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Jan. 31st, 2006

I have received a couple of gifts recently that have been pretty amazing.

One is a book on directing, called The Film Director's Intuition. I haven't been delving into it like I really want to, because my reading time is pretty much stolen bits and pieces when I can get them, but it is dead-nuts-on one of the areas in which I am not confident as a filmmaker, and that is in communicating with actors.

To me, there are two kinds of directing. There is technical directing, which has everything to do with the mechanics: go here, hit this mark, stay in this light, move a half-step to your right. Technical directing is essential to shooting effects work, and I have no problem with that at all.
The other kind of directing is directing for performance. And that is the big scary monster in the closet.

It has a lot to do with understanding the language of actors, with thinking like an actor-- or more precisely, feeling like an actor. And to do that, you have to open yourself up to emotional vulnerability.

Oh, ouch.

In case you're playing along at home, let's recap: me and emotional vulnerability aren't exactly playing on the same team.

I love actors. I have been an actor, though not exactly world-class, but I can hold my own. And I understand about the vulnerability that becomes a necessary part of the craft if you get into it with any depth. To get the best performance, there has to be a bond of trust between the actor and the director such that the actor feels safe enough to get into the zone.

Oy. Trust. Emotional vulnerability. Is it any wonder that I'm both scared to death and eager to do it at the same time? Messed up.

The second gift is one that is more practical rather than immersive. It's a tool, a piece of software. One that is absolutely perfect for what it does. It's like building a house with a hammer and a hand saw, then somebody brings you a 14" compound miter saw and a pneumatic nail gun. The joy is nearly unbounded.

So a major-league thank you to my benefactors, wherever you are.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
alcippe
Jan. 31st, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC)
One of the main reasons I started taking acting classes was because I want to eventually direct. And I learned a LOT. But after the master scene study class a couple months ago I promised myself I would never have to act again unless I really really wanted to. Because I found it utterly traumatic. I found that I could not trust my director and would often leave class feeling completely and utterly violated. There were a couple days where I seriously couldn't stop crying and while that was good for the scene, it nearly crushed me as a person. I felt like I was losing myself. I have a lot of respect for actors now. But yeah, emotional vulnerability is a BITCH.
magicmarmot
Jan. 31st, 2006 07:24 pm (UTC)
I used to do improv. I got quite good at it actually. One of the crucial things is that you learn to trust yourself to be in the moment. And the rush of being out there with NOTHING... better than any drug. Of course, it also came with the inevitable crash. And I ended up being a junkie.

Being behind the scenes has become a much more fulfilling thing for me. I do miss acting, and there are times when I really want the catharsis of a meaty evil role, but the combination of the craft and the art really sing to me in the long term.

Not being able to trust your director... wow, I can see where that would be ripping you up inside.

There's a special for The Devil's Rejects where Rob Zombie is talking about directing, and he mentions almost in passing that the relationship between any director and actor is unique, and that he has to treat each actor individually-- there is no "formula" for dealing with the relationship.

And it struck me how similar that is to a romantic relationship.

Mind-numbing fear. Just sayin'.
alcippe
Jan. 31st, 2006 06:33 pm (UTC)
You know, I think I just might have to buy that book too ;)

Thanks for the link.
magicmarmot
Jan. 31st, 2006 07:24 pm (UTC)
It's pretty fabulous so far.
purplesquirrel
Jan. 31st, 2006 07:40 pm (UTC)
In my beginning directing class, we spent the first 4 weeks discussing communication and leadership. We barely touched on theater. My instructor's philosophy was that directors should be transformational leaders and that the process of theater should be highly collaborative. As such, one needed to know how to communicate to actors, designers, etc. constructively and effectively.
avindair
Jan. 31st, 2006 08:17 pm (UTC)
That sounds like a cool class. I should take it.

What I found strange on this last film was how my communication skills -- which have been honed by years of professional work -- just utterly failed me on set. I found I couldn't articulate the simplest request or need. It was as if my tracea would close up when I needed it most.

Now, if this was my first movie I would have called it nerves, but it wasn't. If this was my first time working with certain people I would have called it jitters, but once again that wasn't the case. Something prohibited me from communicating at my clearest during this movie, and I'm not quite sure yet what it was.

That all being said, what kind of directing credentials did your instructor have?
purplesquirrel
Jan. 31st, 2006 08:56 pm (UTC)
He had an MFA in Directing and was one of the members of 15 Head. He directed a few of their shows. I'm not sure what he did prior to his coming to the Twin Cities.

He taught in the St. Kate's / St. Thomas theater department for a couple years. Now he's over at Century College.
eldogo
Jan. 31st, 2006 09:49 pm (UTC)
That would have been a lot better than the directing class I had in college. We spent the first few weeks just arranging bits of furniture in the acting studio to create stage pictures. How to guide actors never once came up.

It was very much from the standpoint of the director as the big kahuna. I remember with horror one of the student directors staying in the black box theatre with the tech person for close to eight hours, making fine adjustments in the light cues. The changes were almost imperceptable. And he had light cues like every ten seconds, so there were tons of them.

What was so aggravating about that is that it meant I had to stay there until way past midnight to get my crack at arranging lighting cues. And the professor was supposed to be there and okay everything, but he left for home in disgust, so half the class couldn't get anything okayed until very late in the semester.

Then when it came time to critique each other's work, I got this from everyone: "You should have used the lights more."
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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