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Do you have any questions about directing actors? Submit them here.

If you have any questions or concerns about directing film actors, please post your questions in the “Leave a Reply” box below and I will answer them as soon as I can.

About Peter:

I have worked in the Film and Television Industry for over 35 years – as a film director, television producer, first assistant director and TV Series creative consultant.

I have Directed over 30 episodes of Television Drama such as “John Woo’s Once a Thief”, “Wiseguy”, “21 Jumpstreet”, “Neon Rider”, “The Black Stallion”, “Scene of the Crime”, “Big Wolf on Campus” and “Largo Winch.”

As a First Assistant Director, I have worked for directors such as John Woo, Zack Snyder, Phillip Noyce, Ed Zwick, John Badham, Roger Vadim, Dennis Dugan and Anne Wheeler.

I have also worked with actors such as Peter O’Toole, Kevin Spacey, Morgan Freeman, John Travolta, Kathy Bates, Michelle Pfiefer, Marcia Gaye Harden, Madeleine Stowe, Mel Gibson, Ashton Kutcher and Adam Sandler.

I am a part-time directing instructor at the Vancouver Film School. I also teach my own acting and filmmaking workshops around the world (EX: Canada, Dubai, Singapore).

I also write and publish the monthly filmmaking ezine, “The Director’s Chair” which is currently read by over 3100 filmmakers in 100 countries around the world.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Max January 26, 2009, 7:42 PM

    Hey Peter, here’s a questions

    Question: Between takes/shots, what should the director be doing? Should he be spending the time with the actors and talking about the characters etc.. or should he try to split between the actors and the crew, to leave the actor some time off?

    PETER: “Once the blocking is finished and the crew are lighting, the director has several choices of what to do. This greatly depends on who the director is and what else is happening at the time.

    If the lighting estimate is less than 30 minutes, I like to stay around the set. If it is longer than 30 minutes, I will try and take a mini-break if I can (get away for about 10 minutes on my own.)

    But I always try to get back to the set when I know there is about 20 minutes left. That way I can be present to answer any questions from the DOP or the Operator, go over any concerns with the 1st AD or other crew members.

    If I feel the cast requires some more rehearsal off-set, this is the time to do that. (Of course i want them to be finished in Hair/MU first.)

    Keep in mind that your job as a director is to be present to answer all questions related to the shooting on the set and if you are off in your tailer all the time , you may get a surprise when you come back. Like, “That’s not the shot I had in mind!”

    Question: What are the top 10 do’s and don’ts when it comes to directing actors?

    1. when blocking a scene, let the actors show you what they have in mind first
    2. learn the actor’s lanquage! (action verbs, objectives, subtext)
    3. don’t give direction by giving results (don’t say “Be more angry.”)
    4. create a safe place for the actors to perform on set (they have to be vulnerable)
    5. listen, listen, listen
    6. give your direction in short sentences. Keep it simple.
    7. don’t overexplain backstory
    8. give encouragement where necessary
    9. “Motive (what they want) Determines Behavior (what they do)
    10. help actors “do” things rather then “say” things

  • AJANI EMMANUEL JUBEELO January 27, 2009, 4:31 AM

    PETER: If you are just learning about writing and directing, I would first spend some time on the Internet (Google) searching for phrases such as “script writing“, “film directing” and “filmmaking.” Look for sites that have lots of reference links and articles so you can start to get an idea of the script writing and directing process.

    You can also check out my website, ActionCutPrint.com and this blog to start with. I have lots of links and articles on both sites.

  • Peter D. Marshall January 28, 2009, 8:17 PM

    Here’s a directing actor question that was sent to me on Twitter by Alan from @KINOWORDS – When directing actors? How often/useful is the playback monitor on set? Something to avoid? And what if actor IS the director?
    PETER: “Almost every director today sits at the monitors (Video Village) to watch the takes. This gives the director a good look at the whole picture (framing, camera movement and acting.)

    HOWEVER…it is up to each director whether they stay there for each take or not. Sometimes you will want to be beside the camera to help the actors during a particular scene.

    If the director is also the actor, the Producers, 1ST AD and DOP will be watching the scene at the monitors for the actor/director. After each take, the actor/director will come back to the monitors and watch the playback of the scene.

  • David April 14, 2009, 4:22 PM

    Hey Peter,

    I really like your 10 do’s and don’ts.

    Can you expand on # 3. Can you give a couple of scenarios. For example instead of saying “be more angry” what would you recommend the direction to give?



    PETER: You never not talk to an actor in states of being or attitudes. As a director, you want an action not a state. For example: You don’t say “Give me more anger here.” You would say “What would happen if (he hit you?) What would you feel (anger?) Remember, once an actor feels, he will do.

    Hope this helps.