Acknowledgments

This book would not have been possible without the ongoing encouragement and support of family, friends, and my students, past and present. In particular I must thank Jason Cirker for his invaluable input and editing assistance and Christine Cirker for her creative cover design ideas and computer wisdom. I am indebted to my dear friend and colleague Annette Insdorf for sharing the tapes of her celebrated Reel Pieces series with me. My thanks go to Liz Woodman and Judy Henderson for allowing me...

Action Labeling Exercise

This is an exercise designed to enable the film director to identify actors' action choices as they occur on a moment-to-moment basis. Obtain a tape or DVD of a film that is small canvas, character based rather than action based, such as the 2005 Oscar-nominated Sideways or the 1934 period piece, It Happened One Night. Get together a small group and review the film in its entirety and then discuss the possible throughline and life needs of the principal characters. Select a two-character scene...

Adding The Camera

It is at this point that the camera might be introduced into the process. Although it is not always necessary in theatre casting, it can serve as a memory jog when you are down to the wire in making the final choice. Certainly in film casting it is a necessity. In addition to using the final callback to work further with the actors and help in the final selection process, you want to cut down on unfortunate surprises that only the magnifying glass of the camera might reveal. For example, at one...

Additional Attributes

One of the most important assets the director possesses is his her INTUITION. And yet how often do our insecurities make us ignore our intuition and replace an intuitive choice with a more studied and possibly less useful one Time after time, after listening to my comment about a particular choice in a scene, I hear a student say, Well, that was my first thought but then I changed it. It is understandably difficult to trust one's instincts completely when one is in the learning stage. It is...

Additional Layers

This character outline of needs and actions is what I think of as the skeletal bone structure of the character. It is just the beginning of the work an actor must do in collaboration with the director to recreate the behavior demanded by the text. It is the primary work but it must be followed by the addition of other layers such as what follows. The emotional life both in general as described in the text (he is a happy-go-lucky guy) and specifically scene by scene (she has just come from the...

Adjusting To The Camera

Take into consideration the fact that each actor might react differently to the camera, regardless of what you have discovered during the rehearsal process. The more experienced actor is rarely thrown by the presence of the camera and can usually be relied upon to deliver what you might expect. But even here there is a variable the rehearsal environment is usually a pretty private affair, where everything is designed to accommodate the actor's ability to focus. The set is peopled with an array...

Analysis Of Character

Armed with all of the necessary information, i.e., genre, overall structure, the givens, the throughline, and the position of the characters in the structure, we are now prepared to begin the process of selection of the characters' outlines. Bear in mind, however, that everything in this stage of the process is to be written in pencil, not written in stone. That which we arrive at in this phase must be tentative until we've had the opportunity to collaborate with the actor playing the character...

Audience

There is another consideration when examining the differences between theatre and film. Because we as directors are essentially communicators and it is assumed that in our work we have something to say, it is worth noting the difference in size of a potential audience. A successful film, with the possibility of worldwide distribution and its continued life on VHS and DVD, reaches an infinitely larger number of viewers than the longest running play, which even with the possibility of periodic...

Catch The Details

It is obvious that all the best work in rehearsal is of little use if the results don't appear on camera. Just as the actors form the conduit that carries your throughline, so must the camera relay all the behavioral information to the film audience. When looking at a cut of a short film by a student that has rehearsed in my class, I often find myself searching in vain for the interesting, creative moments we saw in those class rehearsals. One constantly hears actors complaining that what they...

Changing Direction

A Practical Approach to Directing Actors in Film and Theatre AMSTERDAM BOSTON HEIDELBERG LONDON NEW YORK OXFORD PARIS SAN DIEGO SAN FRANCISCO SINGAPORE SYDNEY TOKYO Focal Press is an imprint of Elsevier Acquisitions Editor Project Manager Developmental Editor Assistant Editor Marketing Manager Cover Design Elinor Actipis Dawnmarie Simpson Becky Golden-Harrell Robin Weston Christine Degon Veroulis Cate Barr Front cover image Winding road in Fall Black Hills, South Dakota Laurance B Aiuppy Taxi...

Choice Of Shot

The choice of type of shot master, wide two shot, tighter two shot, over the shoulder, chest or shoulder high shot, close-up, tracking shot, etc. can enhance the performance of the actor and help define the scene and build the arc. The nature of the material, the position and purpose of the scene in regard to the throughline, and the needs of the characters must all be considered in making the choices. I refer you again to my favorite example. Look at the first scene between the psychiatrist...

