View Full Version : can an inexperienced director embarrass himself?

10-07-2005, 12:28 AM
I ask because I'm an inexperienced director. I've shot about 4 student films now, each one bigger then the last. And in the next few weeks I'll start production on my biggest thing yet, 15 min. long and with lots of dialog and... well, acting.

all of my other projects have really focused on the tech side, and I'm now really good at making pretty pictures, working the camera, and editing, but as for directing actors, I dont know where to start. I have no idea what I'm supposed to do.

Besides maybe offering some tips, what I'm curious about is how big of a deal this is. I mean, obviously this is a skill I need to aquire and hone, but on these do-it-yourself deals with other people without a lot of experience (and maybe a few with a little experience) what is the potential of me not offering anything helpful and getting my cast and crew rolling their eyes and losing all faith in me.

I just finished the Make Your Own Damn Movie! dvd set (not too educational, but worth the netflix rental) and one thing i noticed was there are a lot of people who decide to make a movie and often with no experience go out and get a cast and crew together. From the footage I saw, these directors didn't really look like future oscar winners, but everyone on set seemed to respect him and his vision.

Anyone have any comments on this?

Zak Forsman
10-07-2005, 04:04 AM
to direct actors well, you need to understand the mind of an actor. you have to learn how to speak to their language. for a beginner: enroll in an acting class, read judith weston's books. it will come with experience.

10-07-2005, 05:38 AM
The potential of not offering anything helpful and getting the cast and crew rolling their eyes and losing all faith exists at every level of filmmaking. Don't worry about it.

cygnet74 offers sound advice but what you can do right now is trust your instincts, cast well and be encouraging.

With an experienced actor often the eary takes are the freshest and the best. The problem less experienced actors often have is overacting. You can sometimes combat this by tiring them out. You don't need to offer any advice, just make them do it over and over again until thier too tired to "act". Intrestingly this technique was also employed by Kubrick with veterans who resisted his direction to overact (specifically George C. Scott in Dr. Stangelove).

Another tip. Often the best way to get an actor to do what you want is to make them believe you saw it in their performance. Like, "You know, that last take there was this moment where you did... (insert what you want them to do)... that was really effective. Why don't we try to go in that direction?"

A word of caution, don't get too bogged down in theory. For every "rule" exists countless occasions when it needs to be broken.

10-07-2005, 08:20 AM
Pick up the books by Judith Weston on directing actors.

10-07-2005, 11:25 AM
im half way through Weston's book now, and I've taken some entry level acting classes (and learned I'm not an actor)

thanks for the comments guys. I think it partly comes down to everyone having a different directing style and different strengths. I think if I stay confident and keep it moving, the shoot should go well.

any other comments?

10-07-2005, 05:05 PM
I'm a DP, not a director, but I think one of the big things is to be constructive. I've worked with stage actor's and had to work with the director to help them adapt to screen acting. Actor's are putting themselves out there (obviously, they're performance types) and sometimes need their ego's stroked a little. I think you'll find that they'll be much more responsive. "That was good, what if we try it a little more like this." Also, I think sometimes explaining certain things to them beforehand helps (preproduction or on-set before shooting). An example might be talking about taking things down a notch for the cameras, speeding things up a little, etc. Hope that helps.

Landon D. Parks
10-13-2005, 12:30 AM
Just Direct it... Everyone starts somewhere, and dont think your gonna be a pro the first time. If the people on set expect you to be a pro, tell them there working on the wrong set.

I'm sure Steven Spielberg made a fool out of his self a time or two in his early years (although he does that a lot more now then back then! ha ha ha)

Noel Evans
10-13-2005, 01:29 AM
My advice is be prepared. Make sure all your homework is done, you have taken the time to know what gets your actors hard and then shit will probably stuff up but in a minimised sense. I have found regardless of industry the guy/woman who prepared the most (as long as he/she isnt preparing cookies when he/she should be preparing cake) always looks the most professional even if problems occur.

