When they met at the Sundance Directing Lab in 1998, neither Rodrigo Garcia nor Gina Prince-Bythwood had much experience working with actors. “Directing the actors, I think, is one of the great mysteries,” said Bythewood, “Especially when it’s your first film.”
But at the lab they spent a day working with acting coach Joan Darling, who forced them to confront their insecurities–and to take an acting class. Said Garcia: “She worked with us for a day and she put us through some acting exercises that I thought were absolutely terrifying.”
It’s been 18 years since that day, and with 12 feature films and numerous television credits between them, Garcia and Prince-Bythewood are a little less afraid when it comes to dealing with actors. Last month at the Los Angeles Film Festival, they sat down and shared what they’ve learned with the next generation of filmmakers.
1. Talk to the actor first
Prince-Bythewood said that to this day she still thinks of things she learned from Darling all those years ago.
“Probably one of the greatest lessons was how vulnerable an actor feels when you say cut. You’re standing there literally wondering: did you suck?” The Beyond the Lights director continued: “In film school, I used to yell direction from the back of the camera and not even talk to the actor after the take because I was too busy running talking to everyone else. She taught us that the very first person you go to, when you say cut, you go directly to the actor and you preserve that relationship.
2. And talk to the actor last
“When you cut,” added Garcia. “You speak to the actor first, then you let everything go on: the hair, the makeup people come in, the DP asks for this. So they all talk to the actor, and you should wait to talk to the actor last before the camera rolls again for take two. Because in that minute before camera rolls, the DP said, ‘Hold the glass a little higher;’ the hair person came up and said, ‘Go like this;’ the script supervisor came in and said, ‘You said three dogs, it’s two dogs.’ So [the actor] has all these things in his head or in her head and you should wait until the end. And sometimes I even wait until the slate is hit, and you give the last piece of direction, and all of a sudden that’s all they’re remembering.”…
Read the rest of this gem from Film Independent.