Choosing Needs

Let us, for the sake of this example, review what we discussed as possible Life Needs for these characters in a previous chapter, based on the throughline given earlier. For Biff it was to find his identity and for Happy it was to get love. Biff seems to be roiling and broiling in the scene restless, questioning, concerned with what his father thinks of him, etc. If you remember I pointed out that to free himself (from his father) might be an alternative choice for a Life Need but if we choose...

Choosing The Outline

Let us go back to our volunteer John, who hopefully by now has recovered from the trauma of acute embarrassment and possible exposure in the process of offering us a character to analyze. What might we choose as a life need for the John character Remember, we are looking for a set of words that will lie in the subtext, or psyche of the character (as well as in that of the actor recreating the character), and also remember that we are making these choices for the character. Just as we don't know...

Closeups

Recently I've noticed what seems to be a trend in the overuse of extreme close-ups in film, often at the sacrifice of both interaction and environmental influence. It seems that television with its comparatively small screen, the proliferation of all that is digital, and the growing use of video hook-ups on film sets have encouraged the tendency to use more and more close-ups. I am constantly reminding my film students to take into consideration how a close-up will appear on the much larger...

Communicating With The Actors

It is useful to develop your own shorthand or speed writing technique as you will find that at times the actors' choices of actions will be so intuitive and or reflexive that they will go by very quickly. So as not to have to interrupt the moment it is important that you be able to (1) quickly identify the action being pursued and (2) jot it down in the margin of your script next to the line or lines where it appeared. Then when you've stopped the actors, perhaps at the end of a beat, you can...

Establish Geography

Unless you are going for some special effect and want to create a puzzle for the audience or keep them guessing and or in suspense, it is important to establish the geography of a scene. The old tradition of starting with a master shot and then going in for angles and close-ups, now somewhat archaic, was based on sound logic. An involved audience needs to know something about the environment that surrounds the actors. If you don't give it to them, they will be distracted, taking their attention...

Fight And Action Scenes

With fight scenes it is also essential to be meticulously prepared with choreography. Sometimes it is necessary to break down the moves as specifically as step one, step two, etc. Here it is not only a question of mounting a believable event, it is also a potentially high-risk situation. The actors' safety must be primary and the director must be constantly aware that there is always the potential for an emotionally involved actor to cross the line and get carried away. Some actors are trained...

Foreword

I took Lenore DeKoven's acting directing class when I was a graduate student in film at New York University and continued working with her in a private workshop for another 2 years. The essence of Lenore's distinctive methods, developed over many years, can be found in the pages of this excellent, clearly written book. Taking Lenore's class is like working with a great director. And of course, directing is, in some ways, a form of teaching. A lot of directing involves intuition, which cannot be...

Graceful Rejection

One of the most challenging hurdles for the new director to overcome is learning how to reject someone gracefully and in the least hurtful fashion. Unfortunately, for people in our profession, rejection is too often the name of the game. Thus actors must learn how to cope with constant rejection for the most inane of reasons usually having nothing to do with their ability (too short, too tall, too dark, too thin, too intellectual, etc.) and inure themselves so that they can continue to function...

Making The Final Choice

Presumably after the callback, you will have whittled the list down to the final few. I have little patience with those directors who find it necessary to call actors back in time and time again because they can't make up their minds. Aside from the fact that the actors' unions may have specific rulings about this, I feel it reveals a lack of preparation and an indecisiveness on the part of the director. It sends the message that the director doesn't know what he wants and is going on a...

Matching And Chemistry

As noted, another important element to address at this point is that of matching father and son, mother and daughter, lovers, siblings, etc. Again particularly in film, matching can make your task easier. In the theatre, physical matching is not that much of a concern. The distance the proscenium provides allows for much leeway in this area, but certain physical considerations must be addressed in both cases. Actors of considerable size, either vertically or in width, might present specific...

Movement In The Scene And The Use Of Props

Assuming that both you and your actors are comfortable and reasonably secure with your choices of needs, it is now time to get the actors up on their feet. Beware of too much time spent sitting around a table. Some actors like to stall and postpone the inevitable, particularly the less secure entry-level actors with whom film students often work, and find more and more things to talk about. Now it is time to insist sweetly but firmly that they get up on their feet. Students always ask me when...

