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.
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.