Indie Film Making – Directing Actors and Talent

Actors and Talent

Let’s face it – unless you’ve got some kind of budget to work with, you’re not going to go out and look for professional actors to star in your next film. You’ll be grabbing your buddies and telling them how to behave on camera, with promises of the fame and fortune that will most certainly be theirs if they agree to appear in your movie.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter whether you’re working with Samuel L. Jackson or your next door neighbor Sam; your job as director is to lead, provoke, and inspire your talent.

Working With Acting Newbies

People who aren’t used to being on camera have a difficult time pretending it isn’t there and it isn’t pointed right at them, but that’s exactly what you have to get them to do if you want to bring out a believable performance in an inexperienced actor.

It’s true that the classic line, “what’s my motivation?” is often used satirically. Isn’t that what you should be offering to the people in front of your camera, though? You owe it to them to explain who their character is, what they’re like, where they come from and why they do what they do, regardless of whether your genre is comedy, drama, action or anything else.

Comfort Is Key

The typical reaction of a person who is put in a situation where they feel uncomfortable is to do something that breaks the tension they feel. Some people can’t stop smiling, or laugh uncontrollably and get red in the face. Others goof off and turn everything into a joke so nothing gets done.

How can you, as a director, turn this behavior around into a productive filming session? Well, if you know it stems from discomfort, that means you need to do everything within your power to make them feel comfortable.

Tell them to relax, stretch, take a deep breath. Jump up and down a few times, shake it off. Keep the camera pointed at them regardless of whether it’s on or off. In fact, say you’re going to do a practice run-through of the scene or shot, but actually record it.

Tips For Success

Word to the wise, here: if you have one of those camcorders with a red light on the front that tells people when you’re recording, find a piece of duct tape, electrical tape, or just sharpie over some masking tape. Stick a piece of your completely opaque tape over that light so it never sees the light of day again.

You know how to use a camera, don’t you? Right, so there’s no reason for that light to exist except to tell people on the other side of your camera when it is or isn’t recording. No one needs to know!

Make That Footage Count

Even if you don’t have world-class actors working for you, and you grab the seven-year-old kid from down the street to play the page boy in your medieval film on knightly valor and conquest, you can do a lot to improve the performance of your on-screen talent.

I’m not going to start with the believe in yourself crap here, because that’s not what I’m trying to say. Well not really. Don’t be afraid to tell an actor what you want out of them. Cut film for a minute and take them aside, or take a moment out to explain a line of dialogue or an action. Show them by acting it out yourself, if it helps.

The bottom line is that people who are on camera for fun need coaxing, guidance and direction. It’s helpful for them to be goaded into the embodiment of their character, so don’t be afraid to get vocal, to be assertive, and to give them every possible chance to bring their acting to a level that’s satisfactory and meets the level you want.

For more on improving your filming and editing including tips, articles, and informational videos, please continue on to Indie Filmmaking

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