Necessary Attributes

One of the most important attributes of the successful director is PATIENCE. The desire to get what you want, to see it immediately, is like the addict's need for a drug and is equally destructive to the process. Actors work gradually, adding a layer at a time. Pushing them to deliver or show you a finished character before the preparation has been completed will most often give you a one-dimensional result that is flat and unsatisfying. It may force you into panicky tampering with the choices...

Number Of Takes

Questions always arise in regard to the number of takes an actor can sustain while still preserving the illusion of the first time which is our goal. This is a huge variable. Some actors want to keep going until they feel they've hit the truth of the shot. Others chafe at the thought of more than two or three takes. Liv Ullman once said in an interview that she believed the first take was always the best one because it was the most intuitive. As I've discussed in a previous chapter, there are...

Physical State Of Being Recall

Here is a more complex exercise using the process developed in the previous set that does involve feelings. Lie down on a bed or the floor. Relax completely (but don't fall asleep ). Try to think of a particular occasion when you experienced extreme heat. Wait until you've actually pinpointed the event before proceeding slowly, a step at a time. Try to remember where you were Outdoors Indoors What was the space Where were you in the space What were you doing Sitting Lying down Moving What were...

Preface

For years now my students and workshop members have been begging me to write a book about my approach to directing actors and its vocabulary. Give us lists, they've implored. Write us a text of the course. I've successfully resisted their pleas until now, mainly because I suspected that one couldn't get a real sense of this material from reading a book. Behavior, which is the core of our work, is so involved with the visual. You have to see it to study it. To understand my approach you have to...

Preparation And Personalization

It is important for the director to be aware of the necessity of adding these layers to the outline and making certain that what the actor does in his her homework and is bringing to the rehearsal are compatible with the original vision of the character. It is also essential that with all of these components the actor is connecting organically, not only to the outline, but to the additional layers as well. This often requires that the actor find what we call a personalization and or a...

Preparation Is Everything

The best way to ensure sufficient time with your actors on the set and a successful shoot is to be meticulously prepared. In view of the emergencies, surprises, and questions that are part of the routine hour-by-hour demands that accompany the director's work, the more problems you can anticipate and eliminate through careful and diligent homework, the better off you and your actors will be. Although collaboration is of the essence, do not wait for or trust the impulses of your actors or DP to...

Protagonist Or Antagonist

Remember, when I refer to the character outline it is in regard to the specific choices of life need and scene needs made in order to identify and plan the character's behavior for the entire length of the journey in the text and in your throughline. Taking into consideration the work described in the previous chapter, it is now necessary to examine each principal character in terms of his her position in the structure. 1. Does the character fall on the antagonist or protagonist side (The...

Reading

Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen A Challenge to the Actor by Uta Hagen Sanford Meisner on Acting by Sanford Meisner and Dennis Longwell The Technique of Acting by Stella Adler A Dream of Passion The Development of the Method by Lee Strasberg An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski Building a Character by Constantin Stanislavski Creating a Role by Constantin Stanislavski Making Movies by Sidney Lumet On Directing by Harold Clurman Arthur Miller's Collected Plays A Streetcar Named Desire by...

Reading The xS

In the event that you don't have a casting director or assistant to do the preliminary work for you, the next challenge that presents itself is the weeding and winnowing of the usually enormous pile of 8X10 photos you are sure to receive even with all this care taken to reduce the load. This necessitates learning how to read not only the picture, but, more importantly, the back of the print where the actor presents the bio. all of the vital statistics, such as height, weight, contacts, and...

Recall Exercises

An exercise that I find wonderfully stretching and fun to do is the animal exercise. This involves observing an animal domestic or wild (the latter preferably at the local zoo) in as much detail as possible for as long a period as necessary to enable oneself to recall not only motion (which involves only sense of sight), but also perhaps smell, touch, and hearing. Then try to recall as much detail as possible after leaving the animal's presence. After taking as much time as necessary to...

Rehearsing Children

The rehearsal of children presents yet another special set of circumstances with which the director must cope. There is such a difference in what one might expect from age group to age group that it is difficult to offer generalizations as to how to deal with them. However, there are certain things to note that are pretty universal. For one thing, understand that the attention span of children is considerably shorter than that of most adults. The most negative element to avoid is boredom. When...

