As a director, there is no relationship more important when making a film than the relationship you have with your actors. Many directors are somewhat uncomfortable with actors. The reason for this is that they really don’t understand actors and sometimes even dislike them. This is actually a shame because most actors are like puppies… all they want is to be loved and accepted and be told they are doing a good job. Here are 3 tips that can set you up right with the actors you cast in your film.

  1. Communication is Key – Actor’s need communication on what the director wants, and they need guidance on how to get there. Actors will do almost anything to give you what you want. But you need to be clear with them, especially novice actors who are new. Most new actors think that high emotion is the key to good acting. This is film, and high emotion comes off as fake. If you are working with a new actor, make sure that they keep it very simple and real. Have them just say their lines as they would in a confessional. Keep it small and quiet.
  2. Create Trust on the Set – The job of an actor is to open up their inner, most vulnerable selves and then bring that out and put it up on the screen. Imagine that for a second. Put yourself in a place where you have to bring up very difficult emotions and then share it with 30 strangers. And then do it for 5-10-20 takes. So actors need to feel safe and somewhat looked after. It takes a certain amount of trust that is up to the director to create. If they trust you as the director, then they will give you gold in terms of their performance. They will make your film. But if they feel unsafe and distrustful of you or your crew, then the performances they give will not be honest and it will show in the final version of your film.
  3. Respect is Important – The ACTOR is what makes the movie. It is the actor’s performance that will make or break the film. And if the actors stink, then the odds are huge that your film will stink as well. Take care of your actors. If you treat them with respect and care, they will perform miracles for you. They will make you look like a genius and your film will be a great one.
  4. Rehearsals on the Set – Most actors, novices or experienced professionals need to be shown what you want. This means rehearsals. Don’t wait till you get to the set to work with them. You don’t have a lot of time to waste on a set, as time is money. Rehearse at your home, rent a studio to rehearse in, meet in a coffee shop, where ever you feel is best. Walk them thru the scene. Show them what you want and how you want it. Let them have their own interpretation, but also, don’t be afraid of giving them a line reading. And when you get to the set, walk them thru the scene, step by step. So that they will be comfortable when you call “action”. Here’s a little tip that I love to use. Without the actors knowing it, have the Cinematographer film the rehearsals. The actors don’t know they are being taped, and most times they will give a more relaxed take. Don’t count on this because sometimes it doesn’t work. But try it, you might be surprised.
  5. Patience is KEY – As the director on the film set you are king. You are the force that drives the film to its completion. It is up to you to bring the performances from the actors/actresses that you hire for your film. Don’t be power-mad. Don’t scream and throw tantrums because your actors aren’t giving you what you want. Be patient and be generous. Create a relaxed environment, one that allows your actors to create freely. If you go this extra mile, then your actors will reward you with amazing performances.

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About the writer:

John Montana is an actor living with his wife in L.A. His most recent film, “Hungry” has been accepted into 24 film festivals all internationally. Check out his short film – HUNGRY at No Title Production Films.

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