10-14-2005, 09:32 PM
Don't let your actors get out of hand. When i first started out making short films with my friends and brother...there was always alot of screwing around and joking. This was all good and fine then, but now i want to pursue more serious stuff than the short little projects we used to do. The thing is... they are all still used to being able to act just like they always act on set.....and it makes for a massive waste of time and alot of frustration. So i guess my main advice would be, make sure........(especially if your going to be working with the same actors on more than one project)..........that you direct the film and control the set exactly how you want to from the get go. Let your actors know you are in charge from the start.

10-14-2005, 09:52 PM
im half way through Weston's book now, and I've taken some entry level acting classes (and learned I'm not an actor)

thanks for the comments guys. I think it partly comes down to everyone having a different directing style and different strengths. I think if I stay confident and keep it moving, the shoot should go well.

any other comments?

You need to have a very clear image in your head of what you are shooting, and be able to communicate that vision to everyone, clearly.

If you don't have it already shot in your mind, you're in trouble.

10-14-2005, 10:31 PM
Pookie has laid down the wisdom. I'd take it one step further -- you should have it already shot on paper, on storyboards. That's by far the most effective way to communicate your vision to others.

But absolutely yes -- if you don't have it already shot in your head, you are in big trouble.

10-14-2005, 10:44 PM
Good catch there Barry, storyboards of some kind.

10-14-2005, 11:46 PM
already done. I'm a huge believer in storyboards and my beliefe is if you dont have everything storyboarded, or at least a detailed shot list, the first day on set, your wasting everyones time (I've argued this point on these boards before, aparantly not everyone agrees)

Backlot Rebels
10-15-2005, 12:56 AM
At the very least have your coverage planned out. If you don't have it shot (and usually how it will be edited) in your head, at least know the coverage you HAVE to get to make it work in editing (usually LS, MS, CU's), and once that is done, feel free to experiment if you have time left over (dollys, jibs, handheld etc).

10-16-2005, 07:08 AM
With regard to story boards, I use a product called Lightwave 3D. This application is a full blown CG application and has been used for special effects in film and TV and has been used to make many award wining animated films.

The most active support community for this application can be found at:


The application costs $895 - Not cheap, I know but trust me. You will not find an application this powerful for this cheap anywhere else:


When I bought it the list price was about $2K. I bought my copy off of e-bay for about $400 back then and paid the $200 to upgrade it to the current version. The license is fully transferrable.

Here is an example:

http://cgi.ebay.com/NEW-Newtek-Lightwave-3D-8-3-for-WIN-MAC-SEALED_W0QQitemZ7189121491QQcategoryZ80342QQrdZ1QQ cmdZViewItem

Check out the sample art on SpinQuad. This is a phenomenal package for film makers to use for pre-visualization. It's also very very effective at adding special effects to your films.

No, I do not work for Lightwave. I just think it's a great tool and pretty damn cheap for what it does. A word of warning - The learning curve is steep!

10-16-2005, 03:21 PM
I finished shooting my latest short film a couple months ago.. I wrote and directed the film.

This was the first time I auditioned actors for the roles, so it was intimidating a bit at first, but what I found really helpful was, know your characters... really know them, what makes them do the things they do, their motivations, what they want.

if you know your characters inside and out, you can communicate this to your actors better. I had a lot of instances where I had to stand my ground on issues with the characters, why they were saying a piece of dialogue etc... but I found I always got respect for that, it not only helped me, but I think it definately helped the performances, I didn't have to do as "directing" ie: telling em what to do, I could just let them be the character, which is even better if your doing a hundred jobs as it is. You can rely on the actor to communicate your vision onscreen with less effort and more results...