Repetition Exercise

Take two actors and assign the same line of dialogue to each actor. The sentence should be complete and simple, i.e., I really like the snow, or Did you get here on the subway or You're wearing that suit again. Each actor will continue to say the same line, but with the action that responds to the action the other actor has just pursued. The group watching, armed with pencil and paper and making a column for each actor, will try to identify and write the instinctive action choices as the actors...

Scene Needs

What are these Scene Needs in our simplified working vocabulary Well, they are pretty much identical to those listed previously with all of the possible variations to prove one's worth, to find one's worth, to save one's worth, etc. However, there are a few others that really serve only for the immediate circumstance or scene and would be very questionable as useful for the entire life of a character, i.e., To seduce someone (or everyone) To win someone over or as an ally Going through life...

Sense Memory Exercise

I ask my students to do the following Select a very simple task that you perform routinely, choosing something that has a minimum number of steps. Concentrate on the details of the object used in the performance of the task. Observe it as though you'd never seen it before, noting as many specific details as possible. Perform the task, observing the sensory detail as you do it. Use as many senses as possible touch, smell, sight, hearing, taste. Try to see all the marks, dents, scars, colors,...

Size A Difference

There are some differences that must be taken into consideration and addressed in the course of the work. The first and most obvious of these is the question of size. We've examined the issue of size of screen in the chapter about the actor and the camera, particularly in the use of close-ups, but here I am referring to another aspect that is almost the opposite concern. It is that in theatre, the presence of a proscenium, or whatever separates the live audience from the actors, demands a...

Starting The Scene

Once having acclimated your actors to their environment and what it might contain, the big question is how to begin the scene. Where will the actors be placed and, even more importantly, what will they be doing Understand that when I refer to doing I mean the moment-to-moment psychological action verbs, not the activity (physical action). The action verb, which lies in the subtext for the actor, motivating and influencing the behavior, can often affect the activity. Remember, the activity is...

Structure

Further analysis of the script should reveal the writer's structure. As directors we are essentially storytellers using the recreation of human behavior in order to tell our tale. In the case of the play form, the structure is most often conventional. It is a one-act, two-act, or three-act form, with the more period pieces usually written in three acts and the more contemporary work using the two-act structure. However, many of the more contemporary playwrights have chosen to break that mold....

The Actor and the Camera

Since I do believe that the process of directing actors in both theatre and film is basically the same, I haven't made much of a distinction between the two disciplines. But now we come to a step in the process of making a film that includes a special demand on actors and director the translation of the work to the camera. The introduction of the camera to the process places a huge demand on the director's attention and can become a compelling distraction. There is so much detail to consider in...

The

Using Ordinary People, a small canvas domestic drama, as the prototype once again, let's reexamine the possible throughline we've suggested. The White Anglo-Saxon Protestant ethic so prevalent in upper middle class middle America, which dictates repression of feeling and the preservation of the mask of perfect conformity, will result in the destruction of the family structure. If caught in its grip one must find a way to release ones self from this constricting repression. This indicates that...

The Audition

In my opinion, no matter how limited the budgetary resources are, it is imperative that you have someone other than yourself present to read with the actors. There is no way that you can fully concentrate on the reading when you are participating yourself and are forced to look at the page rather than at the actor. By all means, supply the actor with someone who can be responsive, i.e., another actor, as opposed to a stone-faced or monotone stage manager. It might be necessary to pay for the...

The Callback

At the end of this initial process you will no doubt have narrowed the list of possibles considerably. Advancing to the next step, usually designated as the call-back, should include selecting one or two additional scenes to be read, again always informing the actor ahead of time so you can see the results of the actor's preparation. Once again, you must have someone ready to read with the actors. At this point you might consider matching actors. If you are looking at actors for the role of the...

The Camera As Actor

Try to think of the camera as an actor on the team. In a documentary the camera is usually objective, i.e., it watches the action from outside the event. It reveals fact. But in narrative film the aim is to involve the audience in the story to the point where it loses sight of the camera and enters into the story as a participant. If the audience is aware of the camera, then it knows it is watching make-believe. Directors who like to show off by choosing unexpectedly clever or daring shots that...

The Improvisation Round

The teacher or director privately assigns a complete character outline life need and scene need to each member of the group and selects a member to start the round. Actor 1 decides on the scene, i.e., environment, and finds a way to share that information with Actor 2 as he she enters the scene upon a tap from the teacher director. Actors 1 and 2, using dialogue and pursuing their needs, improvise the ensuing scene until they hear a single hand clap from the teacher director. Actor 1 finds a...

