Directing tips to boost your actors’ performances

Want to get the best possible performances from your actors? The most reliable way to do that is to be the best director you can be.

Some of the best performances come naturally from an actor and not from the director’s guidance. We go over that topic in “6 Ways to Draw Good Performances Out of Inexperienced Talent.”

Go check out that article if you want an in-depth look into how you can draw the best performances out of an actor who hasn’t stepped foot on set before. The tips can also be applied to actors in general. Let’s skim over those tips quickly so you can use them as a guide the next time you’re in the director’s seat.

Tip 1: Don’t bark orders when directing

In many positions of power, we can feel we’re the boss, and what we say goes. However, in the creative field, where you have to work with other creators, that controlling feeling more often than not hurts your project. If you want your actors to feel comfortable enough to contribute but also want to do a scene differently, guide them towards what you envision. Don’t shut them down. They’ll become defensive and not be at their best.

Tip 2: Have the actors mimic your performance

It can be very stressful performing behind the camera. Even experienced actors can get stuck due to nerves. If this happens, try guiding them through the performance they’re stuck on by acting it out yourself off-stage. It will kill the nerves if they’re mimicking what you’re doing. It may seem like you’re your actor’s mom cheering them on at a school performance, but it really works.

Tip 3: Warm up your actors before filming

Actor sitting in chair looking at director
Take to your actors to warm them up before shooting. Image courtesy

Nerves are always high at the start of the day. Get your actors ready for the day by talking to your talent with the cameras off. Just talk to them. Ask them about themselves and what they like to do in their spare time. It will loosen them up and get them out of their own head. They’ll be a lot calmer when the cameras start rolling.

Tip 4: Rehearse

Sometimes, the best performances come out off-camera. Be sure to iron out all the kinks in the performance before you roll. Also, it helps get everyone warmed up for the cameras.

Tip 5: Have the most important shots scheduled at the beginning of the day

Acting all day is tough work. Your actors are bound to get tired eventually. To avoid having your more important shots populated with low-key performances, schedule them for the beginning of the day. Not only will the actors be rested, but they’ll also feel accomplished they got through an important scene. That accomplishment will carry them through the rest of the day.

Tip 6: Know when enough is enough

As a director, it is your job to know when you’ve done enough takes of a particular scene. Sometimes, you have to know when to move on. If the scene isn’t what you need, you can always come back to it. It will give your actors time to reset and approach the scene in a different way later.

Your patience and flexibility are the key to bringing the best performances out of your actors. While you can still control what is happening on set, always be open to changes. The next time you find yourself directing, use these tips to get the best performances out of your actors.

Image courtesy

Sean Berry
Sean Berry
Sean Berry is Videomaker's managing editor.

Related Content