Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Director vs. A Dictator

A Director: "Cut! Hey Jonathan..." the director takes a minute to think, "Your mom just died in this scene and you're getting the news from her husband. This man you don't like, or maybe you flat out hate him. I need more sorrow. I need to feel your pain more through the connection you had with your mom. And Russell (the step father) I need you to basically not care. Zero emotion. Like it's no sweat off your back." Myself and Russell respond positively, "Sounds good." "Action! and Cut! That was great. Lets do it again." They always want another take just in case.

A Dictator: "Cut! Hey Jonathan...I need you to say the line like this 'blah blah blah' and then when Russell says 'blah' you need to scream back at him like you've never screamed before. Sound good?" I respond negatively, "Sounds good." "Action! and Cut! Ok lets move on. Now in this scene say it more like this..."

There is a fine line between being a director and being a dictator. I've also had directors go the "Method Acting" route where they pull you aside and try and get you to connect with the material through a personal event in your own life. Telling an actor exactly what to do turns us into a puppet. Don't get me wrong, Puppet shows are great, but when it comes to acting the last thing a director should ever do is try and puppeteer his actors. Trying to be a Puppeteer is an issue with trust, or maybe the guy just doesn't know how to direct. Everyone that directs or writes scripts knows what he hears in his head for the scene. Maybe someone does it spot on like you imagined, maybe someone doesn't, but in either case if an actor is hired and brings his own flare to the table you must work with him instead of work against him. The fastest way to turn an actor off is to tell him what to do and how to do it. He's an artist and progressing the scene by directing him is a plus. You neglect the scene and the performance if you try to dictate.

I personally dealt with only one dictator in my career. He was a first time "director" and didn't understand how actors are or work. He tried to tell me how every line should be said instead of letting me do my thing. After a little while I shut down and didn't even want to be on set anymore. I pulled the director aside and told him that I liked some of his ideas on how to say the lines but the way this character is and who he is, how he feels, what he is thinking, how he views his scene partner and all of that. I go deep into characters and dissect them from the ground up. Sometimes I bring something to the table that the director may not particularly like and throws out suggestions but they aren't orders or "you must say it like this." It's more like a "How does this work for you?" The best direction I ever got was actually from a teacher of mine and she said to me, "with this line, try it multiple ways. Screaming, whispering, monotone, holding back, freaking out, etc. and if any of the other ways work for you in the scene, lets give it a try." So I did and she was right. The line worked in multiple ways and in the end I changed it and the piece was better.

All I'm saying is if you want to be a dictator, go become a Nazi or something. It has no business being on set. I hope I never work with another dictator.

Jonathan Baca

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