What is it You Really Want? Finding Your Objectives

BY ANNETTE LANGE

If you’ve had any training in acting, you’ve come across the idea of objectives. While I’m not a master in using them effectively, I’ve improved and found principles I thought I’d share in order for you to act as believably as possible.

Laura Bond, author of TEAM For Actors: A Holistic Approach to Embodied Acting, has a section in her book on objectives which helped me immensely. If you want further explanation, check it out here.

Objective – Something aimed at or striven for

Synonyms – aim, intention, goal

People are governed by what they want. Every human being has desires and acts accordingly – they are our driving force. The same applies to our characters.

Determining the objective of a character is a bit more complicated than thinking what your character wants in a scene. It’s easy to choose ineffective and weak objectives. Below are some guidelines to help you determine effective objectives:

Where are your character’s needs rooted?

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First of all, you will need to understand your character’s basic needs and motivations.

Is your character seeking to fulfill basic physiological needs (hunger, thirst, sleep, physical comfort) or is your character desiring security (shelter, order, stability etc.)?

How about their social needs? Is your character primarily seeking love, acceptance and relationship, or is he/she really looking for ways to satisfy his/her ego (achievement, independence, prestige, recognition)?

Is your character driven to gain more knowledge or striving towards beauty? What if your character can’t be bothered by beauty, but ultimately seeks spiritual fulfilment?

Try to determine which of these needs your character is primarily seeking after, bearing in mind their needs and values might contradict your own.

E.g. “My character wants to be loved.”

Are you referring to your character in first person?

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Rather than talking about your character in third person, identify with him/her as soon as possible by talking about your character in first person. This obviously applies to your objectives as well.

E.g. Instead of saying “She wants to be loved”, embody your character, bridging the distance by saying “I want to be loved …”.

Does your objective call for your partner’s participation?

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This is straightforward. Don’t forget to involve your scene partner(s). The other character(s) is normally also the reason for conflict. If there’s no conflict, you will not captivate your audience.

What is your character’s relationship to the others in your scene? What do you want from them?

E.g. “I want him to show me he loves me.”

Are your objectives focused on what you want?

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An easy trap to fall into is focusing on what your character doesn’t want. First, understand what he/she wants before you focus on the obstacles.

Figure out the positive aspects of your character’s journey.

E.g. Instead of saying “I don’t want him to fall in love with her”, say “I want him to show he loves me.”

What is the desired outcome?

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What would be the perceived victory of the situation in the scene be for your character? What could the other character possibly do or say in order for you to feel victorious?

Make sure that you have a clear picture of what that would look like. Be specific.

E.g. Instead of defining your objective as “I want to be loved,” try “I want him to say ‘I love you’.”

Is your victory difficult to attain?

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Creating a sense of urgency in the scene will aid you as the actor immensely.

Actors normally call this ‘raising the stakes of the scene’.

We have previously talked about imagining the perfect victory for your character. Let’s take it up a notch and make sure you’re selecting a victory extremely difficult to attain.

You might set them so high, the victory will never happen. Allow for the possibility, that way it doesn’t become unrealistic.

E.g. “I want him to say ‘I love you’ before the end of our date.”

Does your objective sustain the scene?

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In other words, do your objectives motivate your character throughout the duration of the entire scene? If the victory happens in the middle of the scene, your character would have nothing left to fight for.

This goes further than the individual scene.

E.g. The previous example “I want him to say ‘I love you’ before the end of our date” only works if the scene ends when the date ends. If the above victory happens in the middle of the scene, the objective does not sustain the entire scene.

Do you have main objectives and scene objectives that carry your character through the scene/film/play? What are the general unsatisfied needs your character is wanting to fulfil, and what are the scene-specific needs in need of fulfillment?

Are your scene objectives in line with your main objectives?

Know the story.

Of course you need to have a good understanding of the story and its intention in order for you to be able to choose strong objectives. Your objectives have to be in line with the intentions of the script and your character’s given circumstances.

Practice.

If you need to practice more, watch and analyze scenes of movies and other actors that were particularly engaging and see if you can find out what the objectives of the respective characters were.