I'd say one of the most important aspects of my production was the cold read of the script and the rehearsals I had.

my 2 cents.

as an aside, having a good shot list prepare is a big asset. As well, keeping things moving on set is a big bonus, I messed that up good one day of shooting but thats another story :cheesy:

10-16-2005, 06:43 PM
thanks loki, if you don't mind, could you tell me a little about your auditioning process? how did you go about that? just walked up to ppl? where did you find your actors, how did you ask them to audition, etc?

how did you go about the first table read? was that the first time the actors had met? any more info on your rehearsals?

Landon D. Parks
10-16-2005, 07:05 PM
I dont agree on the storyboard ideas... Maybe if your shooting a film with a lot of special effects and chroma work, where its helpful to know somewhat of whats gonna be there, and how to react to it. But for basic live action work, a nice, detailed shooting script and a shot list will do wonders.

I always felt that actors that had to rely on the acting of storyboard characters, rather animated or still, gives the performance a bland, stiff feeling. If the director is truly talented, he should be able to direct the performace, not rely on animted figures to direct it for him.

I'v directed several (10+) stage plays, everyone is always telling me to "Storyboard my scenes or its gonna go bad".... Well, they end up with a stiff performance because of the storyboards and I end up with a pretty good, natural acting from the actor. If you casted the right actor in the first place, you should let them act it the way they feel in real life, let your actor becomes the charactor, etc...

Auditions should be held as professional as possible... When I held auditioned for my last play, which hit the stage a month or so ago, I casted the child actors first, by going around and setting up auditions at schools. Then all the adult cast where either pre-selected from the acting database at MCCT, and the remainder of the small / background parts where cast in an open audition. We simply put an ad in the paper and posted flyers.... it worked.

10-16-2005, 07:43 PM
Not sure how acting and storyboards relate.
Storyboards are for the director and DP (and other key crew) to communicate in a clear, visual language. Even with animatics the actors don't 'act' based on the animatics. They're provided as a moving storyboard. Timings can be off a lot for animatics and certainly for normal scenes it's seldom worth doing them (action or vfx scenes become useful)
In any case storyboards are only a guide, just liek a shot list. If yo udecide on a different blocking or angle on set the ndo it.

10-16-2005, 07:51 PM
Not sure how acting and storyboards relate.

thats what i was wondering, as far as I can tell, actors never need to see storyboards. And staging isn't that important either, if an actor doe something unexpected, either its good or its bad, you can use it, or not. Storyboards basically just tell you where the camera goes, and how you'll edit it later. I think its because your prodominitley(sp?) a stage director. That of coarse would mold what you need when preparing for a project. Storyboards, I imagine, would not be one of them.

Storyboards=good ;)

10-16-2005, 08:47 PM
Well Landon says he disagrees with using storyboards, and he's quite correct.

Don't use a storyboard for a play, it serves absolutely no function in a play or stage performance.

In a film setting, use a storyboard, as Scott has explained, it's used for setting up shots, so everyone is clear on the production.

But Landon, you've got it wrong and far as this discussion is concerned.

10-16-2005, 08:55 PM
thanks loki, if you don't mind, could you tell me a little about your auditioning process? how did you go about that? just walked up to ppl? where did you find your actors, how did you ask them to audition, etc?

how did you go about the first table read? was that the first time the actors had met? any more info on your rehearsals?

For my auditions, I went to the website Mandy (http://www.mandy.com) and posted a casting breakdown.

My producer and I also posted notices around the school we attend, as well as Ryerson University (they have an acting program... ryerson is a toronto school).

Once I started receiving emails of headshots/resumes I scheduled audition times 15min apart... and gave everyone directions to the audition.

I had all the head shots of the actors coming in printed up, and several copies of the sides, because as you'll find out, some actors don't even read the sides before coming in(even though you provide them), so it is good to have some handy.

I had my producer read lines with the people auditioning, and my First AD/Casting Assistant manned the crummy little sony handycam.

I had them read there lines once without me saying anything, then I would get them to read a second time with some direction, and see how they actually took what I was saying and applied it. I made everyone read twice, even if they blew me away.

