can tell you how to work with your actors, you
will have to discover
what works best for you and your style of filmmaking. There ARE
things you can do as a director to improve your communication on the
director I've ever
talked to has a different way of working with his actors and his crew.
I've known directors who love actors and don't know how to direct them
or have any idea where to put the camera or why. I've known directors
who simply hate actors and tolerate them simply to get what they need
for the performance they want. This is what happens
in Hollywood with too much money, formula scripts, and the power
brings to "product" no one really cares about. You've all heard stories
prima donna's that demand great script changes and simply refuse to do
they don't like, or walk off sets for almost anything. I saw one actor
production because he wanted a bigger trailer, wouldn't shoot unless
got him what he thought he deserved.
actors usually need
good characters to work from, psychological motivation for their
actions, the right kind of encouragement
from the director, and made to feel this is a safe place to work. And
only the start.
must prepare for a scene, just like an actor, or the crew.
be a director who
does not know what he
wants, that's where most problems start. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Know the point
of each scene, the motivation for each action, the main emotional
each scene and where it leads to the next scene.
direct an actor
through what you want in results, "Be more mad - happy etc.", take the
initiative, you might tell your actors what they want in the scene or
conflict, but you must tell them what action to take to achieve it;
"Make Sheila stop insulting you." Give your actors motivation and
some meat to work with in the scene.
your actor asks, or
even if they don't, you must be able to tell them about the character.
the character is.
do they want.
do they want it.
are they coming from,
and Where are they now.
what from Whom.
what from Whom.
direction should be
geared toward giving the actor information about the scene so they can
attain and experience the emotional moment of the character. Almost
every direction should be a verb.
give an actor a line reading. Don't take lines away from an
actor, those are the actors lines,
not yours, never speak their lines because they belong to the actor.
is also very insulting
and shows your weakness as a director, or
more importantly, your weakness at casting the right actor in the role.
you've cast your film exactly the way you want it, have faith in your
allow them what freedom you can, they should be able to know what kind
performance you want by your guidance and the character. Let them
the character on their own, it's more fun for you both, more
for the character, and good actors enjoy that discovery as much as you
If you expect some anal adherence to each inflection you intended in
script without allowing the personality of the actor you cast in your
film to bleed into the character, you're doomed to disappointment and
spending more money in footage than you have. NEVER give an actor
a line reading, those are the actors lines, not yours. Get the
have great faith in, and
loyalty to my actors, and give them as much freedom as I possibly can.
But that's what
I look for, the kind of filmmaking that interests me is the kind in
which the person I cast in the part can bring both the truth I know
about the character on the page, and his own truth about that character
to the screen. That means I try to cast the right actor, and right
person for the roles. No matter what you think about acting and
actors, the truth is, good actors (and not so good ones too) are
involved in bravery, going someplace they may not like to go over, and
over again, and, putting their trust and openness in a stranger - you.
Whether it's emotional turmoil, or psychological hell, they willingly
go back for a character, over, and over again. We're all human, how
brave people handle that is sometimes difficult to take, but,
if they are delivering, Mr. Director, you better be supporting
them in exactly the way they need.
If Nothing Else
Casting your main
concern is the spine of the character. "Type Casting", basically,
means that a less experienced actor, as a person, has the same wants
and needs of the character of the script.
So no matter what decision that actor makes will be right for the
An experienced actor has the "chops", the technique to access
traits alien to his own character, make it his own so his/her decisions
character are always right. Do what you can afford, or what
casting one of my films
I had an actor that was perfect for a very important role and I wanted
to give him the part, but
his "I'm doing you such a huge favor by being here" attitude would have
such a detriment on the set I didn't even consider him even though he
probably much better than the person I hired. Because one young actor
a family member problem (alcohol), I could not give that part to that
The problem family member would have been an enormous liability on a
moving guerrilla set and who knows what would have happened. One actor
I did cast in a role called up at 1 AM. before his 9 AM. call for his
dialogue scene and said he had to visit a friend in jail and would try
to make it. I cut him out of the scene and shot around him, even after
he showed up at 11 AM. Two young actors in another film were very good,
had both hidden legal and ego problems, and the other had severe
emotional and psychological problems and both had recently quit drugs
which resulted in some testy moments over the course of shooting, but
they were so good in
the parts and dedicated to the roles that we finished and made a very
good film. I will always have good things to say and fond memories for
them, even though I made some terrible mistakes as a director.