I hope these guidelines help when you’re stuck and need a little inspiration.

How to Willy Wonka Your Way to an Acting Technique

BY KEATON J. EVANS

Follow me and you will see a world of pure imagination full of creative ways to develop your acting technique into the stuff of wonders.

For me, my journey of developing my own unique acting technique was similar to the ones of the children in Gene Wilder’s, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

While I was learning about all the different techniques, Meisner, Stanislavski, Uta Hagen, to name a few, I was a bit overwhelmed by which ones to use and which ones to avoid. I didn’t have a clear picture of what to do.

Then I thought about the analogy of a kid in a candy shop. Similar to the children in the movie, I was able to choose different acting techniques like candy. And in doing so, created my own ‘collection of sweets’ comprising a pile of style.

Try all the candy you want!

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Contrary to what our parents would tell us about eating candy, in this metaphor of creating your own technique, the best thing you can do is try all the candy. From the zany sours of Meisner, to the chocolate of Stanislavski, there’s so much to choose from.

For me, it’s an easy temptation to try to find one proven method and just stick to it. I want to be able to have a technique which will get me through various acting struggles I know I will encounter.

But the thing is, one technique alone probably won’t be enough. It might take certain tips from other people and experiences to help develop your style.

It takes time

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Imagine being given the challenge to try every type of candy in the world. How long do you think it would take you? Chances are, a fairly long time.

Same goes for developing your acting technique.

When approaching your own unique style, the best thing to have is patience. It takes people years, sometimes even decades, to get comfortable with a certain style of acting.

Give yourself time to try all sorts of different ones to see which of them you like.

Create your own candy

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Just like Wonka had his own recipes and factory, make your own factory of techniques. When you’re under pressure to learn something, you’re able to come up with your own strategies.

For example, during the first few short films I was in I had to scramble to study the scripts. Under pressure I was able to find out how I study: through many scribbled notes.

I wasn’t taught this, but I used it all the same and it worked. Thing is, you don’t have to use the techniques people suggest. You have the creative freedom to come up with your own unique system.

What I have found, through wrestling with what it means to act, is there’s no one correct way, it all depends on what works best for you. You have the ability to try every approach and technique, you’re not limited to one specific one.

You may find the best thing you can do in your acting is adopt a few things from each technique and disregard other things. In this way, there’s no pressure to find a technique as quickly as possible, because again, it will take time.

There are no limits here; take as much as you want. And fortunately, unlike candy, you won’t get a toothache by taking too much. So let Wonka’s story be inspiration to your own acting journey, and step into a world of pure imagination.

How to raise Shakespeare from the dead

BY ANNETTE LANGE

Shakespeare is a name we’ve all heard of, probably several times, at least in popular movie adaptations of his work. The actor, playwright, dreamer and entrepreneur is seen as a source of inspiration and creativity – or considered boring and foreign.

 

Most couldn’t have gone through high school without reading at least Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet or Macbeth. And in high school, I think I can claim that not all of us have approached him with the best attitude and could have thought of better ways to spend our time instead of sitting in a classroom and not even attempting to understand the complicated language.

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The fact that you are reading this article is a small indication that you are either:

  • not completely opposed to the idea of reading Shakespeare,
  • you know there must be some reason for this fascination about Shakespeare
  • you recognize that as an actor, you can’t really get around it
  • Or, you are just a very nice person who decided to read my article – thank you.

 

So, how does one even tackle a Shakespearean sonnet, monologue or play without standing on stage tensely, sticking out your chest and attempting to deliver the lines, hoping not to trip over them?

 

PUT ASIDE WHAT YOU THINK IT SHOULD LOOK LIKE

 

When it comes to well-known pieces of literature like Shakespeare’s works, you are bound to have some kind of expectation of what it should look like, or what it has looked like in the past.

 

I’d encourage you: make it your own, do not try to copy any previous attempts.

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One common reason why Shakespeare is so widely celebrated, is because of his extensive, even revolutionary understanding of the human condition. He explains how humans think and feel, he discusses the human psyche – which is timeless.

 

And this is why Shakespeare is ever so relevant.

 

Don’t let any previous perceptions or adaptations of his work take away from the journey and joy of chewing over the subtext and topics his works bring up.

