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    Directing Actors
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    I am looking for online resources for a freind, blogs/websites/studies that would be a good resource for directing actors, all the way from auditions to the location.

    This is not not for me so you dont have to write up bullet points in your post, just links will do.

    Thank you for your time in advance.
    Emre Tufekci S.O.A.http://www.productionpit.com


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    Senior Member thekeygun's Avatar
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    I'm not sure of any online resources, but this book is really helpful. I also don't think that online material is a substitute for taking an acting class yourself, or taking a directing actors class.

    Book: http://www.amazon.com/Changing-Direc.../dp/0240806646


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    While it's not available online except to buy a copy (as far as I know), Judith Weston's book with the same name as your thread title is about as good a work on the subject as I've ever read.
    Last edited by Ted Spencer; 08-21-2010 at 06:08 PM.
    "Behind the shelter in the middle of a roundabout
    A pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray
    And though she feels as if she's in a play
    She is anyway"

    From "Penny Lane" by Lennon/McCartney


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    Senior Member HuckLBerry's Avatar
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    I recommend "The Dog Whisperer"; good for actors, children, oh and dogs ;)
    Bruce Melhuish

    Director of Photography
    http://www.brucemelhuish.com



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    Dark Side of the Camera Postmaster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Spencer View Post
    .. Judith Weston's book with the same name as your thread title is about as good a work on the subject as I've ever read.
    I second that, it was a real help and eye opener for me.

    Frank
    frankglencairn.wordpress.com
    http://twitter.com/FrankGlencairn



    Real men edit their films in a hex editor.


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    thanks guys, I will forward your recommendations.
    Emre Tufekci S.O.A.http://www.productionpit.com


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    I like Directing Actors, the book, but I really have found with all of the books on directing actors, it's cute little theory that isn't all that applicable to reality. Like who has the time to sit there and give direction in that way, or go through an entire script and write for every line, "Have her say it as if she is in a hurry to pee," or something like that. It's... nice, it gets you thinking, it gets the gears rolling. But it's not like that when you're in the heat of battle. It's so much more about being able to think fast and communicate with the specific individual. Each actor is very different, and it's like re-learning how to direct for each one I find. I need to get to know the actor and how they respond and what they need to hear. Some actors need to be told every time something is good, others you just have to give occasional praise, and you can spend a lot of time figuring out how a scene should play, then your actor totally nails it and you say nothing but, "Great, that was perfect." It happens all of the time.

    I quickly got to the point where I thought it was a detriment to write down notes on how I want each line said and instead trust my instincts for what I see happening and what I want out of the scene. It's all so bang-bang anyway, you really don't have time to consult a huge director's bible on set. You need to be present in the moment and making those calls immediately, otherwise you lose the confidence of your cast and crew.

    So while the books are great, they are about exercises, about learning to think and communicate in a way that is effective to actors, but I don't recommend pretending that it translates to an actual set experience in that way. I mean, at least I haven't found that to be the case. I can sit there and micro-analyze each line of my script and figure out exactly what is behind it, but usually it's pretty darn simple to say a line properly and most actors don't mess it up. I like to lay the broad strokes first and really make sure we're on the same page about the character, his or her motivations, and basic character arc, and I feel if the actor really understands the character, their instincts and intuitions are going to be pretty good. In other words, I won't have to adjust TOO much, it will be between 70% and 90% on the money, and the rest is not done by anything fancy other than good communication in general.

    If anything, the more books on acting that I read, the more confused I get and uncertain of myself, because they all seem to say very different things, whereas when I'm on set communicating with actors I feel confident and know exactly what I'm doing most of the time. I have more to learn, of course, but I just wouldn't put too much faith in any of those books. You need to do it and interact with actors and see what works, even if that means it's just little skits in front of your camcorder, just see what happens. I always thought it'd be fun to do some no-budget nonsense exercise with a camera and some non-actors and see what I could get out of them, just to see what happens when I give certain directions, figuring they would work even better on real actors. But who knows, ultimately you're going to win or lose most battles in casting, any good director will tell you that. Cast the right people and your directing of actors isn't going to be overly difficult, it's going to be about making minor adjustments here or there and that comes more from common sense and understanding how psychology works than it does from reading a lot of books.

