoot going like shooting. The more time you spend not shooting, the harder it becomes to keep momentum heading in a positive direction. The first shot is always crucial to the days success.

As far as dealing with actors... you've gotta learn most of that on your own, and you're not going to do it in a night. Talk to them creatively. Don't tell them what to do, lead them to the conclusion of what to do. Put your faith and trust in them...you don't really have any other choice.

Make sure they understand the character, then don't direct them until you have to correct them.

and finally...don't take anyone's advice. All advice is wrong.

Zach Lien
11-05-2004, 12:01 PM
and finally...don't take anyone's advice. All advice is wrong.

i strongly disagree with that.
isnt that a contradictive statement as well?

Jim Brennan
11-05-2004, 12:03 PM
Yea, but he's making a point, I believe.

Which I am reinforcing by not explaining.

11-05-2004, 12:10 PM
Yea, but he's making a point, I believe. *

Which I am reinforcing by not explaining.

It must pain you sometimes to be so astute.

Zach Lien
11-05-2004, 12:17 PM
I've taken peoples advice many times. and it has certainly helped. if you dont take advice from people- or at least hear them out- you'll come off as a controlling asshole. you have to control things, sure- up to a certain point. that doesnt mean totally ignoring people's ideas and/or advice.

Jim Brennan
11-05-2004, 12:18 PM
First, take a deep breath.

Second, think about what he said. Don't take it literally, think about it philosophically. Then think about what I said, and the way I said it.

The secret to sucess is more about learning the lessons than having the answers.

Jim Brennan
11-05-2004, 12:47 PM
But here's my advice the Primus fan (did I get that right about the cheese sailor reference?) Look at it for what it is: An opportunity to make a film where your main goal is to learn. That's a novelty not all of us get.
As far as actors, I have had very few problems in my experience. I might be lucky, or it might be that I treat them with respect. Or both. But learning to deal with them is a tricky thing because you have to get them to do more than they think they are capable of at times. But sometimes they think that for a reason. But the best bit of advice I can think of is to plan as much as possible. It makes things much more relaxed on the set.

Zach Lien
11-05-2004, 12:55 PM
ohh. ok i gotcha. my apologies

11-05-2004, 02:13 PM
2 cents simply because it's fresh in my mind. I had a gentleman I was working with during a callback a few days back, he was working with another actor who understood his character, from asking questions, working his script and preparing. So, one actor, actor 'B' had done very little to understand his character, as opposed to actor 'A'.

So, 'B' was very difficult to direct, of course, and 'A' was very...pliable. If 'A' was off, I would simply give him an alternative approach to the scenario, or ask him, 'why did you approach that line this way? (actors love to be asked questions), then softly guided him into another thought process, which of course he acclimated to nicely and bingo, he nailed it every time. Not so with actor 'B', in fact when asked about the character he was playing he simply told me, 'he's an angry guy'.....What the hell does that mean? (I didn't say that of course).

So, when 'B' was way off track I would stop him immediately and say something like, 'Let's try this, how about trying to place yourself into another scene altogether? Let's say that as opposed to 'angy', you are actually nervous, shaking and a little confused?...

Did he follow this direction? No he did not, but I do have a point. No matter how much you would like to take a brick to your actor's head, always, always, take a deep breath, take a moment to digest the scene and design an alternative in your mind before you speak. Never say, 'Do it like this!', or 'say it like this!'...even though you really, really want to because this dork will never get it unless you spoon feed him. By taking the adament and non-creative approach you set a tone that breeds a lack of creativity and spontinaity, which will also lead to resentment and lack of respect. If you can not trust them, and they will see this through your spoon feeding, then they will not trust you.

So, actor 'B' was simply not asked back. I have been extremely picky with my selections because if you are not, then you will have a cast of 'B' actors that at some point you will surely have to spoon feed every line which will ruin the whole organic process, and in turn, your film.

Am I saying that you must take a submissive role? Absolutely not! But you'll get more flies with honey, and they'll respect you in the morning. You earn your respect by respecting them and their job. Give them room, but do not settle on a shitty performance, there's a definate difference.

Now I'm just babbling, this is just a cathartic process for me writing in here, thanks for listening.

11-05-2004, 02:31 PM
By the way, and I may regret saying this, but all this retoric about being the tough guy, and taking charge, and 'just fire them' when they don't work nonsense is just silly. That's a direct result from an insecure director who would rather fire an actor before truly understanding the root of the problem.

Firing an actor should be the very last thing you do after exausting all your other options, within a reasonable time period and after doing your job as a director through discussion and alternative approaches.

