It’s all fine and dandy when you have a professional actor on your set but what happens if you have amateurs or extras whom you need to fill out your scene? Supporting actors/talents and even extras add an authentic feel to your set. The office worker in the background who works on his laptop, the young lady talking on her mobile (in the background) on the street. They are all important but they often have no acting experience. So how do you give them a crash course in acting?
During a film making session, our producer will always spend about 30 minutes with all the talents and show them how to conduct themselves during filming. They’ll know what to expect to when I call ‘Action’ or ‘Cut’. If we take the time to brief them, even the most inexperienced person can turn out some good results on film.
Here are some basic but handy rules when directing your actors/talents:
1) Don’t start until I say ‘Action’
Many talents tend to get ahead of themselves especially when they are nervous and will begin their cue before the camera has time to roll. We always tell them to wait until the film director says’ Action!’
2) Never stop until I say ‘Cut’
I’ve experienced this often- talents who think they’re done with whatever they’re supposed during a take, stop and look around for instructions. We tell them to continue to doing what comes naturally until the film director says ‘Cut!’ I think it’s important we explain that maybe the film director finds he wants to film more of the scene. Maybe he thinks the lead actor is doing a fine job or maybe he wants to prolong the take for creative reasons. Whatever it is, the talent has to continue acting until they hear ‘Cut!’
3) Don’t ever look at the camera!
I think is probably the most important of the 4 rules. We want a film to look as natural as possible. Talents must never look at the camera, or the film director. Some talents will pause midway through their act and look at the camera as if for approval. Don’t!
4) This last rule is for new film makers.
You give the familiar cue: ‘Lights! Camera! Action!’ Remember to wait for it. Let the lighting crew call back along the lines of ‘Lights On!’ Camera Operators should yell back ‘Rolling’ The director calls ‘Standby!’ The clapperboard person (if available) will call out the scene eg. ‘Stalkers, scene 25, take 1!’ and slap the clapperboard. Now it’s your turn to yell the all so iconic ‘Action!’
So there you have it, some basic principles on how to direct actors and talents. Remember to be confident and well-informed. Actors (and people in general) tend to perform better when their leaders know their stuff. Taking the time to memorize your scenes and your being intimately familiar with your studio equipment is a definite advantage.
Give out compliments when they are due, work well with the rest of your team, show them respect and you may very well be on your way to becoming an accomplished Film Director. All the best!