FAQS: Directors and Writers
I’ve tried to give directions to my actors, telling them “Be happier or be more sad” but it doesn’t work. I don’t get what I want from them. What should I do?
Actors play roles and each role has a different personality. The personality of that specific character will reveal itself during the course of the movie or the script through the characters actions and behavior. We understand the personality of character through certain signs that are communicated. Many describe these with adjectives. Unfortunately, adjectives are not useful to help actors in their creative process. Adjectives are descriptive but they don’t help the actor in their job. Adjectives give a description of something in particular under specific circumstances. The creative process of the actor is much more complex than that.
The definition of an actors character is the result of a long process, a combination of actions, contradictory desires, conflicts, weaknesses and strengths. A character is often described from an exterior point of view. Adjectives are incorrectly used to describe the personality of the role, making the mistake to describe a particular action or behavior of the character we are playing, instead of describing the real personality and complexities of the character. Actors will only understand the real personality of the character through the process of analyzing every single action of the character. They will never find the character through adjectives.
How can I help the actor to find “the character”?
The character doesn’t exist “per se” in the script. There are many desires or wishes of the character that are not described in the script; and, there are other wishes that can have many different interpretations. Directors often choose actors whose personality and behavior is similar to the personality of the specific role. It is true that the physical description of the actor must be similar to the description of character. Things like gender and age are basic elements to define a character. In the history of cinema and theatre there are many examples of roles that are based on a particular actor with a specific look or way to behave. Scripts are modified changing the gender of the leading role just to adjust that role to an actor. Nevertheless, there are also many examples of actors who have played roles that had a completely different physical appearance unlike their own, a different age and a different behavior or personality. There are also many examples of characters that are based on a particular image that an actor has. In this case they are playing with a certain “image” that they have and that they use in order to create a character (even though maybe that image it is not true at all in their real life). So, actors can create a role that is totally different from themselves regarding age, gender, behavior, etc.. This all depends of the creative process between the actor and the director.
Should I choose an actor who has the same physical appearance as the character?
In movies and TV the image of the actor gives information about their own personality. Those actors are using their own image to create a character. Though, the physical appearance of an actor can be modified. We can change things like the color of hair, the color of eyes. We can make an actor younger or older with make-up. Apart from their look the behavior can be modified. Many different changes can be achieved regarding the psychological and sociological approach of the character. What’s more, the behavior, look or image of a particular character can be modified not only by the actor but also by the rest of the departments: make-up, wardrobe, lightning, editing, camera… All of them can change the image and personality of one specific character. Sometimes directors will use these departments to create the ideal character. Actors and directors must reach an agreement regarding all of these changes and modifications to build and create a character. The job of an actor is to build a character through the script and through working in close collaboration with the director and the rest of the departments. Once all the departments work together as a team to create the characters and to tell the story of the film, audiences will feel like they are a part of the story too; because, they will connect, understand and identify with the realistically created characters.
How can I work as a team with my actor?
First you must cleanse all prejudices you have against them. You must work in a non-bias environment observing them and allowing them to create. Trust the actor. It will help and inspire them to create their character. Focus and work hard to find your own ways and tools to help the actors in their creative process.
My actors are reluctant to talk about their characters…why?
The actor is responsible their performance. Their performance is based not only on physical appearance but also on particular actions, silences and decisions made by the character. A character can have life and be understood through actions. Sometimes words are not needed. Most of the time actors can give wonderful and unique performances thanks to non-verbal elements and actions. Once an actor is hired to play a role their job is to work in close collaboration with all the departments to create the character and to bring authenticity and truth to all the scenes of the film. The actor is responsible for the “acting department”. The actor is a technician that has the key to bring the text into reality. If a director is open and trusts in their actors they will inspire them to give the best of themselves.
Do I have to write in the script things like the specific way in which a character speaks or walks?
You generally don’t find technical commentaries regarding lightning, camera or make-up in a script, because, every department handles their particular responsibility. In the same way it is not necessary that you give the actor that extra information in a script. When the director of photography and their immediate team read the script they decide with the director what type of shots or lights are going to be used in the scenes to help to tell the story. Actors must have freedom and space to create their character without any kind of limits. First, they have to create their character by themselves. And, later, they have to show their work and proposals to the director. You must not do the job for the actor. It is their responsibility to create and build the character. Actors create, find, experiment and imagine their characters first in the script, and, later, they bring life to them on the set. So, do not ask them to work within boundaries. It is the responsibility of actors to be aware of their virtues and weaknesses and to keep on developing their acting techniques throughout their life and careers. Training will encourage their imagination; and, they will be ready and fully prepared to give great and creative ideas and proposals to directors and screenwriters.
“The actor lives the things that directors only imagine”Scott Cleverdon