A New Director’s Guide: 3 Easy Steps To Directing Actors

Directing actorsIn My Humble Opinion, there is no relationship more important when making a film than the relationship you have with your actors. Many directors are somewhat uncomfortable with actors. To me, this is a shame. Because most actors are like puppies… all we want is to be loved and accepted and be told we are doing a good job. If you are a new director, you might not have much experience working with actors. Actors are sometimes strange, weird creatures. They are like a raw material that you have to shape and mold into your film and vision. Here are a couple of ideas and suggestions for you on how to work with novice performers.

Keep It Simple

Actors will do almost anything to give you what you want. But you need to be clear with them, especially novice actors who are new to a film set. Most new actors think that high emotion is the key to good acting. However, this is film, and high emotion comes off as fake. If you are working with a new actor, make sure that they keep it very simple and real. Have them just say their lines as they would in a confessional. Keep it small and quiet.

Create a Safe Set

The job of an actor is to open up their inner, most vulnerable selves and then bring that out and put it up on the screen. And then do it for 5-10-20 takes. So actors need to feel safe and somewhat looked after. It takes a certain amount of trust that is up to you to create. If they trust you as the director, then they will give you gold in terms of their performance. They will make your film. But if they feel unsafe and distrustful of you or your crew, then the performances they give will not be honest and it will show in the final version of your film.

Rehearsals on the Set

Most novice actors need to be shown what to do. This means rehearsals. Don’t wait until you get to the set to work with them. You don’t have a lot of time to waste on a set, as time is money! But rehearse at home, whereever you feel is best. Walk them through the scene. Show them what you want and how you want it. Let them have their own interpretation, but also, don’t be afraid of giving them a line reading. And when you get to the set, walk them through the scene, step by step so that they will be comfortable when you call action. Here’s a little tip that I love to use. Without the actors knowing it, have the D.P. film the rehearsals. The actors don’t know they are being taped, and most times they will give a more relaxed take. Sometimes it doesn’t work, but try it and you might be surprised.

Check out John Montana’s short film – HUNGRY.


John Montana is an actor living with his wife in L.A. and has begun to make short films. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 film festivals all over the world. Check out his short film – HUNGRY at http://notitleproductionfilms.com

One thought on “A New Director’s Guide: 3 Easy Steps To Directing Actors

  1. I think the best advice I ever got in film school about producing was to make sure everybody got fed. It’s easy to overlook the simplest things.

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