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RTA 911
Oct 15, 2023
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TOP 10 IDEAS FROM JUDITH THOMPSON: "DIRECTING ACTORS" 1. Be "process-oriented" rather than result-oriented . I know this idea is counter-intuitive, because of course the film director will be judged on the result, i.e., whether or not he or she has created a good film. But a frequently overlooked element of getting a good result is surrender to the moment-by-moment process - surrender to the subtext. In order for the thoughts and feelings of the characters to be transparent to the camera, the actors must be in the moment. In order for the dialogue to come alive, the subtext of the dialogue must be louder than the text itself. The basic process-oriented tools are: verbs, facts, imagery, physical life, and event. These process-oriented tools help directors, both in their script analysis/preparation, and in their communication with actors, to enter the emotional world of the characters, and open up the life of the story. NOTE: "RESULT DIRECTION" is the Director's attempt to shape the actor's performance by describing the RESULT they are after .... how they want it to end up looking or sounding .... this is general direction. You need specific PLAYABLE direction. 2. It's the relationship . Good actors connect to the other actor(s) in the scene; for a good actor, the scene is about the relationship of the characters, not about their own performances. Directors who understand this can confidently create scenes of dramatic conflict. Dramatic (or comedic) conflict builds from the emotional events in the scene, that is, the ways the characters affect each other that makes their relationship different at the end of a scene than it was at the beginning. Even while casting, if you think of yourself as casting relationships rather than casting performances, you will gain confidence in your work with actors. 3. Pick your battles. Everyone knows that actors and directors need to be on the "same page." But many directors think that being on the "same page" means that the actor must agree with every single idea of the director - or even that the actor should deliver every line with the exact same inflection that the director had in his head, and reproduce every facial expression that the director had in his head. Actors love it when a director has a strong vision and insightful ideas, but when a director micro-manages the actor's every gesture and reading, the actor's performance often becomes stiff. 4. Listen more than you talk. If you have a strong and confident vision of your story, you do not need to be fearful of the actors' ideas. Instead of telling the actors that their ideas are wrong, you can build on what the actors give you, to guide them to your vision without shutting them down. 5. Be flexible. In your preparation, always come up with more than one way to understand a character's dilemma, or a scene's emotional event. That way you won't panic if you get to the set and your favorite idea doesn't work. 6. Look at things from the actor's point of view. If actors feel that you understand their problems, they will have fewer complaints about your direction. In my books I try to give directors guidance into the actor's world and the actor's tools. But a wise director will learn how actors work and feel by taking an acting class yourself.
7. The questions are more important than the answers. Bringing characters to life is not a matter of connecting the emotional dots. It has to do with creating sparks and provoking engagement. During your script analysis, question all your assumptions, and let the questions lead you to deeper ideas. When talking to actors, ask them questions, to engage their imaginations, rather than giving them instructions. 8. Everything is personal. Perhaps the most effective technique for communicating your ideas is to tell a personal story that illustrates the idea. But more than that, the way to be emotional, the way to be original, even the way to be funny, is to find the way that your story and your characters are personally important to you. 9. Fall in love with your characters. When you judge or categorize a character, you are inviting stereotype and cliché. 10. Fall in love with your actors. Sometimes an actor is "difficult." Most often their complaining masks anxiety and insecurity. But even in the rare instances of willful, stubborn, or arrogant behavior, I believe that all actors want deeply to be authentic with their work. Let yourself believe and trust that everyone on the set wants above all to create something honest. When you expect the best from people, they are most likely to give you their best. 12 TIPS FOR DIRECTORS "Here are some of the ways a director needs to be prepared in order to earn the trust and respect of the actors (I'll stop at 12)." 1. Prepared, competent and organized with all technical aspects of filmmaking 2. Visual and tonal ideas that reveal the emotional core of the story 3. Has done the research 4. Able to recognize emotional truth 5. An understanding of *emotional event* that is, the emotional moments and transformations that lie under the plot, action and dialogue 6. A knowledge of *what the story is about* and by that I mean *what the story is really about* (not just the plot or logline) 7. Brings personal commitment and passion to the story 8. Flexible. Open. A good listener, and by *good listener* I mean a genuine interest in other people's ideas and needs 9. Working knowledge and insight about human behavior 10. Loves the characters 11. Loves actors 12. For every choice, a plan, a back-up plan, and a back-up for your back-up
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