 

HAMLET WAS A HUMAN TOO

 

Well, not really. Hamlet is a fictional character… but going along with my previous point, don’t allow the age, setting or language of the play to prevent you from identifying with the character you are portraying. Treat them as fellow human beings full of surprises, complexities and tumultuous emotions.

 

WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, HOW

 

It makes it very hard to perform Shakespeare authentically if you haven’t put in the research yourself. Answer the usual background questions of your character, identify objectives, relationship to other characters, etc.

 

What is extremely helpful is to research when Shakespeare wrote the play, what stage of life he was in and why he would’ve written the respective play/sonnet at that particular point in time and history.

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USE THE RESOURCES AT HAND

 

“When I was your age, I had to walk all the way to the library and find all the appropriate books in order to do my research – and now you just sit in the living room and have all the information at your fingertips.” My mom somehow felt the need to mention this over and over again during my school years.

 

While she would point out the lack of resources she had, I would moan about the overload of information I was exposed to for my school projects. But, it’s true, we have access to so many resources through the internet – use them.

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If you don’t understand the context of the play or the dialogue, look up sites such as Sparknotes to find ‘translations’, plot summaries, character analysis, look at Youtube, find TED talks etc.

 

Just make sure you don’t rely only on the interpretations you find online – personalize your character, add your imagination and pizazz.

 

WHAT DID SHAKESPEARE ACTUALLY SOUND LIKE?

 

Seeing that London was already a melting pot of different people and accents in Shakespeare’s time, English had a very different pronunciation too. When performed in modern English, many jokes, rhyme schemes and content gets lost ‘in translation’.

 

David and Ben Crystal (Father and Son) have worked together in finding out what the ‘Original Pronunciation’ of Shakespeare must have sounded like.

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Here’s a video to show how this idea was developed and what the ‘OP’ sounds like.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPlpphT7n9s

 

Not only does the OP give clarification on the content of Shakespeare’s works, but it also changes the demeanor of the actor. In comparison to modern English, OP is automatically delivered at a faster pace, a lower voice and a different demeanor.

 

Now, whether or not you choose to actually perform your piece in Original Pronunciation or not, give it a go in your preparation as this might help you to understand the respective piece better…and it’s a lot of fun to try out this weird mix of Scottish, American and Pirate accents.
Fellow Actor, Dreamer and Creative – I wish you all the best in your endeavor to bring your Shakespearean character to life, make it your own through your unique understanding and implementation!

Keep It Simple- Why Fewer Shots Are Actually More

Written By Greg Garofalo.

When creating a shot list or storyboard for a film, I usually find I have a tendency to be extra careful in making sure I have every angle I could possibly need. Often times, my storyboards will consist of four to five different setups in a scene.

To me it made sense. Make sure that I have everything I need and have some back ups just in case.

What I didn’t realise at the time was how much this was actually hurting my film.

I was creating more shots than I needed out of fear. I was giving myself a safety net and a safety net is one thing you shouldn’t give yourself.

Unless you’ve struck gold and found a location that can accommodate you 24/7, I’m guessing you only a certain amount of time to get your short film made.

I’m also guessing (unless you’re paying well enough…  or at all) that your cast and crew have schedules and lives of their own.

In the world of independent film, you don’t have time to get 26 shots on your two page scene 3.

You need to find a way to efficiently bring your vision to life, without sacrificing your artistic intent.

So how do you shrink the 15 set ups you wanted to get into seven to ten?

First off, you need to trust yourself.

There’s usually a difference between how many shots we think we need as opposed to how many we actually need.

One method I used to differentiate the two was to create a “wish list” and a “must list.”

I would find every shot that was absolutely crucial in my story: how a character got from point A to point B, making sure I had all of the dialogue in my scenes and so forth.

I scheduled my shoot in a way that if I ran out of time I would theoretically still have what I needed to make a film.

I started noticing that I was planning less and less shots. Instead of creating the look of my film through a million shots I was becoming more intentional and creative with each set up and using fewer shots and more effectively getting the job done.

Think of how many shots you really need and stick to it.