    Maybe that is just my experience. I'm big on reading every book I can get my hands on about the film industry too, so I really enjoyed Directing Actors, but I felt almost like trying to apply those lessons to my directing wasn't very helpful. It was always a lot simpler than the book made it out to be. I had all of these thoughts prepared, and then an actor would nail the scene, and I'd be like, "Yeah, so.. that was great, just like that." Any time there was a problem, nothing in that book came to mind, it was more like knowing my story inside and out and knowing the characters so well that helped me communicate with the actors. It was familiarity with the subject matter and being the ultimate authority on it, which is what the director should be. I'm not sure it needs to be made any more complicated than that. Anyone who is directing shouldn't be so idiotic or lacking in IQ that they'd give direction like, "Be angry" or "Be sad," those are obviously stupid directions.


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    Quote Originally Posted by JonathanLB View Post
    Anyone who is directing shouldn't be so idiotic or lacking in IQ that they'd give direction like, "Be angry" or "Be sad," those are obviously stupid directions.
    I agree, but I've been involved with this in many ways for many, many years now, and there are a LOT of film directors and/or producers of recorded voice acting performances (the latter comprising the bulk of my experience in this area), who absolutely will say "be angrier" or the like. I mean a LOT - like the majority, and I'm not talking small-timers here. I'm talking NYC, highly paid professionals, etc. In my experience it's the exception, not the rule, to encounter directors who are clued-in enough to know how to do what Ms. Weston suggests (indirectly *leading* the actor to the best, most internalized, most naturally responsive performance, rather than directly *telling* them how to do it, i.e "result-oriented" directing).

    Regarding the 'copious advance script notes' aspect of Ms. Weston's advice, I agree that it's a bit much when taken at face value. I think notes are a good idea, particularly if there's something ambiguous about the dialog or action, but only in proper measure. As you suggest, there's a lot to be said for (at least initially) allowing the actors to have their way with the material. You never know when an actor will shade a line/moment/scene/character in an unexpectedly better way than you imagined it. It'd be a shame to 'pre-direct' them out of that...

    My main take-away from JW's book was an extension of what I already knew (and practiced) but hadn't articulated quite as well as she did - the notion of avoiding result-oriented direction in order to allow the actor's own internalization of the line/scene/process to more fully take life. Her take on this helped me solidify it, as well as attaching specific language and techniques to the approach. Paradoxically, I think her advocacy of copious advance script notes, while by no means useless, could nonetheless quite easily work against it...
    Last edited by Ted Spencer; 08-22-2010 at 12:17 PM.
    "Behind the shelter in the middle of a roundabout
    A pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray
    And though she feels as if she's in a play
    She is anyway"

    From "Penny Lane" by Lennon/McCartney


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    Really? Wow, that's amazing to me. That should be absolutely the most basic thing, don't give results-based direction.

    I think basically it's really good to do homework before you direct on each scene, you know, figure out what you want out of it, what is at stake, what the characters are discussing, etc. But I wouldn't go line by line on it, I'd only do that if it was a line that may be ambiguous or that really needs to be said a certain way, etc. Otherwise I'd just use my instincts on set. It's good to be prepared, but I think if you try to overprepare you will actually lose confidence and start freaking out and wondering if you're going to pull it off ok. It's better to relax and realize, hey, it's not rocket science, it's just commanding a group of people basically, it's like being a general, so it's about communication and vision.


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    The two books are somewhat contradictory, but I really enjoyed "On Directing Film" by David Mamet, and "Making Movies" by Sidney Lumet.

    If I could only pick one, Making Movies is pretty fantastic.

    As a quick summary, "On Directing Film" is sort of the antithesis of Directing Actors. David Mamet makes a case that people are over complicating things, and that really it's all about juxtaposition of simple carefully selected shots to further the story. Definitely a somewhat radical and minimalist view, but I'm at least glad I was exposed to it.

    "Making Movies" is the culmination of Sidney Lumet's decades of film directing experience. Each chapter addresses one aspect of filmmaking. Cinematography, editing, working with actors, production design, etc. It's a fascinating read, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in filmmaking.


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