How To Direct Your Actors And Talents

WolFangFilm Making, HDSLR Film Making, Reviews & How To

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It’s all fine and dandy when you have a professional actor on your set but what happens if you have amateurs or extras?

Respect your actors and talents and be patient. Always appear confident and professional.

Respect your actors and talents and be patient. Always appear confident and professional.

Supporting actors, talents and extras add that much needed authentic feel to your set. The office worker in the background working on his laptop, the young lady talking on her mobile (in the background) on the street. They are all important but they often have no acting experience. So how do you give them a crash course in acting?

Supporting actors/talents, even extras add that much needed authentic feel to your set. They are all important but they often have no acting experience. So how do you give them a crash course in acting?

During a film making session, our producer will always spend about 10 minutes with all the talents and teach them how to conduct themselves during filming. They’ll know what to expect when I call ‘Action’ or ‘Cut’. If we take the time to brief them, even the most inexperienced person can turn out some good results on film.

Our producer, Pureen briefs the actors en masse before the shoot. Such briefings are important to improve actors' performance.

Our producer, Pureen briefs the actors en masse before the shoot. Such briefings are important to improve actors' performance.

Here are some basic but handy rules on how to direct your actors and talents:
1) Don’t start until I say ‘Action’

Many talents tend to get ahead of themselves especially when they are nervous and will begin their cue before the camera has time to roll. We always tell them to wait until the film director says’ Action!’

2) Never stop until I say ‘Cut’

I’ve experienced this often- talents who think they’re done with whatever they’re supposed to be doing during a scene stop and look around for instructions. If you were in the middle of a good take (scene), that talent’s confused look would ruin it. We tell them to continue doing what comes naturally until the film director says ‘Cut!’
Sometimes the director wants to prolong the take for creative reasons. Whatever it is, the talent has to continue acting until they hear ‘Cut!’

3) Don’t ever look at the camera!

I think is probably the most important of the 4 rules. We want a film to look as natural as possible. Talents must never look at the camera, or the film director. Some talents will pause midway through their act and look at the camera as if for approval. Don’t!

4) This last rule is for new film makers. The iconic cue of: ‘Standby! Lights! Camera! Action!’

As soon as the director calls for ‘Standby!’, the lighting crew reply of ‘Lights On!’. Camera Operators should call back ‘Rolling’. This feedback is crucial. It lets everyone know that this is the real deal.
The director calls ‘Standby!’ The clapperboard person (if available) will call out the scene and slap the clapperboard. Now it’s your turn to yell ‘Action!’

Knowing your gear well makes you a better film director. It helps you communicate better with your crew.

Knowing your gear well makes you a better film director. It helps you communicate better with your crew.

So there you have it, some basic principles on how to direct actors and talents. Remember to be confident and well informed.

It's often more effective to show your actors how you want them to deliver their parts. Lead by example.

It's often more effective to show your actors how you want them to deliver their parts. Lead by example.

Actors (and people in general) tend to perform better when their leaders know their stuff. Taking the time to memorize your scenes and being intimately familiar with your studio equipment is a definite advantage.

Give out compliments when they are due, work well with the rest of your team, show them respect and you may very well be on your way to becoming an accomplished Film Director.

As time goes by, you’ll gain more experience on how to direct your actors. Meanwhile, we hope you’ll find these advice useful. All the best!

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