The Interview

The interview actually begins at the moment the actor steps through the door of the office or rehearsal space. I strongly advise against holding any phase of the audition in anyone's home. It is not only potentially threatening, particularly to women, it risks surrounding the project in an aura of unprofessionalism. Spring for the extra few bucks and rent a space if necessary. Watch how the actor enters What is the body doing Does the actor strut in or seem to timidly tiptoe Does the actor wait...

The Jump Ball

Using the game of basketball as a model of how to make a beginning, I like to call these first action choices the jump ball. In that game the play is begun as the referee throws the ball into the air and one designated player from each opposing team goes after it. The player that gets it or bats it toward a teammate puts the ball in play and it is then moved down the court toward the basket. If you begin the scene with this jump ball the needs are pursued from the top, just as in life, and no...

The Language A Similarity

What is certainly the same, at least in my approach, is the language of communication. Although the director's work calls for an overview of the material and an awareness of the throughline and outlines for each character as opposed to the actor who simply has to focus on his her own role, the means of communication by which the actor and director collaborate to lift the words off the page and breathe life into them can be the same. My workshops, which always include actors, directors, and yes...

The Telephone Game

Line the group up in a row or in a semicircle. The person sitting at one end will start by pursuing an action to the person on his or her right without any dialogue or sound. Instead of responding to that person, person number 2 will pursue the responding action to the person on his or her right. Person number 3 will respond to person number 2, but will pursue the responding action to person number 4. And so on down the line. The last person will pursue the responding action to the first...

The Text

In the beginning there is the word and the text is always the beginning for a director. Every choice we make, every character outline, design element, staging idea, and so on derive from the play or screenplay. So the first order of business is to examine the material thoroughly. I have always found that it takes at least three readings of a script to conduct that initial examination. The first reading should be accomplished as one would read a novel purely as entertainment and to experience...

The Throughline

This articulation in writing of the director's vision of the total work is what I call the throughline. (Again, in other books you may see this word used but in a different context. It usually describes what I call the life need of the character.) In my opinion, formation of the throughline is the most important step in the director's process. If given enough thought and attention in the beginning and shaped to express specifically the director's vision, it can be the guide for most of the...

Tips for the Director

As I write this chapter we happen to be on the verge of another spring awards season. Celebrations, such as the Oscars (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), the DGA awards (Directors Guild of America), the People's Choice Awards (Foreign Press Association), the Tonys (Broadway production), and the Obies (Off-Broadway production), which mainly have to do with the economics of our business, abound. I was startled to read an article that announced that this year 2005 the average age of...

Understanding The Training

Often the information that I consider the most informative is what appears under the heading of training. Over the years I have discovered that I have more of a rapport with some actor-training approaches than others. This kind of selectivity is completely subjective and based entirely on both my own prior experience and some understanding of what current approaches involve. I believe it is the responsibility of the director to become familiar, or at least conversant, with various contemporary...

Use Of Improvisation

My students often raise questions about the use of improvisation both in rehearsal and during actual shooting. Should one use it to help the actors find the realism of the character or the scene Should one shoot improvised scenes Shouldn't one emulate brilliant directors like John Cassevetes, who seemed to be shooting entirely improvised features (the truth is that for the most part his work was completely scripted), or, more recently, Mike Leigh, who improvised with his actors for 6 weeks or...

Viewing

Ordinary People 1980 Robert Redford, director A Streetcar Named Desire 1951 Elia Kazan, director On the Waterfront 1954 Elia Kazan, director Tootsie 1982 Sidney Pollock, director One-Eyed Jacks 1961 Marlon Brando, director Chinatown 1974 Roman Polanski, director Citizen Kane 1941 Orson Welles, director All About Eve 1950 Joseph L. Mankiewicz, director East of Eden 1955 Elia Kazan, director The Ice Storm 1997 Ang Lee, director Sense and Sensibility 1995 Ang Lee, director The Fast Runner 2001...

Writing The Throughline

There are many ways to pursue this construction of a throughline. Many of my students find that it takes a few days or a few weeks of thinking and mulling over and rewriting these all important words to get them to be concise, articulate, readily understood, and useful. Remember that you are going to share this with your team so it goes beyond what you yourself already understand. Let me suggest one way of accomplishing this task. 1. Read the script at least three times. 2. After the first...