Instead of four set ups, aim for two to three. The result? You’re going to end up with a much easier time both on set and in the editing room.

Of course, each film is different and you want to stick with what enhances your story the best. Know the difference between what’s important and what isn’t.

Now I know what you’re thinking:

“But Greg, what about action films? This is a good idea for comedies and dramas, but action films are supposed to have a million different angles.”

Well Steve. They don’t.

Keep in mind I’m not talking about having a high number of set ups and angles, but an excessive amount.

A common misconceptions of action films is that in order to keep the pace going you need 50,000 angles to cut back and forth from.

That’s not really true though, and that kind of thinking can really hurt your film.

My favourite example of this is Taken v John Wick.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCKhktcbfQM 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYHeaQvLEJo 

Now yes the John Wick scene is a lot longer, but notice how long it takes John Wick over a minute to get to to ten set ups. It takes Taken 6 seconds. See what I mean?

Sure John Wick has a high number of setups in that few minute scene, but notice how every shot has a purpose. There’s no rush to get to the next angle, every shot is designed to either drive the action, or hold the suspense.

Some of this is of course the film’s editing, but it was directors Chad Stahelski and David Leitch intention to avoid the million angle action film.

Now someone behind the scenes on Taken however, decided that they needed umpteen different shots of Liam Neeson climbing a fence in order to make the chase exciting. The directors of John Wick however trusted both their story and their visual style was exciting enough.

The result: A highly entertaining and visually unique action flick.

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When you force yourself out of that safety net, you become more creative and more intentional. Your audience will feel that.

Your scene might require ten shots, or it could require three. There is no magic number of shots you need to have, or cut out. Make sure you’re not adding any extra shots out of fear, or insecurity. Trust yourself, cut the safety net and make a great film.

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Continuity is Important: How to Keep it Consistent

Written by Brenden Bell.

As an independent filmmaker, continuity isn’t something you really think about as relevant or important to a film. Especially when you’ve never made one. If you’ve made one, then you know how crucial it can be.

When you’re watching a film, the filmmakers create the illusion of continuous action on a linear time line (unless you’re watching something like Memento or Arrival), and it’s the continuity department’s job on a film set to ensure this illusion is maintained.

While the film often plays out in a linear format, it’s almost never shot that way. You may shoot a scene with your character standing outside a building and walking into it a month before you film her walking through her office and to her desk.

It’s continuity’s job to make sure these scenes can be edited together continuously.

The continuity head has many official titles: continuity, script supervisor, or script girl (if this was the 1950’s). For the sake of continuity (see what I did there?), from here on out we’ll call this person the script supervisor.

This has been my role on two feature films and countless short films at this point, and I have a love hate relationship with this job. Mostly, I enjoy it because I get to be bossy and anal, which is always a great time for everyone involved.

I’ve learned quite a few things on how to do this job both from mentors and the school of hard knocks.

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1. Create Your Own Script Breakdown

 

This is CRUCIAL in maintaining continuity.  This can be a document or a spreadsheet, but it needs to be something you can quickly and easily reference that breaks down scene by scene which costume a character should be in, which props need to be on set, what makeup and effects are needed and so on.

This was especially crucial for me on my last feature film, Out of the Woods. Half of the film takes place in the woods with our lead character wearing the same basic costume the entire time. In my breakdown, I had tracked the amount of distress his costume needed to be in for each scene. Using this method I would know which version of his one costume he needed to be in for each scene.

Something else important to include in your breakdown is both the literal day and script day. Literal day is the actual date each scene is supposed to take place on, tracking the passage of time throughout the script.

Script days are only the days that will appear on screen. So Scene 1 can take place a week before scene 2, but scene 1 would be Day 1 (D1) and scene 2 would be D2. While they wouldn’t be back to back to each other in literal date in the world of the story, there is no scene on the dates between those script days.

