There have been many a time where I have been in situations on set where it was really easy to be mad at the director. There are just certain things directors do that can make it seem they couldn’t care less about us as actors.
The thing is, it’s ok.
Every director you come across will work differently, but for the majority of ones that I’ve worked with, on student-made short films, the focus is on the camera and shot and not so much on the actor or his performance. That being said, there are some things to keep in mind.
Trust the director
The director has a specific vision that he or she is trying to make come alive. They take the script the screenwriters make and turn it into their interpretation. They work long and hard to make sure that vision becomes a reality, and it’s our job as actors to trust that the director knows what he’s doing.
This was difficult for me on the first short film set I was apart of. Everyone was still getting a feel of set life and how to make a movie, and it was a pretty unpleasant experience. The actors would be in the lights too long and breaks were few and far between. Actually thinking back, we never got a break while on that set.
During the process I was pretty upset at the director, but I also knew it wasn’t my place to say how things should be run, and so I sat there under the lights, sweating my butt off.
The thing I learned, was even if the director makes a ton of mistakes, we shouldn’t worry, but trust he wants the best for us, because he wants us to give the best performance.
All of that being said, it’s still tempting to push the director off a roof when no one is looking. But here’s another reason why you shouldn’t.
It’s just you and them
When it comes to an actor’s relationship with the crew there’s only one person you really interact with. You guessed it, the director. Well, them and occasionally the first assistant director.
I was acting on a short film about a guy who couldn’t cook to say his life. On that set I remember I was able to share exactly what I thought about my character, who he was and every intimate thing about him with the director. She also shared her vision for the character, this person who she created from the heart. We had a moment before filming where we sat down and shared what we both thought.
It was sweet.
To me, that is the beauty of the relationship between actor and director. We are both working in film to present truth and to create. They aren’t out to get us killed or hurt or make us feel bad. Most directors want to intimately create with us the story they have taken on themselves.
We are both unique artists, where the goal of the director and the actor are essentially the same. I wanted to write this blog because I know it’s easy to get angry at the director on a trying set. It’s easy to view the director negatively, especially if they don’t listen to our interpretation, but the thing is, we are here to serve.
To me, that is the beauty of the relationship between actor and director. We are both working in film to present truth and to create.
Actors are servants
It’s never easy to serve someone who asks you to do things you don’t like or things you are uncomfortable with doing. It can even be a blow to your pride if what you are suppose to do as your character can seem humiliating. But when it comes to acting, we need to learn to let go of our pride and do what the director asks of us.
The beautiful part about serving the director is that in most cases, the director and actor are able to communicate what they think is truthful for a particular scene. It’s a special relationship where both are able to give their interpretations of something.
I worked with a director while doing a short film about suicide where the communication between him and us actors was actually really intimate and sincere. We were able to see his vision for the script and we were able to show him how we had developed our characters.
The unity between actor and director can be very strong if both are willing to share their visions with each other. So don’t murder the director. Instead choose to create with him. Here’s a picture of Christopher Nolan and Michael Caine chilling just like we should do with our director.
Trust counters anger and frustration. At the end of the day, if you trust the director and the vision he has then you won’t want to murder him.
At the end of the day we are both here for the same reason. We both want to create a beautiful, truthful story. Even if it seems the director is out to get you and your little dog too, he’s not. He’s your friend. Don’t choose murder, choose friendship!