Acting : Attention Actors by Ethan Frome

Ethan Frome

Attention Actors

How do you like to be directed? What do you consider "over-directing"? What helps you best get into character? What makes you trust the Director? - I'm asking as a Director. Looking for answers from anyone with acting experience, even if you don't consider yourself an "actor".

Kara Coonrod

I like verbs and specifics- they help me understand what the director needs from me. It's often difficult (and frustrating) to try and make the adjustment the director is looking for, when you're only given "Can you make this bigger/more/insert term", but without specifying exactly what needs more emphasis. Does this help?

Ethan Frome

Kara Coonrod Okay you’ve described when the director is doing too little, what do you consider “too much” from the director? What is over directing to you?

Kara Coonrod

I think what I've said above can also apply to 'over directing', in the sense of the director giving repeated unclear feedback before and after takes, rather than allowing the actor to breathe... but I haven't yet encountered a* director that has been overzealous in their direction with me. I think some of the problem may not just be the communication from the director, but also on the script analysis and/or background work done by the actor.

On the other hand, directors like Stanley Kubrick, or Hitchcock, were exacting in the execution of their vision, sometimes to the detriment of their actors' health... but their visions came together as they intended because of it. So I suppose I would say, be specific and clear when giving direction, but maybe avoid going to the lengths they did?

I do hope this was helpful, Ethan.

Matthew Cornwell

This will change actor to actor, so a good director knows how to "read the room", so to speak. Personally, I came from an Engineering background, but have been a full-time actor for almost 20 years. So you can talk to me in terms of my character's "motivation" and let me discover the performance on my own, or you can tell me to "hit that mark, look at the floor for a beat, turn 45 degrees to the left, say your first line, pause, and then your second line." I can function under either extreme.

I think as long as your style leaves room for the actor's contribution and collaboration, you'll naturally meet in the middle to find common ground. The directors that I refuse to work with again (from indie directors to Oscar-nominated directors) are the ones who were condescending, closed off, and generally not appreciative of my contributions.

Ken Moretti

Hi Ethan...great questions....and as always, it depends on whether its film or stage, young actor or veteran, young director or veteran, small effort like 48 hour film or feature film, etc.

Breaking it down to main points, as an experienced film and stage actor, I like to be directed mostly about the situation and vision the director is trying to attain overall, which should be understood long before we are on camera or set. Its all about expectations. Actors do the acting, directors do the directing. The twain don’t meet! We are both differently trained at our jobs. Even if you are working with a ex-actor director, clear border lines in each other’s craft should be defined in advance.

If the director intends to or is accustomed to working with actors on a very detailed level that should be clear to both parties at the outset so there are no surprises. That is how you avoid “Directing too much or too little” questions.

If a Director sees or senses things he would like an actor to do or not do, there is a respectful process to communicate same either on or off set with notes that usually get “duly noted” by the actor.

Lastly, as far as character study goes, actors go through a substantial set of Q+ A to understand character. I like to use Uta Hagen’s “Nine Questions” as a handy analysis tool. Hope this is not too much! Best!

Ethan Frome

Ken Moretti while you managed to contribute something to the post, and I appreciate that, I want to point something out. There’s a fair chance you didn’t intend for this statement you made - “That is how you avoid “Directing too much or too little” questions.” - to be condescending, but it is. You don’t know me or why I’m asking what I ask. There are many reasons to ask a question OTHER than not “knowing” the answer to it. Watch how you talk to people. You’re not above anyone

Thanks again for your contribution.

Ken Moretti

Hi Ethan: Thanks for your reply. Sorry if you took my remarks as condescending. Certainly unintentional. Its not easy to convey “tone” in emails or comments, and I am not that kind of person. And none of us are here to be like that. Life is too short. Have a great day.

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