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2. Take Pictures of Literally Everything

 

Since everything needs to stay consistent, it’s important to keep a photo log of everything: sets, props, costumes, makeup, hair, etc. This is done for several reasons:

  • There could be re-shoots down the road, and the script supervisor’s photos would be vital to reconstituting the set to exactly what it looked like. This is the same with the hair, makeup, and costumes of the actors. If it’s not consistent with what was previously shot, then the reshoots will not be able to edit into the original shots seamlessly.
  • There may be a great deal of action within a scene that requires the destruction, movement, or removal of set pieces, props, costumes, or makeup. There will not only be several takes attempted of one shot within a scene, but several shots of the same scene from different angles. All of this will require the script supervisor to know how everything was originally set in order for the scene to be reset between takes and shots.
  • If two scenes take place on the same script day and feature the same characters, generally they will be in similar wardrobe, similar makeup, and may even be carrying the same props. Photos will ensure consistency, as these will often be shot out of sequence.

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3. Take Notes About Literally Everything

The majority of your job as a script supervisor will be sitting behind a variety of monitors and watching the action. You’ll be taking notes like a madman. I tend to write down every physical choice the actors make and when they make those choices within the scene.

It’s your job during takes to be sure that the scene is playing out in the same way every time. If an actor takes a sip from their glass in a scene at a different place every shot, it will be impossible to edit that sequence together in a way that feels continuous. You’re job is to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Now before you alert your superiors to every little thing, wait till a take has been printed before you say anything. The director and actors are still finding their rhythm and how they want the scene to go. I would then use the printed take as a template for the actor’s physical choices and politely notify the nearest A.D. or your Director of any errors that could cause an edit to lack continuity.

There’s so much to say about being a script supervisor. I hope this helps in your journey as independent filmmakers toward having the best continuity in your film ever.

Don’t Be An Acting Idiot

BY CHARIS JOY JACKSON

I love acting. I love watching T.V. and movies. I love watching great actors. But I HATE watching actors – even great ones – make idiotic choices.

 

Please, for the love of God, if you’re an actor don’t be an idiot.

 

So how do you avoid being an idiot? Well here are a few things to avoid at all costs.

 

Don’t Pull a Gilmore Girl – Coffee Cups

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If you’re given an empty cup that’s supposed to be full of coffee, treat it like a full cup of coffee. I love Gilmore Girls, but this is something that seriously irritates me about the show. Every time they’re carrying a cup of supposedly full coffee, they throw it around as if it’s an empty cup, which it is, but the viewer shouldn’t feel like it’s an empty cup.

 

If it’s got a lid, ask the prop assistant to fill it with water for you. It’s an easy solve. If for some reason this is unavailable to you, then get out your mime skills (even if you don’t have any) and treat the cup right.

 

Imagine… there’s steaming liquid brimming right at the top of the cup. You don’t want that getting all over you! You’re gonna hold that cup carefully.

 

Don’t Advertise Deadpan – Line Reading

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Look, I get it, commercials have a lot of words and so using a prompter is often the easiest way to go. With that being said, man alive it bugs me to see an actor’s eyes scan the camera while they talk. All I can think is, “Oh, great, another line reading.”

 

Do your best to memorize the lines. Then you only have to pick out a key word on the prompter to know what you’re supposed to say next.

 

Make sure to add the product name as one of your key words, other than that, find what works for you. I always go for feeling words because they tell me where I should go with the sentence.

 

Don’t Be Happy As A Fool – Fake Laugh

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Oh my goodness. PLEASE. PLEASE. PLEASE don’t pull a fake laugh. For all that is good and holy, I beg of you. It’s one of the easiest things to spot. Even people who don’t have a clue about acting can tell when a person is fake laughing and it makes us all cringe.

 

Try this. Get a bunch of your friends together and sit in a circle. Then start to laugh. Even if it’s fake, let it out. I guarantee within the next minute, your entire group will be laughing for real. Store this silly and ridiculous memory and use it on set.

 

Do yourself a favor and laugh. Really laugh. If you’ve got to fake it off camera until you actually laugh, do it. I don’t care how at this point, just make it happen. Please.

 

Don’t Overreact, Treat the Kid Right – Working With Kids

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There are so many times I’ve watched a film, where the kid has done something slightly unexpected especially if they’re really little. It’s great to have in a scene, but what ruins it is when the actor doesn’t know what to do with it. They do the awkward laugh and try to look off screen to see if they should keep going.

