Working with actors is one of the most essential parts of the director’s craft.
In this video essay, I briefly define and discuss one of the most common traps that directors fall into when trying to collaborate with their actors.
Result direction is when a director offers the actor direction that is not playable, and that specifically describes the result the director wants to see the actor externalize.
Because of the nature of performance, it is often quite difficult for an actor to take a piece of result oriented direction from a director and successfully externalize it while remaining in a truthful performative mind space.
Performance is grounded in a different set of variables: subtext, objectives, backstory, intuition, and memory. When directors ask an actor to leave those tools behind so they may better approximate an abstract idea of what the director is picturing, there is danger that the performance will suffer and the director’s relationship with their actors will weaken.
Of course, this is not always the case and it is important to keep an open dialogue with the actor so that one can best learn what sorts of direction are most helpful to them.
In any event, getting in the habit of identifying result oriented direction before you give it and discerning other more collaborative strategies for affecting the actor’s performance will ultimately make you a more skilled and versatile director.
Visual References: 8 1/2, A Star is Born (1954), Bad Education, Chaplin, Ed Wood, F for Fake, Hail, Caesar!, Man With a Movie Camera, Mullholland Drive, Peeping Tom, Shadow of the Vampire, Shakespeare in Love, Singin’ in the Rain, The Artist, The Aviator, The Bad and the Beautiful, The Cameraman, The Last Picture Show, Twentieth Century
Citation: Weston, Judith. Directing Actors. Studio City, CA, M. Wiese Productions, 2014.
Weston’s book on directing actors is one of the most useful introductions into the craft of working with performance. It’s packed with strategies and tools for creating better collaborations.