DIRECTING ACTORS

Whether we know it or not, we are truly blessed to have the internet at our disposal. Amongst other things it acts as a superb tool to educate the world and with this in mind, I took a lot of time out to learn more about DIRECTING.

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Film Riot is such an awesome YouTube channel where the host and film-maker, Ryan Connolly, gives back to the filming community with tutorials, behind the scenes of his work and his own short films. In the video above he talks about something very important and that’s working with and directing actors.

What makes the video I’ve featured so good and so helpful is having professional actor, Todd Bruno (right), by Ryan’s side to further the educational supplement and to get a personal viewpoint from an actor. The duo discuss acting, directing actors as well as answering questions from guys like me who want to know more about this subject. Connolly and Bruno had amounted their relations from their work on Ryan’s shot film “TELL” which he wrote and directed while Bruno played the lead acting role as “Taylor”.

In a close look into filming day two of their short film, actress Bridget Kelly is interviewed  about the director she wants to work with. Information that this is relatively rare to come across and very much helpful is educating a director. One of the most important things for her is for her to “trust the director” and “they have no what they want”. This is understandable and something I felt I’ve tried to achieve for my own work. With “PRAY” I took my time with shooting to really tell my actors what I was going for for certain shots and angles and passages of dialogues so while I meditated and revised that they got to know what I was going for.

Bruno discusses similar ideas with Kelly by saying it’s important to be “close” to a director, “to become friends” with him/her and it’s helpful to get to know each other. “The more intimate, the better the product.” The film set, he notes, is a place with “high intensity”; people are running around, things need to be done quickly and to a high standard while money is being spent, and, refering to the director, an actor needs to “rely on the person in charge of everything “. This trust is there so as an actor you can “put yourself in their hands and give yourself over to them”.

Similarly Connolly discusses them from a director’s point of view. Any sense of discomfort is no good during a film production especially for an actor. I know this from working with amateur actors who aren’t confident in the craft. Them feeling not right damages their performances significantly and so it’s important their in an environment they’re happy in. Although Connolly notes that this method of directing is “my method, not the method,” he continues to say how he talks to his actors directly after cut. He’ll begin with “what the actor did right” and “lead to the bad” whilst focusing on keeping “the actor’s confidence fully intact”. This balance between criticism and keeping their confidence is a difficult one but one that needs to be done, and done right, I’ve learnt. Afterall, the director, as Connolly puts it, is supposed to be the actors’ “safety net” as someone to fall back on. As a director you need to be someone who’s approachable, a good communicator and someone who does their homework and knows what they’re doing.

What does Connolly expect from his actors? Well, in my opinion, what every director should expect on an established production.

  • They need to know their dialogue. Not knowing this slows down principle photography dramatically and gives off an unprofessional vibe on set. Not knowing the dialogue means a lack of preparation of behalf of the actor which may mean they’re not ready to fulfil their role.
  • Actors need to understand and have a grasp on their character’s “motivation”. What’s driving them in a certain scene? Why are they there doing what they’re doing? Answering these questions and adding them into a performance is vital for an actor.
  • Similar to the point above, actors must have a understanding of their character. From looking at the script, perhaps one might imagine and construct a past for their character that might create a more in-depth performance on screen.

This being said, actors have the power to evolve the character if the writer or directing likes where the path is taking their film. Connolly notes that this happened in “TELL”. Todd Bruno added something to “Taylor” that his director admired and thus was added in the script, and so the actor/director relationship is very much a collaboration.

Studying this discussion has been immensely helpful in furthering my understanding of how to work with and direct actors. Although learning on set through directing first-hand is immensely important, one must not forgot there is a whole world of directing out there to learn from, thanks to videos like this.

Below is the short film “TELL”; the film the duo are discussing in the video at the top of this blog. With Ryan Connolly putting this thing together and Todd Bruno’s acting role, this is not one to be missed.

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