For my audition I got lucky, two of the people I asked to come audition had worked together already so I let them audition together. They were eventually the ones I chose because of how well they worked together.

I also did an 'improv' audition where I would give the actor a scene, and "direct" them through it, seeing how well they reacted and how into it they were... it was very telling of the people that were just there to "get a part" vs the people there to actually be in a film..

The most tedious process was watching all the tapes afterwards... but all in all it was a really good experience..

my cold read was great... we really tore the characters apart.. and talked about what made them tick.. why I wrote certain parts the way I did.. I would say, be careful that your actors don't completely change your characters around on you.. stick to your guns..

Rehearsal was nothing to special.. we pretty much just rehearsed the blocking of important scenes... i didn't rehearse all the scenes.. I left some to the day.. for a little bit of spontaneity..

hope that helps..

Landon D. Parks
10-17-2005, 01:41 PM
I still dont agree, sorry... I guess it comes down to some directors love storyboards and some dont, I dont. I remember working on a small CATS production a few months back where the director wanted "Storyboards" and then more "Storyboards".... Well, All went fine and the storyboard turned out very stylish, however, when he got on set, all I heard from him was "Thats not right, thats not the way it was storyboarded". so 2 takes and 6 hours later, everyone is about feed up with his "Storyboards" and want to crack them over his head.

He could have set up the scenes 20x fast had he not had the storyboards in the first place. Thats what turned me against storyboards the most, although its not all..

Stage director or not, he's already been banned from another well known forum for delusions of grandeur and bold faced lies about his work experience... (not that I have an axe to grind, I'm just saying...)
So, what does this have to do with my dislike of storyboards?

10-17-2005, 02:29 PM
Landon, you have no clue what you're talking about.


10-17-2005, 02:30 PM
why the hell would you use storyboards in the first place for a f-ing stage production... am i missing something?

Storybaords are for composition.... you must have worked with one really big dumbass..

how the hell would you story board a live stage play exactly? Storyboards are not good blocking tools... rehearsals are for that.

Landon, it sounds like you hate storyboards because you have no clue what they are used for... Why you would hate them is beyond me since they are just another useful tool in filmmaking..

pookie nailed it in his message...

Landon D. Parks
10-17-2005, 02:31 PM
Landon, you have no clue what you're talking about.


Maybe so, but I know what I seen, and I know what kind of trouble it cost the entire production. So rather I know what i'm talking about or not, I know what will work for me, and storyboards are not in that mix.

I just offered mt $0.02 on his question, that I dont like storyboards that much unless there is a real need for them. What makes me wrong and you right?

PS) I didn't use storyboards for any of my stage productions....

10-17-2005, 02:53 PM
You're involved in stage productions Landon. I've already agreed that storyboards would be pointless in those productions.
But coming from a stage background, you can't compare your experiences with using storyboards for film.
Storyboards are not for actors. They exist in a film production to help visualize the shots needed prior to shooting, establishing angles etc. They cannot be applied to a stage production, to would be the equivilent of wearing ski's to a 100 yard dash.

In the stage world, storyboards are pointless.
In the film world storyboards are required.

You need to understand, film isn't stage.

btw, you said"PS) I didn't use storyboards for any of my stage productions....", my point exactly.

10-17-2005, 06:51 PM
not to shove around landon anymore, but this other "director" he brings up, i still can't get over this guy coming in to do cats and bringing storyboards, wtf?! lol I wonder what kind of eyes he was getting.

Landon, are you implying that you know more than 1 stage director that uses storyboards? if so, wow. I would really love to see them if there was any way to post them here. :)

10-17-2005, 07:30 PM
Storyboards are vital; even if they're lousy stick-figures, they're mandatory. If someone can't tell their movie in pictures, they're going to have a very, very, very hard time making a movie.