If you want to be a bad-ass, then you better have Spielberg as a last name, or, you might want to look into a career behind a desk, where everyone is a tough guy in their own mind.

This is just what I've been hearing lately, it's not directed at any one in particular.

11-05-2004, 04:00 PM
lol thanks for the advice guys, and i still have about 18 hourse before we start, so keep it coming.

And I wont be firing anyone, no choice, these are the only guys to do it. They're grade depends on it ;D

11-05-2004, 05:40 PM
Collaboration is key.

To a certain extent of course. Always keep your 'vision' in mind, but there is nothign wrong from getting another point of view. Let them speak... if you think it's not a good idea, shrug it off, but most of the time, creative suggestions come up and you might find it fitting for that specific scene and incorporate it in.

Good luck!
I remember my first time... :-X

Jim Brennan
11-05-2004, 10:35 PM
Alveraz, *
Some people (including myself) have recommended in other threads to fire people when necessary. *But as you pointed out, this is only when left with no other option. *It's not a pissing contest, but it's your project. *If you really think someone isn't going to work, you should fire them. *If you don't, it makes everyones job harder, and the final product suffers. *It's not about being a "tough guy". *Sometimes people cannot agree on where a project is going. *If someone is working on a film that I wrote, financed and produced, and refuses to do things my way (yes, yes, after we talk about it and I listen to and evaluate their input) I have an obligation to myself, the film, and the other people involved to let them go. *Keeping them gains no one anything. *Sometimes that's just the way things work out. *No one says you have to be mean about it. *Professionals understand that there will be creative differences. *Learning to take charge of a project (I mean "take charge", not be a control freak...there is a difference) is one of the most valuable skills a film maker can have.

Personally I have never read the type of advice you are alluding to on this site. *I have never seen anyone talking about being a "bad-ass" or a "tough guy" with actors.

11-06-2004, 12:14 AM
Don't forget that tape is cheap and it doesn't hurt to listen to an actor's suggestion. You can get much more out of actors when you give their ideas and contribution attention. You don't have to use their suggestions, but again, tape is cheap and if you've planned well you should have time to shoot a take or two their way. And of course you can always drop what they suggest in editing.

And always try and find the positive in an actors performance. Telling an actor she/he sucks will not win you their undying loyalty. Focusing on what was good and then working towards improving what they've given will get you their respect and they'll feel responsible to give you their best.

11-06-2004, 12:16 AM
Oh yeah, this is obvious but bears repeating. If you cast well you can probably avoid 90 percent of problems that plague shoots.

11-06-2004, 01:28 AM
take a shower and make sure your breath don't stink. Don't want to work with a director that has bad hygene. :)

11-06-2004, 11:07 AM
BLUESPIDER SPEAKS THE TRUTH! Do not stink on set. This is a bigger problem than it should be! Some people just don't shower... um, we can tell. Don't be one of them!

11-06-2004, 12:32 PM
Don't forget that tape is cheap and it doesn't hurt to listen to an actor's suggestion.
Awesome suggestion right there. Thet's how Wayne's World was shot, if you watch the documentary on the DVD, Penelope Spheeris talks about how she shot it her way, then Mike Meyers would have an idea, so they shot it, than Dana Carvey had a different approach, so the would shoot that. And it wasn't alway's Peneolpe's shots that were the best.

Food for thought.

11-06-2004, 12:59 PM
Don't forget that tape is cheap and it doesn't hurt to listen to an actor's suggestion.

It doesn't hurt sometimes listening to your actors but some actors can be a pain in the ass! Especially the cocky ass ones. Some of them stink too!

11-06-2004, 11:31 PM
My 2 centers,

When giving actors direction, don't be exacting. Be a bit broad so to give your actor breathing room to interpret some on their own. Some of the best performances come from the actor adding to the gentle molding of the director. We all collaborate with our DP's, editors, etc, so why not the talent?

Having said that, an ass is an ass, so if you can afford it, get rid of them!

11-07-2004, 10:39 PM

11-08-2004, 01:58 AM

yes indeed! Very Important. We all got to eat sometime.

11-08-2004, 08:47 AM
Moreover - we don't work as well when we don't eat, both from a physical and psychological standpoint! *So it will improve your actor's and crew's efficiency if you FEED them!

11-08-2004, 09:32 AM
So it will improve your actor's and crew's efficiency if you feel them!
I don't know how Midnight Tranquility does movies. But everyone over here keeps their hands to themselves. ;)

11-08-2004, 09:34 AM

Jeez...it's now fixed :D

Jim Brennan
11-08-2004, 09:43 AM
It all depends on what kind of movies you're making

11-08-2004, 09:57 AM

11-08-2004, 12:43 PM
No... we like to feel everyone... we feel it brings the production closer together... everyone, group hug!