Constructing The Throughline

When I introduce this concept of a throughline to my classes and ask my students to examine a work and tell me what throughline they might construct for it, the resulting reactions to the material are sometimes startling in their variety. For example, I often assign A Streetcar Named Desire for this exercise. (If you haven't read the play or seen the film, I urge you to do so immediately, not only for the purposes of understanding these examples, but because I firmly believe that directors must...

The Quick Collaboration Exercise

Ask for volunteers from the group for each exercise. First, you will need one writer and one director. The writer must write think up a situation, location, and two or three characters. It should be kept simple e.g., two people meet in a dentist's waiting room and discover that they are long lost relatives and able to be cast from the group. The writer is given 5 minutes for this task. The writer then tells only the director the story and together they select a cast from the group. The director...

Emotional Memory Exercise

The ability to organically reproduce an emotional state or prepare for the creation of the behavior of the character can be developed with the same type of exercise. Remember one must always start with relaxation and concentration. This is particularly crucial in this exercise because the psyche often buries feelings especially painful ones and the brain has to be as receptive as possible to get past the inhibitions and blocks that might lurk as obstacles. Try to remember a time when you...

The Method Or A Method

Bear in mind that there are many, many ways to develop the craft of the actor. Those that I've described are among the handful that I personally have found to be useful both as an actor and as a teacher of actors and directors. But there are other equally effective methods and approaches and it is up to the individual actor to find his or her own modus operandi. I generally suggest to young actors seeking advice about training that they try several different teachers and approaches and then...

Life Needs And Scene Needs

Each and every human being is motivated by a few handfuls of basic needs that seem to dictate behavior in both the immediate and the overall span of his her existence. By behavior I mean how the person functions on a moment-to-moment basis, how the person thinks, moves, talks, acts, what choices the person makes, how the person reacts to circumstances and events, relates to other individuals, etc. That which I call needs is sometimes referred to by acting teachers and in books as wants, goals,...

Actions

This brings us to the next step in our choice-making process of recreating the character. What are the moment-to-moment doings that will get us what we want in the scene that will bring us closer to achieving what we want in life These doings which I call actions, are for me the gold of the vocabulary. They enable us to specifically communicate to an actor exactly what his instincts are telling him to do in the pursuit of the needs or what we as directors would like to see him do at any given...

The Character Description

In any case, it is imperative to have a clear idea of what you want to find before you begin the casting process. All the work described in preceding chapters should help you arrive at this. Do not, under any circumstance, believe that it is best to wait until the character as you've visualized him her walks in the door of your office with the right height, the right color hair, the right look. I'm reminded of an experience I had as the casting director of the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles...

Contents

Foreword xi Preface xv Acknowledgments xvii Exercises 8 Relaxation Exercise 8 Concentration 10 Recall 11 Sense Memory Exercise 11 Recall Exercises 13 Physical State of Being Recall 14 Emotional Memory Exercise 15 The Method or a method 17 Life Needs and Scene Needs 23 The Who Am I Exercise 25 Scene Needs 27 Choosing the Outline 29 Actions 30 Hello How Are You Exercise 34 Action Verb List 39 Shorthand Communication 41 Additional Layers 44 Preparation and Personalization 45 Collaborating with the...

The Moment To Moment

Once the moment-to-moment give and take between actors has begun my advice is to let the actors find their way, making notes in your script when you see them intuitively arriving at action choices you want to see again. Remember that the actors are working in the moment and might not even remember what they did. If they come up with something you really like and you want to keep it in, you must identify it for them by saying I really liked it when you charmed her on that line about the ironing,...

The First Reading

In the audition process as in the interview, I believe it is important to watch the actor like a hawk from the moment of entry into your presence. The more you can learn about the actor's instrument, the easier the choice will be. Careful observation is the best way to educate yourself. Before or during the reading the actor may have questions about the role or about the script as a whole and I have no problem with answering them, within limits. You may find that some actors like to delay the...

Nudity And

In recent years nudity and graphic sex have become more and more prevalent in both film and theatre. In the theatre, it seemed to flourish after what was considered the innovative introduction of naked bodies on stage in shows such as Hair 1967 and Oh, Calcutta 1969 . At present, full frontal nudity extending even to the male body, as in The Full Monty, hardly creates a stir. The motion picture code that governs filmmaking once insisted that two people in bed together must each have one foot on...