Movies are stories told in pictures -- they are a visual medium. Now I know I'll hear lots of complaints about that, but it's just the way it is. Yes audio is a part of it, but we already have an audio medium -- it's called radio. Yes acting is a huge part of it, but we already have an actor's medium -- it's called theater. Movies are about the images, about the composition and lighting and staging and art direction and everything that goes on with those images, and then finally about what happens in those compositions. They're called "moving pictures" for a reason.

A shot list is a sort of verbal description of what a storyboard would be showing if you actually had a storyboard. And with all pictures, "a picture is worth 1,000 words". If you can describe what a scene's supposed to be in words, you should be able to infinitely better describe it in a picture. The storyboards help you "watch" your film play out, and plan for coverage and angles, and as ScottDVX100 said, you distribute the storyboards to the department heads so they know what's being shot, not just this immediate shot but also throughout the day. Combined with a shot list that references those storyboards, they can be well ahead of the game in making sure that scenes are prepped, actors are in wardrobe, props and set dressings are on hand, etc.

Making a movie without 'em could maybe be done, but I sure wouldn't want to be part of it. Even on my little 30-second commercials I'll completely board 'em out, and I can't draw at all. I can't even draw a blank, and I couldn't draw blood if you gave me a hatchet. But you gotta 'board your shots...

10-17-2005, 07:33 PM
Sounds like the stage director was trying to work out actual blocking with the storyboards which isn't the best way, especially for a play. Some stage directors make out flow plans showing where the characters are moving much like a football play. Only other thing for a stage production artwork would be basic scene/set design to work out overall concepts and layout. Important for the set designer and director but not for the actors.

10-17-2005, 10:03 PM
I actually got away without doing storyboars for my recent short film... but then again, I was the writer/director/cameraman and editor... so I was head of all the departments that needed to know about what was being shot :thumbsup:

10-18-2005, 03:57 AM
Werner Herzog never uses storyboards unless he has to for a special effects shot. He claims they're for the unimaginative. Hitchcock wouldn't leave home without them. Both are incredibly visual storytellers with great compositional skills.

I feel it comes down to the kind of pictures you want to make, how much confidence you have in your team and your ability to communicate with them as well as how much time you have. A lot of great films have been made utilizing a lot of different techniques. The fact is that the technical end is by far the easiest, and the art in filmmaking, elusive for even the best. You have to find what techniques work for you and which get in the way of your artistry. They just ain't the same for everyone.

10-18-2005, 06:45 AM
For my current film, I had all of the shots mapped out in my head. I discussed what I wanted with the DP and I thought all was good :)

Then I story boarded the film and made some animatics to show the camera moves etc. and then met with the DP again. The DP was looking at it and saying "Ahhhh ok, THAT'S what you meant for that shot.".

I think the storyboards / animatics were key merely as a communications tool. When we got on set, things were very smooth since the DP had a very clear idea about what I wanted. Everytime the DP finished a setup and had me come over to check the shot, it was spot on.

10-18-2005, 10:44 AM
I am very anti storyboard. While film making is a visual medium it is not drawn! It is filmed! If you have a vision and communicate that or simply do it, what is the point of a story board? Sure if you get some big gig directing a 50mil picture the studio is going to have them made anyway, but I wouldnt use them. Neither would a lot of big time directors. Check out Movie Makers Master Class by Laurent Tirard. It has interviews with some of the greats (Woody Allen, Almodovar, Burton, Coens, Cronenberg, Jean Pierre Jeunet, Lynch, Pollack, Scorsese, Sotone, John Woo and a few more) and you would be amazed by how many of them dont story board a thing. Some dream how its going to be, others just sit and visualize it. A lot walk onto set, walk around and then map out the scene. Thats the way i do it. I usually dream a few scenes, sit around and visualize the entire film then once I walk on set a lot of it changes, a lot of it stays the same. A few of the directors who did use storyboards said they throw them away once on set and never use them. I belive in being in the space and letting your gut guide you.

10-18-2005, 10:53 AM
You have some valid points (well, maybe...)

If you have a vision and communicate that or simply do it, what is the point of a story board?
How is the director supposed to communicate his vision to his collaborators?
With his voice? With an email? Pictures are more efficient.