11-08-2004, 02:32 PM
Low pay, no pay, deferred pay (no pay), yes at least feed them very well and don't forget craft services! A low budget ($250,000) film I worked on years ago served every dinner covered with "mystery" gravy.
Ultra low projects? Buy the food from the grocery and ask a mom, or sister or aunt or grandmother to cook.

11-09-2004, 01:39 PM
Collaboration is the key, at least the image of collaboration. Take what everyone says and listen to it constructively, then take what you need from what they give you, but feel free to carry on with how you think it should be done. If you let them tell you their ideas, they will feel much more comfortable then if you outright tell them to shut up and let you shoot your own movie.

11-09-2004, 03:12 PM
I agree with you sumosamuri, and if I may add...You as director should know the story and your interpretion of the characters very well, so that when someone else offers ideas and you disagree, you should be able to cite concrete reasons why you disagree and not pat answers such as, "It's my vision and I don't like it."

11-09-2004, 03:21 PM
Smile a lot.

People will see that.

11-10-2004, 03:55 AM
Be organized! This is what I tell me kids.

Jim Brennan
11-10-2004, 08:55 AM
sojrn makes a good point that I had not heard mentioned yet. As a writer I should have thought of it myself. I subscribe to the notion that as the author of a piece, I should be able to explain everything that a character does. (I'm not saying I should have to explain to everyone, just be able to). If I cannot say definitively why a character is doing or saying something, then I haven't done a good enough job as a writer. SO if an actor comes to me with a different take on something which I disagree with, I should be able to clearly point out what the differences are between their POV and mine. That doesn't mean I won't go with theirs, but there should be a reason, based on my understanding of the plot and the characters.

11-11-2004, 01:17 PM
Hi guys,

My first time at dvxuser,
First, take a deep breath.
Im looking for something real scare...

lets c

01-06-2005, 03:36 AM
As I understand, Director's job is BASICALLY ...not to direct the actors and personnel...in the first place. I think his main role IS to DIRECT ATTENTION.... to anything that will add to the effort of the whole team. So keep an eye on that aspect....and try to Direct Attention away from distractions and towards the main theme of your production.

a thought.

01-07-2005, 10:00 PM
Wear a baseball cap. And don't shave.

01-07-2005, 11:42 PM

01-08-2005, 10:46 AM
compromise when u must, but get your shots. Never seem to not know, look like you know but you are weighing the options and get your shots. Say, I like that, but let's do that with this and get your shots. You are the leader, father, praise giver, the calm, the rock and the one that has to get the shots. Most of all have fun, love what you do and resopect those who help you get your shots. ;)

01-08-2005, 11:35 PM
... and get the shots!

01-25-2005, 11:55 AM
FWIW, cultivate an on-set vibe that everyone must behave like a professional. Even (especially) when it's 2 am and you're a setup behind. Even when no one is being paid (if you commit to something, you don't get to de-commit on second thought when you suddenly decide that you deserve money to honor your commitments). Even when they think they can write/direct/frame better.

One way to encourage professional-grade behavior is to communicate the idea that they may not be pros now - but if they ever want to be, they will get further, faster, knowing what professional behavior is, and sticking to it.

When I work on freebie projects, I apply the same standards for my own work as I do on the big-money projects. And I expect everbody else to do the same. Or just stay home.

And sojrn is bang-on right about food...it's just unbelieveable what people will put up with, and how much effort they'll make, if you provide well for meals and snacks. The producers on this Lifetime show I did once were especially sensitive to that; the money was minimal, the resources were limited, and our stages were set up in an old soda-pop factory...but the catering and craft service were good and plentiful, the whole crew ate and socialized together, and we worked together like a family...

02-02-2005, 08:44 PM
The actors who did a good job on the set are those who love acting. I had this guy who told me: i want to be a star. First I thought ... oh well. Next on the set he was listening, he was doing what i asked for even that my english is not perfect and sometimes I was just haveing problems with telling him WHAT I want.
Other actor was VERY SURE HE IS VERY VERY GOOD. When I told him after he did good job with the scene: that was great ... he interrupted me and always was saying: yeah I know.
Next after few weeks of shooting the first actors was getting even better and better and the second one ... became a pain in the ass. He started directing on the set telling me what he thinks about the camera set up, lines etc etc ... finally ...anyway ... talk to your actors before you hire them and give them a lot of different scenes to do before you hire them. Make sure you can rely on them. Make sure they trust you and trust them. Then have fun.