3 Directing Techniques Actors Can Use to Look Brilliant

Attention filmmakers: As you are no doubt aware, much of your time as filmmakers will be occupied by your working relationship with a group of artists known as actors. Rest assured, they take their jobs very seriously. This will, however, present you with a problem because their jobs, in their minds, is to be “true to the material,” and your job, primarily, is to be “true to the camera.” In other words, they will be thinking literally, while you will be thinking cinematically. Remember, your job, as a filmmaker, is to make the audience imagine the possibilities of what could happen (which is the result of thinking cinematically) versus simply observing what is happening (which is the result of thinking literally). Don’t panic. All directors must deal with this phenomenon and all directors, eventually, devise clever techniques for quickly fooling their actors into thinking cinematically, while that actor is also, at the same time, being “true to the material.” Here are three of my own cinematic techniques for you to use as a “starter kit” of sorts.

Directing Technique #1: Before you roll camera on an actor, tell the actor that, for everything his or her character says, there are five other things his or her character could say but chooses not to say, and to play those five other things. This technique will pull the camera and the audience past the conflict of the scene to the inner conflict of the character. Now the scene will be working on more than one level, giving it more dimension. (And, this is the exact direction I gave to Danny DeVito before shooting “the breakfast cart scene” in “The Big Kahuna,” the one in which he created all of those wonderful moments with his eyes.)…

Read the rest of this gem by John Swanbeck on Backstage.com.

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  • Cecilia Laiche

    This great piece that you shared inspired me to sign up for John Swanbeck’s on-camera class which I started earlier this week. It was great. Thanks so much for continually sharing resources We Make Movies folks so we can continue to grow.

    • Awesome! Glad it was helpful.

    • Sapna Gandhi

      Very cool! Thanks for reading and so glad you found it useful!