Rehearsal Schedule

Some directors want to spend the whole first week, or at the very least several days, discussing the play as a whole and the specifics of the individual characters. Some like to submit to the actors a page or two of written back story for their characters so they can add the material to their homework. For myself, I prefer to use the first day or two for general discussion about script and character and address the specifics of character as we work on each scene. As in film, I like to get the...

What Do the Actors

As I have been saying repeatedly in many different ways, Listen to your actors at all times Assuming that you have done a good job on the casting process and that you've hired good actors, you will find that your actors' instincts, as well as your own, are among the best friends you've got on the project. Most actors, particularly good actors, are intelligent, sensitive, and articulate. They usually have an unerring instinct about what is right for their characters and for themselves as actors....

Relaxation Exercise

Unlike the exercises you would do in the gym to get washboard abs or tighten the thighs, these demand a specific preparation. You must be completely relaxed. And, while this sounds simple, I've found that it is extremely difficult for an individual to fully relax under most everyday stresses. Yet this is what an actor must do in what is sometimes the most trying of circumstances in the wings before an entrance on stage or on a noisy, crowded film set. And yet the ability to relax quickly and...

The Actors Vocabulary

As children we learn to speak and read, and as we grow we develop a language with which to communicate with one another and share our ideas and thoughts verbally and in various forms of writing. By the time we reach adulthood we are secure in the knowledge that we are masters of a functional language. However, I am about to undermine that security. You see, the language we've learned is based on a prose structure derived from books and filled with sentences, paragraphs, adjectives, adverbs, and...

Shorthand Communication

Often when I was a young actor, a director would ask me to do more or make it bigger. How much is more I would ask myself or how would I make it bigger without making it too big Many directors are still using these general directions in the hope of getting what they want. There follows a trial-and-error process, much time spent, until finally the director exclaims, There That's it. Often a director will say Can you do less But how much simpler and more direct it would be if one were to say...

Hello How Are You Exercise

Often an exercise, which I call Hello How Are You will help clarify this concept of actions and needs creating subtext for the dialogue. Two people are assigned the dialogue in the following fragment Hello, how are you I'm fine. How are you Not so hot. We give Actor 1 the action to welcome and Actor 2 the action to reject. At the same time we caution them to pursue the actions and let the words simply come along. We also remind them to start pursuing the action not necessarily the words...

The Marat Sade Exercise

The teacher or director of the group privately assigns each member of the group a need, thereby creating a character other than the member's persona. Members enter the playing space one at a time when pointed at by the director, pursuing the need but without any dialogue of any kind. Once in the playing space, members remain, continuing to pursue their needs as each new member is added, until the entire group is in the playing space pursuing their needs either by themselves or interacting with...

Adjustments

By the same token, when an actor who has come from an exclusively filmic background attempts to do a play, there are several new challenges There is the necessity to adjust to the fact that there is no microphone hovering an inch away to catch every nuance, that there is no ability to call cut and stop when something goes awry, that the entire script has to be memorized, and that the actor has to project the life of the character in every moment on stage, speaking or not, and for everyone in...

The Rehearsal Process

Now we come to what I consider to be the most fun part of the work, the period of rehearsal during which we can experiment, explore, discover, and collaborate. In the theatre it is usually a period of at least 4 weeks during which actors and director can, scene by scene and layer by layer, put together the components that will lift the text off the page and make it a living, breathing event. The film director too often either cannot or will not avail himself of this most important step in the...

The Casting Process

The next step is perhaps the most challenging, the most time-consuming, and often the most important part of the director's work. Mike Nichols, the great stage and film director, has been known to say that he believes it is 85 of the work. At times it can be mystifying, arduous, entertaining, bewildering, and or intensely frustrating. Because it is all these things and more, I feel that we must be as prepared as possible in terms of what we seek. The more structured we are in the way in which...

Action Verb List

Here are some of the action verbs I have found most useful. In other books on acting and directing you will perhaps see similar lists of action verbs. But those lists invariably include words that, although identified correctly as verbs, are not what I consider to be useful for the actor's process of creating a subtext. Many of them are results of pursuing several actions. The question as to whether an action verb is doable has to be measured by the ability of the actor to pursue the action...

The Table Reading

Although a reading of a play is a very different process from a reading of a screenplay, I like to begin the rehearsal process in much the same way for either form, with the entire team gathered around a table for the first reading. It is true that a screenplay is, for the most part, a prose rendering of what is designed primarily as a visual telling of the story. Particularly in heavily action-oriented films, the script relies in large part on description of physical action or stage...