Page 1 of 5 12345 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 44
  1. Collapse Details
    Good Directors of Actors
    #1
    Default
    What are some directors that you think are good with actors? And if you know, why are they good with actors?

    I'll start. One of the directors I admired was Martin Brest. The performances in his movies are uniformly good. Even non-actors seem natural and open (see kid at end of this clip). Despite all my efforts, I can find little information about his approach, except that he would do a lot of takes.



    I've always felt comfortable with camera angles, editing, etc. But directing actors is still a mystery to me.

    ---

    Conversely, what are some movies with really bad acting, even with actors who are normally good, and why do you think they turned out that way? One example I can think of is For Richer or Poorer (clip), which actually I haven't seen but just a few minutes of and thought, boy is that bad. What's scary is that if I ask myself, "How do you avoid making a movie like that," I'm not sure the answer. Maybe it is too stylized? Did the director push the actors to be too artificial? But then other directors seem to pull it off (heavily stylized acting), like Robert Zemeckis, in his earlier work (clip).


    Reply With Quote
     

  2. Collapse Details
    #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Posts
    2,054
    Default
    Judith Weston’s book (I think its literally called “Directing Actors”) has a lot of good insights into getting away from how I think most people would instinctively direct actors (“be more angry”, “yell louder,” etc.) which she calls “result-oriented direction”.


    Reply With Quote
     

  3. Collapse Details
    #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Posts
    371
    Default
    If there's a better director than mike leigh with actors - I don't know of them. There's a reason why, Scorsese, Coppola, Lucas, Speilberg - got a copy of Naked before it came out and all watched it together. Personally - I think a director needs to study acting in order to work with actors. Even Scorsese - who Ben Kingsley says works like this "Ben - do you want to do another take? Up to you."


    Reply With Quote
     

  4. Collapse Details
    #4
    Rockin the Boat
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Los Angeles CA
    Posts
    2,944
    Default
    Well, there are so called "actor's directors", a category of directors whose primary - or big - strength is working with actors and getting performances, so like, that's a thing. And I agree that it is hugely useful for a director to study acting, take acting classes and do some acting (even amateur). Unquestionably, given how important actors are to the final product - I'd argue actors are the #1 most important variable for a movie, with story coming in at #2. But it's not a 100% requirement for a director to "be good handling actors", like a 100% requirement to have a brain, otherwise you're dead - it's more like a kidney, you can not have one and not miss a beat.

    That said, everybody and their mother recommends "Judith Weston" - and I don't buy it for one second. If you find value in her book, great. But don't imagine that what she says is somehow gospel. Far from it. The simple truth is that there are as many ways of directing actors as there are directors. Some are going to be pretty poor at handling actors, and yet they'll make good or great movies, even masterpieces. Kubrick is one of the greatest directors ever, and he was frankly pretty poor with actors. Hitchcock was another giant, who similarly was bad with actors (even going so far as to refer to them as "cattle" and treat them as props to be placed about). And the obverse is also true - some directors who are super in-tune with actors and understanding their psychology, turn in films with uninspiring performances - excellent examples would be the many directors who are actors first who decide to try their hand at directing. So get off your high horse wrt. some book or other trying to sell itself as authoritative. There is no one golden method - there are as many ways as there are directors. A director may be good or bad with actors, and turn in any kind of movie, from masterpiece to dreck. There are no rules, there are only artists. Every rule you can think of, has been successfully broken with fantastic results - for example, the rule which these days is regarded as sacrosanct, "don't act out for an actor how they're supposed to perform/imitate you" - yet this is exactly what George Cuckor did, and he turned in many films that are regarded as great classics. Or take Fellini, who obtained masterpieces of performances from his actors - and he worked often with no sound so that he could be giving line by line instructions to the actors as they were performing!

    Let me repeat - there are no rules! An acquaintance once gifted me Judith Weston's book and I used it to put a cactus on it, before I gave it to somebody else. I have no time for prescriptive authors that are full of themselves and their solemn "rules" yet can't do basic research that on the most casual examination of the evidence - the history of cinema - would prove them utterly 100% wrong. And again - if someone extracts value for it, great, just don't try to sell me any kind of "authority", cause I'm allergic to that. There's always another way of skinning the cat.