that said, I failed to
protect my actors from the enormous pressures put on me in one of my
films, that was a terrible mistake and I did not realize I was doing it
until the film was over. I was learning, I'm still learning every day,
but YOU HAVE TO PROVIDE A PLACE FOR YOUR ACTORS TO FEEL SECURE AND
WANTED, TO GIVE THEM A PLACE TO CREATE. Sometimes that is very hard
when you have no money and everything is on your shoulders, but
remember, it's a collaborative effort, help the other artists get to a
place where they can create for you, and your film.
a guerrilla filmmaker
have maybe 3 takes
total to get a shot and
you know that the actor you want dislikes you, or has a
reputation for being difficult, or dislikes the script, or is only
doing this "for my reel", or is a prima donna: by the fifth day of
shooting that actor has you by the short and curlies and can demand or
do what he likes because you have all this footage with him in the part.
the nightmare and is probably unlikely, but more subtle issues
of control like
coloration, intent in the performance etc., and dissension on the set
can creep in and weaken your film.
Remember, again, this is a collaborative process, you and your actors
creating together, collaborating, to bring your script to the
Involve them in the process, barking commands is never a way to get
you want. I wouldn't be above doing almost anything to get a
an actor that might be having a problem, but breaking through all those
is part of the process, for me.
one road film I knew a
lot of crew members and actors were walking off sets around town, it's
was like some weird virus or the hip thing to do at the time and I
could not let that happen to me, so, I took everyone on the road in two
vans and we ripped off locations along the way. Basically I hijacked
everyone to the middle of nowhere so "sleeping in that morning rather
than working on this film" was not an option. It worked for me
because I planned it that way, and it was a road film. You may have to
find another strategy that will work for you but try to plan for
as much as possible, and include whatever happens as part of the film.
probably all heard
about, if not actually used a
system and heard how fast, how small,
good they can
be. Although much of that is true, there are a lot of hidden costs that
one involved in just one part of the process will tell you about, and
may not be a viable option for the guerrilla filmmaker. Keep in mind,
trying to complete your film and survive where many, many others have
Just because it's the latest thing, does not mean it can work for you.
of editing usually meant a screening of
to film and screened in theater with or without sound, then taking that
to a flatbed to edit both picture and sound 1-2 tracks at a time. The
style means you get your footage back on videotape, screen it on a
then put it into the computer to edit, or some combination of the above.
computer editing in which the negative is transferred to tape, usually
with sound and entered into the computer, or digitized both for picture
and audio. Once in the computer you can move scenes and 4-8-32 tracks
of sound instantly, save a number of versions with great ease, only
limited by time, cost, and how much disc space you have. The computer
will digitize your footage at different resolutions for different
purposes, the higher the resolution the more storage you will need. At
a very low resolution you can store almost any feature on 18 gigabytes.
A low resolution use's less
pixels and therefore looks very "pixilated" but uses less disc space.
resolution (some systems claim better than broadcast quality) uses a
of space to store the added information, most people would only use
the last output to tape.
The advantages of
nonlinear are obvious:
editing and amount of variations you can
The small space in which you need to edit;
Sound editing capabilities:
Instantaneous output to tape to show people dailies;
On most systems you have the ability to see effects, titles and
various other things not available to the die hard on a flat bed-among
a whole host of other things.
