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How to work with a film director

Congratulations, you got the part! Now it’s time to start the process. Whether it’s one day of work on a family TV show or a 10-week run on Broadway, you are going to have the opportunity to be a part of a crew of exciting artists. Every crew needs a captain—someone to have a clear vision and the ability to guide the group together. The captain on this journey will be known as your director. The better your relationship and communication is with the director, the better the journey and your performance will be. Here at 3-2-1- Acting School in Los Angeles, we teach the students in our acting classes for teens, kids and young adults these tips on how to work with a film director.

steven spielberg

Steven Spielberg (quotesgram.com)

1. Build a positive atmosphere. From the moment you walk onto a set or a rehearsal room, be excited for all the adventures that await you. Make sure to greet every person you meet and learn their name. It will be a lot of people and will take some practice, but it will be very much appreciated. Learning someone’s name shows that you respect them as an individual, and will garner you a mutual respect. Being a team player rather than a diva will make everyone’s job more fun and allow the director to focus on the production and not on an actor’s poor attitude. When the director has a free moment, make sure you introduce yourself (or re‐introduce yourself). Know about their previous work (you can research them on IMDb) and feel free to mention anything that means something to you. Don’t flatter for the sake of flattery, but share an appreciation for a common interest. This conversation will help to build a positive language of communication and will be well‐received.

2. Respect everyone’s time. This starts before you even show up. Come prepared. Know your lines (here are some tips on how to memorize lines faster), know your acting choices, do your research, and continue to be the team player every director wants in their cast. The director is plotting the course of a big ship. There are many moving parts. When it comes to your part, if everything is ready to go and the scene runs smooth, you will be remembered as an actor who can be counted on to be a top professional. Being completely prepared will also allow you to spend more time getting into the more intricate and nuanced details of your performance. If you have a specific line of questions that may take up a lot of the director’s time, ask if you can talk at a time that is convenient for them. The director only has a limited time with “all hands on deck” and you don’t want to abuse this time by asking too many questions.

3. Be willing to “try it.” Because you respect everyone’s time, you have come prepared. You have shown the director your strong acting choices in the audition room and producers’ session. Your choices are appreciated, and the reason the director cast you in the first place, but the director may have a different idea of how a moment in a scene should work. The director asks you to make a different choice in the scene, but you don’t see how that choice lines up with all the decisions you’ve made previously. Rather than disagree, respond with, “Let’s try it.” The director has been with this project longer than you and is looking at the bigger picture. They usually have an insight that you haven’t even considered! By trying their idea, and taking risks, you show the director their deserved respect and you may find an amazing discovery. Either way, the director will appreciate your trusting attitude and you will both decide together to go with the better choice. Whatever the outcome, everyone wins!

When an actor knows how to communicate with their director, just as a crew knows how to work with the captain of a ship, it leads to smooth sailing, allows a show to soar, and you come out smelling like a rose!


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