 

Be the kind that rolls with it. Expect the unexpected with kiddos. Act natural, pull out your motherly or fatherly instincts. If you can’t find those, then go back to your high school drama geek days and improv the crummies out of the scene.

 

Don’t Hate The Cat, Hold The Cat Like A Cat Lover – Working With Animals

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I’ve said this bit for the non-cat lovers, but it goes for non-dog lovers too. For those of us who love animals, we can tell when an actor is holding an animal wrong. I think the worst part about this is that the animal knows you’re uncomfortable and so they wiggle all the more to be free.

 

If you can, approach the animal trainer on set and ask if you can get acquainted with said animal. They need to get to know you and be comfortable around you, just as much as you need to learn how to hold them.

 

When in doubt ask the animal lovers in your life how they hold their pet and then use that for the scene. I can’t tell you how much relief I have when an actor treats the animal with the love a real owner would.

 

When in doubt do your research and don’t overlook the small stuff, that’s when people notice the most!
I hope you’ve taken away some vital lessons from this piece. I look forward to watching all the things now to watch excellent actors and not idiots.

 

The Director’s Playbook

Written by Greg Garofalo.

It hurts me when film students direct their first film, fail spectacularly and decide directing isn’t for them. Now in all fairness, there are many who find a newfound passion in being director of photography, or production design and that’s great.

However, there are some who just think they don’t have the knack for it and they give up. So if you just finished your first film and you’re having an existential crisis, or if you’re just about to start your first film, take a deep breath and keep reading.

Everywhere you look for directing advice you usually find articles and books on the artistic vision you will have to have in order to direct a film.

That’s all well and good, but no one tells you that directing is more of a skill than a talent.

Don’t get me wrong, as a director you are the creative force behind a project and you need to have a vision. However, you need to be skilled and gain experience in order to get that idea off the ground. Like any other skill though, it can be learned. Here are some tips that can help you fine tune that skill.

1. BE CONFIDENT

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This one probably seems like a no brainer… or something out of a self help book, but it’s super important and can make or break your film. As the director, you are the captain of the ship and everyone is looking to you for leadership. If you know what you’re doing (or at least act like you do) it’s going to inspire a similar confidence in your cast and crew.

It isn’t as easy as it sounds.

The first film I ever directed I was a deer in the headlights. I was so nervous I was literally shaking. It was bad.. like really bad.

My second film I did was great, I had a much clearer vision of what I wanted and had a better strategy on how to bring that idea to life.

The difference in this confidence? I made sure to take a deep breath and believe in myself.

I know that sounds like a cat poster (or the lyrics to the Arthur theme song) but it’s true. During my first film I was constantly questioning the story I had written and my abilities as a director. Thoughts like “I have no idea what I’m doing”, “this isn’t working out” and “I just want to be done.” all raced through my mind.

My second film I decided to just take things one step at a time, to focus on each task one at a time, rather than look at things as a big impossible obstacle.

Taking things one step at a time and a deep breath will carry you a long way.

2. KNOWING YOUR STORY

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I can’t stress this enough. Don’t just memorise the script, but memorise the beats and the emotion of the script too. Learn to study your script like an actor would. Find the motivations, the character arcs, the foreshadowing, etc.

A great film is like a great novel; there’s always something more to dissect. Diagram your story and know every inch of emotion, theme and development.

To understand the beats and the emotion of your scripts, do some research on story itself. Start with the basics and study things like The Three Act Structure and  Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey.

This might not sound like something required for directing, but as the director you are the storyteller. Regardless if you wrote the script yourself or not you need to understand visual storytelling and what makes an objectively good story from a bad one.

3. PRACTICE AND LEARN VISUAL STORYTELLING

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A prose author focuses on the internal conflict of their characters, while a playwright will tell the story through dialogue. A screenwriter needs to rely on the visuals to drive the story.

Mad Max Fury Road is a great example of visual storytelling; look at Max and Furiosa’s fight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dB74pkelfUI (embed in article)

It’s a dense scene, packed with visual narrative, and everything is intentional.