    Take Robert Altman - a prime example of an "actor's director". He'd give actors super wide lattitude to do their thing, regardless of the script. Actors generally loved him. Generally he'd get great performances. He's a very fine director in general - but he turned in more than a few turkeys. A director's skill, connection or relationship with actors does not determine the quality of the final product - it just doesn't.

    And when you come down to it, there is one skill - instinct - ability - that is far more important for a director to have wrt. actors than the ability to communicate or handle them. That skill is in CASTING. The examples I gave of Hitchcock and Kubrick are instructive here - poor as they were with actors, they had pretty good casting instincts. If you cast your movie well, your odds of success rise astronomically. And if you work with great actors, your odds of success rise accordingly. You may not need to communicate well, or have great technique in "handling" actors, or be in-tune with their psyches, or any of that - because if you cast your actors well, and they're top pros, guess what - you will still get great performances, because the actors understand what the material demands and can give it splendidly. The result is a great success. Not that either Hitchcock or Kubrick were batting 100% casting-wise (see the atrocious casting of O'Neal and Berringer for "Barry Lyndon", which was a technical triumph and a failure in every other respect).

    A very instructive example here is Michael Mann - take a look at the film he did twice, once as a made for TV movie and once when he had the budget and pull to get top actors. I'm talking about "Heat" of course. He made it first for TV, an abbreviated version, called "L.A. Takedown", as a kind of pilot idea for a series, I believe. In any case, compare those two, it's super instructive. There are many differences of course, but try to focus on the actors - who frequently reprise the same scenes in both movies. Take for example the famous restaurant scene where the cop meets his nemesis. In L.A. Takedown, the actors are miserable. Just bad. As they are in fact throughout the move. Just rotten. And the reverse is true when Pacino and DeNiro go at it. What a difference! Same director, same general idea, many of the same scenes - yet a world of difference! The difference in outcome wasn't due to the director, since it was the same one, or the material, since it was the same one, the difference were the actors! Based on this, what can you conclude about Michael Mann as a director insofar as his skill with actors goes? Not much! Whatever he did in L.A. Takedown, still resulted in rotten performances. And whatever he did or didn't do, still gave stellar acting results in Heat. See? You cast your actors well, and the actors are good - SUCCESS! You cast them poorly, or the actors are poor - FAIL! The director has very little impact here, outside of casting. I defy anyone to get a better result out of those losers in L.A.Takedown. You could put the greatest "actors" director with those blockheads and it would still be atrocious. You can't make a silk purse out of a pig's ear. Put in top pros - who are also suited to the role (i.e. cast well, not miscast) - and boom - you get scenes that are treasured in cinema, like that restaurant scene in Heat (and NOT in L.A. Takedown!).

    The lesson here is: CAST well, and work with GOOD actors. That, right there, will determine 99% of your success in that department, and then the critics can blabber on about great performances, etc.

    But one other thing. It also depends on the material, to some degree. If your material is much more loosey-goosey free-flowing kind of stuff, where the actors are making it up as they go along, improvising and ad-libbing, like many movies in the 60's and 70's, a director who is dialled in to the actor's performance might significantly impact the end result, if he's dealing with marginal actors (if he's working with top pros, again, that will be the bigger factor).


    Reply With Quote
     

  5. Collapse Details
    #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    Northern California
    Posts
    994
    Default
    We (re)watched On The Waterfront earlier this week (Criterion BluRay from the library; still checking out some of the extras). So Elia Kazan's on my mind. One thing that's impressive about his films is how often he worked with and got great performances from actors (and non actors) making their big-screen debut. He'd been an actor, so that reportedly helped. He dealt with Method actors. He used different approaches for different films and actors. Awe heck, let's go to Google:

    Elia Kazan, an actor’s director
    https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-...b17-story.html

    Elia Kazan > Being an "actor's director"
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elia_Kazan#Being_an_"actor's_director"
    ----------
    Jim Feeley
    POV Media


    Reply With Quote
     

  6. Collapse Details
    #6
    Senior Member Batutta's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Planet 10
    Posts
    7,560
    Default
    Quote Originally Posted by OldCorpse View Post