The draw backs are not so
obvious: Looking at your film on
a monitor instead of the screen allows
dirt or scratches in film)
in the "digitized" footage that you would certainly catch in a screened
work print to pass unnoticed; Editing on a monitor
get on the screen:
gives you as a negative cut
list, rather than it being a simple work-print to negative match up:
You're post mixing
higher; Added post
For the nonlinear editing process here are some of the post
production things to consider when budgeting:
Cost of transfer to tape (telecine time).
Cost of tape stock (usually betacam, but better
Cost of editing at post house in which
Cost of disc storage space not included with
and what quality of computer you are
(some nonlinear system EDL's (edit
are not easily
transferred to a cut list for
negative and could incur an obvious tragedy or
for your film if you rely on them). After
you've edited the:
Cost of having your negative cut and another
(could be a very cheap
one) so you can do
Cost of hiring an audio house to re-sync your
footage to the
second negative cut transfer.
Cost of the audio mix.
Cost of final telecine to tape.
Except for the negative cut, and final telecine above, these are all
extra costs, and you still do not have an optical track, an answer
print of your film, or have ever seen it screened, only on a video
monitor. HOWEVER, if you can afford to get one of the new, very good,
1000$ dollar nonlinear systems for your computer and upgrade it enough
to cut on, you can take as long as you like, and be very sure of your
added things to
consider about telecine for nonlinear are:
talking to the
transfer house find out what their transfer ratio will be. That
means that for every running hour of footage what will their maximum
time be to transfer it to tape, and get it in writing. A telecine
operator has to line up time-code numbers from your audio tape to the
sync slate on film for each one of your takes, that takes time. 4:1 is
fine, but, whatever ratio you get, count on it being the maximum for
your budget, then add 10% for the sleaze factor. You might want to
consider not transferring sound at the telecine, and doing it in the
computer, but you will have to be sure that the nonlinear system you
are using will accept time code from your tapes, that you have the time
and expertise to do this properly, and have added the extra expense of
time spent on the computer to input it plus rental of the audio source
machine against the time of the telecine operator to do the same thing.
If you don't use time code on your set you may have to finally transfer
it to a time coded tape anyway, but, you've saved the cost of a time
code audio machine, used less film because time code should have a 10
second pre-roll, and if you're using a mono 4.2 Nagra, you've got
superior audio. If you plan on using the audio from the telecine and
using the computer output mix, you will have to use betacam tapes, not
inferior to betacam for sound,
and beta tapes are much more
expensive than 3/4, and the telecine time
costs more. As telecine progresses the operator will store all his
information on discs and include them with the tapes, these discs will
then tell the computer
how to input the audio, log it for your as you watch. Maybe. Keep an
on what's being input, if the operator screws up, doesn't include
or cuts them off, you have to be sure to get it, you can't edit what
you have edited your
film on a nonlinear system, the EDL (Edit Decision List) you put out
from the input timecode numbers
from video and audio will match the original recorded tapes, and you
then go back in the sound mix and reenter the original sound from the
tapes instead of using the second generation sound transferred to Beta
But you may never get that far, or want to do it.
you decide that you want
to use a
some of the post production things to consider when budgeting:
of renting a flat bed and a space to edit:
Cost of work print:
Cost of audio transfer to full coat
Cost of negative cut:
Cost of audio mix:
Cost of answer print:
Cost of optical track:
Cost of final telecine to tape.
You have seen all your footage on the screen, you can usually get a lab
to give you a dual screening of WP and Audio track so you can see it
with sound, and the negative cutter will surely never have a problem
matching the negative to the work-print for accuracy, and that huge
worry is out of your hands.