  • Max is demanding to be cut free when the woman sees her former captors on the horizon, Max doesn’t care. Instantly the film establishes a sense of urgency and a major conflict.
  • Furiosa is not the kind of character to just sit by and let things happen; she’s going to get the situation back under her control.
  • Even the refugee women get involved in the fight. Their involvement shows not only just how desperate they are to get away, but how the women won’t be helpless damsels. They’re going to be strong characters as well.

This is all set up without a word of dialogue.

When you watch it ask questions like:

  • What does Furiosa’s amputated arm tell you about her?
  • How does the desert setting complement the story?
  • What does the costumes tell you about the characters?
  • How does the center framing of the characters affect how you view the action?

I could go on, but you could fill a book dissecting that film. Open your eyes and ask yourself as a director, how do you show a story rather than tell one?

  • Film some shorts without any dialogue and force yourself to show a completely visual narrative and then ask how dialogue can enhance that story.
  • Watch films with the sound muted and take notes on what’s happening in the story, did the filmmaker succeed in visual story or did they rely on expositional dialogue to get through to their audience.
  • Read comic books. Yup, you read that right; comic books are an inherently visual story medium, they basically read like one big storyboard

4. PLAN A STRATEGY FOR DIRECTING YOUR ACTORS

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This is a HUGE one. I’ve noticed that actor-director communication not only makes or breaks the film, but it’s also a deciding factor for many aspiring directors in whether or not they decide to continue to direct.

After all, if you don’t have the knack for talking to actors you obviously can’t direct, right?

  1. Directing actors is a learned skill, it isn’t an inherent gift. Yes, you might be good with people and all that, but none of your people skills matter if you don’t have a strategy.

A friend of mine was directing a comedy recently. When I asked him how it was going he told me that he didn’t think his actors understood that his script was supposed to be funny.

In reality, it had nothing to do with his script and everything to do with directing.

Often times, comedy will call for a bit of exaggeration in both an actor’s mannerisms and their line delivery. This is something that is directly opposite of what most screen actors are taught. A screen actor is taught to keep a scene as real as possible. Minimize your mannerisms and facial expressions, play to real life and all that jazz.

My friend never took this into account; he just expected his actors to instinctually ham up their performance. While I’m sure his actors understand this about comedy, an actor isn’t going to break a cardinal rule without the director’s direction. See what I’m getting at?

In order to successfully direct actors, you need to get in their head. Study different acting methods such as Uta Hagen, Stanislavski and more. Learn about objective based directing rather than emotions based. Are you telling your actor how to feel or are you giving them a goal to build towards?

Also, make sure you have a meeting beforehand with your talent and make sure they know the subtext of your story. Give them as much character information as you can and learn about the methods they study and adhere to.

Not only will this help your actor know the story better, but it will help you make a better game plan. You’re a coach and you need to know your players’ strengths and weaknesses in order to win the game.

5. EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED AND IMPROVE YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS

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When it comes to filmmaking, you need to know that things are going to go wrong. No exceptions…things WILL go wrong.

You’ll have difficulty with your location, your equipment might break down or overheat, your crew’s morale will drop, and airplanes will seem to only fly during a take. You name it, it’s going to happen. You need to be ready for it.

Problems with shooting is nothing new, it’s just how it goes. You need to learn to roll with the punches and work around the obstacles. Make a joke out of it; find ways to keep morale up.

Make sure craft services has plenty of snacks to pass out. Trust me food, always tastes 1000x better on a film set than in any other context.

Keeping the mood light and fun is a double edged sword. You need to make sure your crew is on track too. I worked with a director who would throw a spare water bottle out of “anger” to jolt the crew back on track and it worked.

You don’t have to copy that, but find ways to keep your set under control without running it like an oppressive dictator.

You also need to make sure your direction is clear and concise. There’s no time on set to go into a lengthy explanation on how you need something done, you just gotta get it out.

6. RELAX AND FAIL, FAIL, FAIL

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You’re not going to be Scorsese overnight. Don’t be afraid to take a chance and fail at it. Just because your first, second, or third film fall flat on their face doesn’t mean you shouldn’t direct.

If you really want to direct, do it and don’t let failure stop you. Pick yourself back up and do it again and again until you get it.