    That said, everybody and their mother recommends "Judith Weston" - and I don't buy it for one second. If you find value in her book, great. But don't imagine that what she says is somehow gospel. Far from it.
    No one should take anything as gospel. Even the gospels! But there is a lot of value in her book and it can get you thinking more deeply about your scenes and how you relate to actors. In my experience, her approach works. I don't follow any of her "rules" as you call them. I read the book once and just follow the essence of it. It keeps me from being lazy and working on a superficial level. I got better results from my actors with it. I think especially for directors who come from a technical background, and have no experience writing or performing it can really help you look at scenes in a deeper way, past the surface emotions and at what's under the text. Instead of telling an actor to be more angry, I'll remind them of what's at stake in the scene, or find a metaphor for what's going on in the characters mind. Avoiding result oriented direction is kind of similar to the writing advice to avoid adverbs. It's not that there's something inherently wrong with adverbs. It's that it forces you to find the exact right word, which makes your writing more precise. Avoiding result oriented directing will make your communication with actors more precise. I'm sure there are directors who got great performances in the past by manipulating their actors like marionettes, but it's possible they got those results in spite of their methods. Who is to know? In the end it's impossible to just look at a movie and really know if an actor did it all by himself, or the director really helped them. I can only speak from my own experience.

    Making sure your scenes are tight, with playable objectives and physical business is the first step, and probably the most important step. Casting right is the next step. I'll disagree and say you don't necessarily need good actors, but the right actors for the part. Preferably they'd be both, but you can work with a so-so actor who is exactly right for the part and just help them relax and be themselves. When you're working on a low, no budget sometimes you got no choice. Even a non-actor can do good work if you're lucky. Writing for actors you know, and to their strengths, can help a lot. Lastly, protecting the performances in the editing room is the last step. Always choose performance over continuity, if you must.
    "Money doesn't make films...You just do it and take the initiative." - Werner Herzog


    Reply With Quote
     

  7. Collapse Details
    #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Posts
    2,054
    Default
    I like what you say and would vote for you not to be eaten first if captured by cannibals.


    Reply With Quote
     

  8. Collapse Details
    #8
    Senior Member jamedia.uk's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Birmingham UK
    Posts
    609
    Default
    Quote Originally Posted by OldCorpse View Post
    Hitchcock was another giant, who similarly was bad with actors (even going so far as to refer to them as "cattle" and treat them as props to be placed about).
    Was that really true? I am sure that somewhere I read/saw that the original "cattle" remark was misquoted but he used it and owned it as a bit of publicity and public persona he kept going in interviews etc. It was not really how he was on set. I have no direct knowledge either way other than some half remembered interviews on TV years ago. Does any one know definitively? I would be fascinated to know.


    Reply With Quote
     

  9. Collapse Details
    #9
    Senior Member Batutta's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Planet 10
    Posts
    7,560
    Default
    Quote Originally Posted by jamedia.uk View Post
    Was that really true? I am sure that somewhere I read/saw that the original "cattle" remark was misquoted but he used it and owned it as a bit of publicity and public persona he kept going in interviews etc. It was not really how he was on set. I have no direct knowledge either way other than some half remembered interviews on TV years ago. Does any one know definitively? I would be fascinated to know.
    Here's an article from one of the actresses who worked with him. She disagrees with that assessment of Hitchcock, saying he was more involved with his actors, although in a very manipulative way. He liked playing mind games and provoking performances.

    https://thefilmstage.com/features/di...ate-of-acting/
    "Money doesn't make films...You just do it and take the initiative." - Werner Herzog


    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Reply With Quote
     

  10. Collapse Details
    #10
    Rockin the Boat
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Los Angeles CA
    Posts
    2,944
    Default
    Quote Originally Posted by jamedia.uk View Post
    Was that really true? I am sure that somewhere I read/saw that the original "cattle" remark was misquoted but he used it and owned it as a bit of publicity and public persona he kept going in interviews etc. It was not really how he was on set. I have no direct knowledge either way other than some half remembered interviews on TV years ago. Does any one know definitively? I would be fascinated to know.
    Here you go:

    https://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/0...rs-are-cattle/

    Bottom line, yes, although some argue it was more meant as provocation or alternatively a provocative joke. In either case, Hitchcock was definitely not what you'd call an actor's director. And he was often very unprofessional in his treatment of women actors, see the atrocious behaviour toward Tippi Hedren (he'd never survive today's MeToo movement). He often tried manipulating actors, and most certainly bullied them, especially women actors. Hitchcock had many great qualities as a director, but when it came to actors he was very poor - although as I pointed out, he did have one gift in that department, certainly the most important gift, and that was he had good casting instincts.


    Reply With Quote
     

Page 1 of 5 12345 LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •