Sunday, July 25, 2010

ON ACTING: Waiting For the Director to Direct Me

I recommend all actors learn to be “director proof”.

That is, ideally, actors should learn to be self-directing and self adjusting, capable to direct themselves into an "on" performance; or, when there performance is "off", (“That didn’t feel right”) and adjust themselves before the next ‘take’ or the next night's stage performance.

Often the director doesn’t have the time to cure the actor’s performance illness.

Often the director doesn't have the ability.

I believe the following capability formula is operative in all professions: 3% of any given craft are excellent; 47% are okay, the rest are for sh*t. So this leaves at least 50% of directors incompetent.

It is important that an actor be prepared to fill not only the void of an incompetent director, or but also protect oneself from an engaged, well meaning but untalented director.

Bad directors often want to work with you; discuss with you, hovering over you and your performance, spending endless effort tinkering and micromanaging you…all the way to mediocrity!

Even if you luck into an excellent director (3%, remember!), remember that the best directors are not threatened by actor competence. Don't worry about director disapproval if you add your actor insights into the performance mix. Both good and excellent directors appreciate an actor who can bring a sense of self-direction to a scene, freeing the director to do other things on the set.

Beware the opposite extreme, however: actors who stand around waiting for the director to tell him everything to do. That is naive and unproductive. Even when the director is among the three percent excellent at directing and knowledgeable about actors and acting, he or she would rather not bother.

Imagine this analogous situation: You are about to throw a big party. But a leak springs out under the sink. You hire a plumber who comes to the house, looks at the pipe under the sink, and asks you how to fix a leak.

The plumber would deserve the following response: “Fix the leak?! Are you kidding? What do you think I hired you for? Here’s the dripping faucet, I’m paying you lots of money. I expect it to be done in an hour. I’ve got a million other things to do to prepare for the party.”

Just so the director will think: “Here’s the role, here’s the set, the blocking and the lines; I’m paying you $1000 (its a union job!) I expect the scene to be done excitingly, and in a day; if you need help, I’ll get under the sink to help you…but, believe me I'd prefer not to.

Imagine arriving at a set and have the director ask you: “How do you think I ought to direct this scene?” You think you'd have much confidence or respect for that director? Well, neither is a director much comforted by an ever-questioning, blank-slate actor.

When an excellent actor (only 3% of us) and an excellent director (3% of them) come together...magic happens. But until that day occurs, hope for the best, and prepare for the worst. Become director proof. (Or, in case you're a director, become actor proof!!!! That's a whole harder task, believe me!)


Blogger mjohnson_k said...

As an actor and director, I appreciate this article. Thank you.

1:18 PM  

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