10-18-2005, 02:49 PM
Yes, no one said you HAVE to story board, but the consensus is that its better for the production if you do.

Even those big directors you mentioned, just because they choose not to storyboard doesnt mean that they think storyboarding wouldn't make the process easier for all involved, its just not part of their artistic process.

They are also big enough names to do what they want, there is enough money to throw around if the shoot takes longer. If the studio knows that say, Woody Allen won't picks his shots until the first day on set, they can budget for 10 additional days (arbitrary number). 10 days that they wouldn't need if everything was boarded.

And also of the names you mentioned (Woody Allen, Almodovar, Burton, Coens, Cronenberg, Jean Pierre Jeunet, Lynch, Pollack, Scorsese, Sotone, John Woo) I know Burton, the Coens, Cronenberg, Jeunet, Lynch, Scorsese, and Woo all board their films. And as far as I know, others might also, I just can't say for sure.

10-18-2005, 03:11 PM
Well, as a final thought.

When you're planning your "big break" project, and you're looking for funding.....

Walk into a meeting with possible investors without a storyboard, and describe your film to them, with your best "just trust me look".

I hear McDonalds is hiring right around the corner.

10-18-2005, 04:44 PM
Personally, I'm getting tired of the name calling and put downs...

If someone has a different view... fine... let them have it...

10-18-2005, 04:50 PM

You've added nothing.

Landon D. Parks
10-18-2005, 09:18 PM
Name calling? Who called somebody names?

10-18-2005, 09:50 PM
Name calling? Who called somebody names?

Only Gary knows apparently, voices perhaps.

This thread is one of those where everyone has their opinion and is entitled to it threads.

We don't all agree, but that's OK.

Nothing personal Landon, these internet difference of opinion things are tough, it would be so much easier in person....:thumbsup:

10-19-2005, 04:17 AM
the consensus is that its better for the production if you do.

This is surely true. And there-in lies the value of discussions like this. Those among us who have the gut feeling that the consensus is wrong for them, can find - if not like minds - at least others who feel the same way. It can save you a lot of frustration and keep you on the path that is right for you. Nothing's worse than trying to do things that are consensually "right" and having them keep tripping you up. It's debilitating.

And Pookie makes a great point. If you're going against conventional wisdom your intrests are probably best served if you don't flaunt it in the face of potential investors. You can always throw storyboards and even a script away before you start shooting.

10-20-2005, 11:55 AM
...I've taken some entry level acting classes (and learned I'm not an actor)...

I haven't read the whole thread yet, so someone else may have given you this advice, but it never hurts to have it confirmed right? :thumbsup:

Take an acting class not to learn that you are "not an actor" and not just to see how actors work. Take an acting class and watch the teacher. He/she has to "direct" the students to get them to learn how to hone their craft. See what they do and emulate that.

As far as your experience with seeing other first time directors being treated with respect, it's as easy as this: treat you people with respect first. You're new to the game (as most of us are here) so stop thinking of this as "your" movie and learn to collaborate. Make it everyone's. Good Luck.

10-20-2005, 12:08 PM
Wow, I just read the rest of the thread and now realize my comments are not the issue anymore. Sorry. But I hope they help, Cheesesailer. This thread was to help him learn to direct actors but now it's about why Pookie is a jerk (:happy: ) and questioning Landon's credibility. Serves me right for leaving the Cafe. Yikes.:undecided

10-20-2005, 12:17 PM
While film making is a visual medium it is not drawn! It is filmed! If you have a vision and communicate that or simply do it, what is the point of a story board?
The same question could be asked about the screenplay --"a film is filmed, not written!", right? :huh: Surely you would not advocate someone to try to make a movie without a screenplay, would you?

10-20-2005, 09:14 PM
It would be interesting though... [without a screenplay].

10-20-2005, 09:16 PM
An interesting trainwreck, most likely.