Directing isn’t always easy, and having a few strategies in hand can be helpful in difficult situations. Here are a few tips to get you going:

1)      Always Move Your Story Forward

Most Out of Your Scripts and ActorsEvery scene in a movie should be building up and moving towards the finale. Blocking refers to the movement and positioning of actors on stage. Make sure your actors are moving in such a way that the story stays dynamic and interesting.

2)      Strong Characters Make For A Strong Play

Characters that only “kind of want” something are less interesting than passionate characters willing to take a stand. Make sure your story includes conflict and competition in order to keep your audience engaged. The characters in conflict must really want what they’re aiming for and not be pushovers.

3)      Find the Meaning Behind the Line

Any line can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and it is up to the actor to deliver each line in the most truthful way possible. The simple line, “What a pretty sister you have,” could be said honestly, snidely, jealously, or a dozen other ways. Make sure you know where each line is headed and what its best delivery would be.

4)      Understanding Your Actors’ Tells

Every actor has a tell – something he does when he’s nervous or doesn’t know what to do. Reading these tells and responding them will allow you to better engage your actors and direct their energies in a positive direction.

5)      Work on the Character as the Story Progresses

Going through an in-depth character analysis at the beginning of the project may be unproductive. The actor may forget the details or not truly understand the character until filming has begun. Work with the actor while he is on stage to create the best understanding of the character.

6)      Use a Starting Ritual

Instead of simply yelling “Action!” at the beginning of the scene, try the less intimidating “Ready”. Lights up. Let’s go.” It will create a small ritual that puts everyone at ease.

7)      Enter Positive

When you greet your actors for the first time that day, start with a motivational “Today’s the day everybody! We’re doing great!”

8)      An Actor Must Be Heard

Remind your actors that their first job is to make their lines heard. If the audience is comfortable and not craning to hear, the actors will be comfortable too.

9)      Praise Your Actors Often

Take a break from correcting your actors and try offering them some sincere praise. This will build good energy on set and let the actors know you respect them.

10)  Make Suggestions to the Character

If your actor isn’t getting it, try making a suggestion to the character. For example, at a tearful goodbye between husband and wife try saying “Good job! Look how proud they are!” The actor might not be acting proud yet, but he should get the hint.

11)  Know Your Scene Before Blocking It

The day you film, read the scene again with your actors before launching right into filminh. This will give the actors time to ask questions and smooth out the details. It will also avoid confusion and confrontation later.

12)  Be Patient

If your actors aren’t getting a scene right away, don’t lash out at them. It can be difficult to register all details at once, your actors may just be processing. Give them time to process the information and then try again.

13)  Do Not Antagonize Your Actors

Don’t bully your actors by shouting or being sarcastic. You do not want your actors to be your enemy. Also, if you need to imitate an actor to show them what’s going wrong – do the imitation in private.

14)  Don’t Try Too Hard

Remind your actors that forcing an emotion will often make it appear flat. Keep your actors focused but natural.

15)  Be Specific About What You Want

Telling an actor to “Be sad” will likely result in your own disappointment. Give the actor specific directions and remind them to act their character. Actors should be able to power through their own emotions to get to the core of their characters’.

16)  Communicate With the Eyes

Actors often act with their voices and bodies. For a truer and more sincere scene remind the actors to also act with their eyes. Doing so will get to the heart of every emotion.

17)  Remember They Don’t Know How Well They’re Doing

Actors often have a poor sense of their own performance. They think they’re doing terrible when it’s great and vice-versa. Your job is to confirm when they’re doing it right.

18)  Always Be Decisive

You are the director – it is your job to know what is going on. Your options are “Yes” or “No” and never “I don’t know”. You can always change things later so be decisive now.

19)  A Director is Not Always Direct

Sometimes diplomacy is key, and sometimes actors need to figure things out on their own. Asking “How would you do this” can build confidence in your actors.

20)  Correct Actors in Private

Avoid embarrassing your actors by giving corrections in private. This will make them feel good and avoid drama later on.

21)  Understand Your Actors

Every actor is different and has different preferences. Some need a lot of attention while others need quiet time. Some prefer to chat while others like written notes. Knowing your actors will help you later on.

22)  Hand Out Your Notes Well In Advance

Don’t wait until right before the performance to make a correction. Unless it’s a safety issue, it’s too late. On the night of the performance give general reminders and stay positive.

23)  Not Everyone’s Ready for the Truth

Even if it’s asked for, the truth can be harsh sometimes. Try to temper bad news with a compliment.

24)  Use ‘And’ Rather than ‘But’

If you’re telling your actor something he doesn’t want to hear try tempering the sentence with the word ‘And’. For example, say “The makeup looks great and when your hat is up we can see your beautiful smile” instead of “The makeup looks great but your hat is down – I can’t see your face”.

25)  Be Inclusive During Note Sessions

Invite everyone to the note sessions. Some people will be offended if they’re not invited.

26)  Walk Through Changes Each Time

Every time a change is made to the script be certain to walk through it on stage rather than simply discussing it. This will ensure there are no misunderstandings or unseen consequences. It also gives the actors time to process the internal work they need to do.

27)  Look for the Opposite Within Each Character

This can add complexity to an actor’s character. If they’re playing a good guy ask them to look for the character’s flaws. If they’re playing a villain, look for their good side.

28)  Ask the Character Who He Is Talking To

Ask your actors to focus on who they are talking to in a scene and from time to time try having them address someone else. This will increase the actor’s attention and ability to deliver a great scene.

29)  Ask Yourself If It’s Believable

In order for the audience to like your work, it has to be believable. If you watch parts and it’s not ringing true, your actors may be trying too hard.

30)  Bring Actors to The Table

If things aren’t going well after a run or two bring everyone to sit down and talk things through. Try going through each line and offer guidance to your actors.