This article continues from PART ONE of “Why great writers and directors ask great questions”.
This entire video interview is fantastic and I highly recommend watching it in full, not only once but several times to really absorb their incredible advice for your own benefit and future success.
The summary of this entire article is, “If you want to become a great screenwriter, director, film producer or actor is to simply, ask great questions and listen.”
What you will learn:
- Directing actors
- Dealing with discouraging family or friends
- Dealing with self-doubt
- The importance of the screenplay format
- The writer and director
- Directing tips
- How long does it take to “make it”?
- Great casting tips
- Story first, gear second
The difference between directing an actor and directing the character is this. When you direct an actor, you are telling them, “be more aggressive”, “be vulnerable”, “I want more rage”, etc. Giving generic direction like that, will create a generic performance. But, when you direct the character within the actor, you ask questions like, “why are you here? Are you upset? Why are you upset? Do you really want to be here right now?” And so on, and when you are asking these questions and hearing the responses from your character (actor) you are going deeper into the mindset of the character and that begins to evoke genuine authentic emotions and feelings within the actor and from that you’ll get an authentic performance.
Mark mentions that after every take, it’s important to acknowledge the actors work by saying, “Thank you, very good.” Too often, most directors after each take, they may begin speaking to all the other departments to set up the next scene and completely ignore the actors. But, he suggests to acknowledge them first and then speak to the rest of the crew.
Mark also mentions that, it’s important for the director to create a safe environment for the actors, where the set is free from criticism. When you begin criticizing the performance of an actor, the actor will begin shutting down all of their emotions, walls will go up and it’ll be significantly harder to get a great performance out of them. To avoid this, simply acknowledge their work and performance, by saying thank you after each take. It doesn’t have to be much, but a little goes along way. This will allow the actor to be open and available to you as a director to get the performance you want out of them.
In Mark’s perspective as a director, there are 9 “questions” you can ask that can be looked at as a sequence that can help you with directing. The 9 questions are in one of the books Mark has written called, “Directing Feature Films: The Creative Collaboration between Director, Writers, and Actors”.
But some of those questions are:
- What is the story about?
- Do you understand the script?
- Do you understand the character?
It’s important for any director to understand all these key questions about the script and story, before hiring actors and dealing with cameras and equipment.
Sometimes when an actor and director don’t know how to approach a situation within the story. One option you can try is to allow the actor to try a whole range of emotions or behaviors that way they can pick the right take that fits with the story they want to tell in post-production while editing.
Dealing with discouraging family or friends
How do you deal with family members or close friends who are discouraging you from entering the film industry as a career? (Following opinion is a mix of my own as well as what Michael is saying in the video) It’s important to note that, most of the time your family and friends care about your future and only want the best for you. And their advice, as discouraging as it may sound, is based off of fear, that you may not make it so have a backup plan to fall back on in case. So, why not go to school first, get a secure job and THEN do all this filmmaking stuff on the side if it works out.
Trouble with that is, it can be extremely difficult to, go to school, or work, then come home take care of your kids, spend time with your spouse, take care of other chores and THEN, spend a brief moment focusing on your film career, if there even is any time left in the day.
As the filmmaker on the receiving end of that message, if you are truly passionate about becoming a filmmaker and understand that you will be faced with a lot of challenges, adversities and failures for possibly many years before you become successful and earning a living doing what you love. Then, it’s important to disengage from people or environments discouraging you from who you want to be. It’s sometimes very difficult for people to truly understand and see who you are deep down inside. So, as hard as it may be, don’t tell them what you are doing if you know the response is going to be negative.
You want to stay away from that negativity. If you are not getting positive encouragement from those close to you, then find people with a similar passion as you, other writers, directors or filmmakers. Take classes, go to meetings, etc. Be around other passionate positive people who are on the same journey as you and can help out one another achieve a common goal.
Dealing with self-doubt
Sometimes Mark is confronted with a director who may be insecure of their directing abilities and so Mark asks them a simple question, “Imagine if you stopped directing, forever, would you be okay with that?” If the director says, yes, well then, clearly this individual is not that passionate about becoming a filmmaker and should probably quit. But if you said, “No, I want to direct, I have to do this.” Then, it’s that inner drive and passion that will overcome all the obstacles of family, friends, self-doubt, and a whole range of other challenges that will come your way.
Passion can sometimes or arguably every time, overcome a lack in talent or quality of your work, be it writing, directing, producing or acting. Many well-known creative artists have mentioned that there passion for the craft is what brought them more success than those who may be more talented.
Having pure passion is one of the key ingredients to achieving success.
The Importance of the Screenplay Format
The purpose of following a ‘structured’ screenplay format or formula is to maximize the emotional experience of the reader. A good story structure allows the audience to remain engaged constantly throughout the telling of the story.