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Major Project: Working with Actors (Performance)

A major role in directing television programmes is working with actors/actresses and their performances. I have a script with many characters and heavy dialogue, so it's going to be a big challenge to direct everyone perfectly. I am used to working with a couple of actors per film, so to be faced with this challenge means plenty of research into how to direct actors is needed. I have found some do's and don't's that are key to directing success:

  • Set limited, positive goals: Say, “See if you can open the door softly this time —not, “This time don’t make such a racket with that closet.”

One trait I take pride in as director is my focus on positivity. I will always make sure my actors not only feel comfortable, but inject belief into them too, making them feel confident. On Sunday League, I have different actors who need motivating in different ways, so I will direct accordingly. Above is a key example of the language I need to use when giving a command e.g. "see if you can kick the ball higher this time"

  • Direct the actors attention to a particular kind of action: Say, Id like to see you try to figure out what he meant as you turn away. Make the suggestion specific, and locate it in a particular moment. Generalised suggestions that could apply anywhere aren’t helpful.

There are a number of scenes/shots where my actors need to nail the facial expressions to reinforce the mood. One would be when Don is talking to Dean and Ollie in the side room. Dean tells Don that his mate got jumped (very key moment in the script) therefore I'll make sure Don thinks about this and act accordingly e.g. "I'd like to see you try and think of how they feel right now"

  • Suggest a different subtext: such as, Try closing the door on him with finality rather than regret.

This is a command I use a lot when directing. If I'm not sure on the shot, then I'll suggest other ways of doing it, but still maintaining the actors confidence e.g. "try asking him in an anxious way rather than forceful"

  • Remind cast members where their character has just come from: Wind them up to each scene with a reminder: Youve just come from the stock exchange and seen your fathers savings vanish. This is vital while directing, because films are shot in small, out-of-order increments, and actors need constant orientation.

This step is vital, and one I will use throughout as our schedule means that we will not be filming in order of the script (like pretty much all productions) therefore, for example, I will be saying commands like "Right Malik (Dean), you've just woken up from the heavy night out"

  • Never demonstrate how youd like something played: This implies you are an actor and want a copy of yourself. But you are not an actor, and what you want is unique to that actor. Ask the cast for their solutions.

I must admit, I have used this technique in the past, therefore after reading this, I will refrain from using it in this production. I have a large cast therefore I need to make sure they're all happy and performing to the best of their abilities

  • Never give line readings: A line reading means the director reads the dialogue with the emotional inflection they wish the actor to provide and then tells the actor to say it like that. This is insulting for an actor and reveals a directors lack of imagination.

Again, I have used this technique in the past so it's very interesting to find out that it's insulting from an actors point of view. I'd argue that it's harmless due to knowing the script and tines inside out, however I also understand that my actors want to do it in their style and how they've pictured the character.

  • Never say, Just be yourself: This sets actors worrying: What did he really mean? How does he see me? Which me does he want? Focus your actor instead on aspects of her characters experience.

For this point, I believe that I CAN use "be yourself" to certain members of the cast, as that's one reason why I chose them. In Malik's and Jamie's case (Dean and Ollie) their natural personalities are very similar, if not identical to their characters, therefore I will be selective on this one.

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