• Directing actors: How to get top performances out of your cast

    Directing actors comes naturally to some but if you've ever struggled to get what you want out of your performers then this is the article for you.

    29th Oct 2017By Andrew Wooding

    Acting – what acting?

    There are as many forms and styles of acting as there are practitioners. The performances in Yorgos Lanthimos's The Killing of the Sacred Deer are very different to that of Blade Runner 2049. The performances in Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel are very different to those in The Party. What style of acting are you going for in your production?

    Casting

    Casting is absolutely everything when it comes to getting the performances you want on the day. Pick the wrong actors for your film and you'll be stuck struggling. You can't fit square blocks in round holes.

    Make sure you find actors who understand the material and their role within it, the type of performances you like and expect and – it might seem obvious – actors that you get along with. Pick the right cast and they'll do most of the work for you.

    Listen and communicate

    Unless you've rehearsed to within an inch of your lives – which is very rare in film – then you'll need to communicate your vision of the characters' actions to your actors clearly in the days and hours coming up to a scene, not to mention on set.

    Find out what your actors need to make that magic happen. There isn't a one size fits all way to direct. Some performers require little direction and conversation, whereas other require backstory and more. Neither are wrong or right, just different. Listen to them. Communicate.

    Take acting classes

    "Take an acting class" appears in every article about directing actors under the sun – but guess what? That's because it's important. How can you teach driving a car without ever having driven one? Or guide a chef into making the perfect apple pie without having made one?

    Well, we say go one further and try a range of different classes teaching different styles. Find the performance style for you and get inside the heads of those who can make it work in front of the camera.

    Mandy News says: Be specific in the kind of performances you want to see on the screen. Cast the right actors based on talent and ethos so you understand each other. Actors are not aliens from outer space, they're fellow human beings – talk to them and seek to understand them!

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