Production: 4 Tips for Directing Professional Actors

Directing is one of the hardest professions that anyone could choose to make a living from. It's a difficult job because everyone is examining every decision that you make. One of the most important jobs that falls under the director is directing the actors. Here are 4 tips to help you direct your actors.

1. Cast Them Right

A famous director once said that directing actors is easy because 90% of the job is casting the right person for the role, and he was right. If you find the right actor to play a unique character who is passionate about his craft then most of your job is done. Be very thorough in your casting, and try to look at as many people as possible unless you have someone already in mind for the role. Don't settle for someone that you know is mediocre and think that you'll be able to direct them on set. Get a feel for the actor during casting and pick someone who is just as excited about the character as you are.

2. Know the Character

When Elia Kazan would start analyzing a script he was going to shoot, one of his first focuses was the character.  He focused on the characters' little habits--the minute things the characters did like twirling their hair when nervous or always keeping their hands busy. 

As a director, you need to know who the characters in your story are, and you need to maintain their individuality throughout the story. Now, your actors are the physical representations of these characters, and their performance is extremely important. In fact, the actor is making herself vulnerable to the audience by opening herself up, and you as the director need to make sure that she gives the best performance she can. You are a guide for the direction she's going with.

It's helpful to get together with an actor before the shoot and go over the character. If you both develop the character together, then you're both on the same page for the performance. This is why it's great to do rehearsals before the shooting.

3. Guide, Don't Tell

You want to guide actors in their performances and not dictate them. If they discover the magic of the scene on their own, then they are going to give you a better performance. An example of this is trying to relate the character's feelings to something you both can easily relate to, instead of going "say it like this"...

4. Give Direction in Private

Your actors are putting their pride on the line by opening themselves up in a performance. When giving them direction to make the performance better, try to say it in private instead of in front of the whole cast and crew. It might not seem like a big deal, but there is always something embarrassing about being told you're not doing your job good enough. You don't want your actors to take your critiques personally.

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