You can rent a flatbed straight out for about 450 a month these
days. For the latest Avid Film Composer list from post houses is
500-2500 a day. Even if you can get a nonlinear system for free, you
work in the cost of getting an editor that really knows his stuff or
problems can occur, which, of course, brings you back to
you can get an editor for free-
you afford all the extra expense's of editing nonlinear?
you can afford all the
extra expenses can you handle not seeing your film on the screen and
falling into the "TV editing mode" when editing your film? By that I
mean that editing on a small screen is much different than on a 40 ft
screen, pacing in your film is very important and if you've been
cutting on a small screen do your cuts seem jagged and like a TV sitcom
on the big screen? And if it does and you've made a terrible mistake
and your negative is cut,
sure what the computer is giving you is the right numbers for the cuts
time nonlinear, everybody told me how great, how fast, and how
the cost was virtually the same,
or less than
editing the work print, no body bothered to tell me about all
hidden costs because they either didn't know, or they were on the
band wagon that swept up editors and post people a few years back. The
I was editing on crashed a number of times and I had to rebuild my film
scratch 3 times, every cut including 8 tracks of audio (100,000 cuts,
that had the effect of burning me out on my own film. I had to go to a
of different houses and move the media around to different versions of
software which meant problems later, and the negative cut list from
the 100 thousand dollar Avid was as much as 48 frames off of what
to be (2 seconds): I couldn't see the soft focus shots that my DP did
tell me about in the digitized footage or on tape and the whole
cost thousands of dollars more than it should have.
did get to see how good
the film was and where
problems were immediately, I had a rough edit in 1 week, (working 20
a day). If I had it to do over again I would have certainly gone for
flatbed, it would have been cheaper by far, and much more informative
the negative information that actually made it to the screen. I was
paranoid about the negative cut and before I delivered the negative I
through every cut, front and back, in and out, and checked the number
screen against what the print out from the computer gave as the
list. A real, two day pain in the ass. Then I went through every roll
negative and checked each one head and tails to be sure it was jiving
the computer, the discs from the transfer lab, and the negative cut
Like I said, good thing I checked before I cut, it was way off on many,
occasions and the negative cutter may or may not be good enough to
of that, it's not really their job, it's yours.
I have also heard very positive stories about people succeeding
in doing a rough mix in the Avid and out putting it to an optical
a rough mix for sure but far better than you think and that's a huge
in the end. I've only heard this once, but,
What you can do, and your
luck or skill with these
systems may be much different than mine.
You will have to decide on your own what you can afford and what you
survival. Think completion.
If you've decided that you can show
around the digitized output of your
film to companies and that's as far as you can hope to go without
finishing funds, good luck. Again, finding finishing funds is very
difficult, and if you finish the film you can enter it in festivals and
hope it does well, and if it does you at least have something to talk
to distributors about. If it does, well, the distributors will be
talking to you.
= Cheaper, much slower, see film projected on screen, more secure about
negative cut and sound sync.
Nonlinear = More expensive (unless you've got your own
system), very fast, never see projected film, insecure about negative
cut and sound sync and pacing.
many variations on a
scene can you see before
it's counterproductive - too many choices? If you've never cut a film
seen your work on screen what will you think when it's on tape and how
it affect your editing style? Looking through 400 trim boxes stacked
to floor searching for 2 frames of the scene you want to change in your
in which you haven't seen your dog recently?
WARNING WILL ROBINSON!
Get your deal from the editing
house and transfer house on paper, signed, before you commit any of
or deliver any of it to them, and get a receipt for every roll of film.
2. Talk to your negative cutter before you decide to edit nonlinear,
his quote may have been for work print, his quote for nonlinear may be
3. Question your audio post house extensively about costs, and get
quote in writing before you commit, or deliver anything to them. Get a
of sync, if they won't give it to you, smile, and leave as soon as
possible. Get references.
The audio post house I went to knew from my lips
exactly what I
had to do, exactly how much I had to do it and agreed to the deal. I
an Avid output to DA88 (8 track audio tape) that I needed to mix. They
all the money on some twerp to re-sync the audio (probably did not need
be done), and he did a terrible job if he actually did anything at all,
would not guarantee sync! On top of when it did fall out of sync a
of times and the idiot tried to tell me 4 frames out of sync is
hell simple gunshots were off.
All this stuff is variable. Your
situation may be perfect
for nonlinear, or perfect for work-print type editing. Just be sure to
figure as many variables as possible before you start, remember, your
goal is completion, survival.