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How to Work with Actors?

There are many good books written on working with actors, so try to have a look at the library and your local bookshop. You can also try to find workshops for yourself in your area. However, the best experience you always get is by working with actors and learning from them and from your own mistakes you make while working.

Anna & Modern Day Slavery

Anna & Modern Day Slavery

If you didn’t have any experience with acting or working with actors, I would suggest you read a few books. Reading just one of the books I am about to list isn’t good enough, you need time to adjust the material to your working practice. Try not to read any of these books in a hurry because you are not going to benefit as much as you could. All the books I am going to recommend in this section are based on theatre acting. Remember, everything that is used in film acting nowadays comes from theatre acting anyway.

This is the list of my favourites:

  1. Every book was written about acting by CONSTANTIN STANISLAVSKI (he was the Russian theatre director who came up with the first analysis of creating the role)
  2. The Stanislavski System– the professional training for an actor by SONIA MOORE
  3. “Stanislavski Intro“ by JEAN BENEDETTI
  4. “Stanislavski & the Actor” by JEAN BENEDETTI
  5. Towards a Poor Theatre” by JERZY GROTOWSKI
  6. To the Actor: On the Technique of Acting” by MICHAEL CHEKHOV 

In fact, the more books you read about Stanislavski, the better you will be able to work with your actors and understand his system. As a director, it is your job to work with the actors, to give them the tools to perform the way you want them too.

The tips I am going to give you below are the rules I have been using for years. Some of them come from books, others from directors, actors or my own experience.


  1. What is the feeling behind the scene/the sentence/the word?
  2. What is the overall feeling behind the film?
  3. Which story do you want to tell? (you can tell many stories based on the same script)
  4. What is the reason behind positioning the camera in a certain way?
  5. What emotions are attached to individual angles?
  6. The relationship between the filmmaker and the word.
  7. Make sure that after “action” command actor counts at least 5 seconds before the scene begins.
  8. What is the director’s experience of the subject being portrayed?
  9. Talk to actors in private.
  10. When doing POV the camera needs to be positioned in the same spot as an actor is.
  11. Do not leave too much headroom.
  12. Work on the moment-to-moment emotions.
  13. Double-check for objects and people in the frame.
  14. In each take, the mise-en-scene has to be the same.
  15. Never shoot directly towards the sun since the focus is too soft.
  16. Finish the scene in particular colour so it can be cut on it.
  17. Take one colour theme for the film and try to concentrate on it.
  18. Move the camera around, don’t make it static. So when the character moves, the camera does too. Then in one take, we can capture what is needed without having to cut in between for editing.
  19. The director has to find one central theme of the script and announce it to the actors.
  20. A director is a sort of matchmaker.
  21. Form a “thought line of action” for the script.


  1. Inner tempo-rhythm
  2. Inner characterisation
  3. Control and finish
  4. Dramatic charm
  5. Internal ethics and discipline
  6. Logic and coherence

The SEVEN “W” according to STANISLAVSKI

These are the questions the director and the actor should work on and have answered before the production begins.

  1. Who are you?
  2. Where you come from?
  3. Why?
  4. What do you want?
  5. Where are you going?
  6. What will you do when you get there?
  7. When you get there?


Below is the list of questions I sometimes use for script analysis. It doesn’t mean that you have to answer all of them but have a look and think about them while analysing your script the next time.

  1. What colour would you use to portray the scene?
  2. Ideas/first impression.
  3. What are the facts or reality behind the lines the actors are speaking?
  4. What are the three possible meanings of the scene?
  5. Facts based on the script.
  6. Evidence-based on the script.
  7. What are the questions you have regarding the scene?
  8. What are the images behind the scene?
  9. What is the history/back-story of the scene?
  10. What does the character want or need?
  11. What is the problem in a particular scene?
  12. What is the character doing? What is the intention behind his/her action?
  13. What if…?
  14. What is the subtext of the scene?
  15. The physical life of a character (body language, body shape, clothing, environment, objects, activities)
  16. The “Beat” of the scene.
  17. What is the subject of the scene?
  18. What’s happening in the scene (issues)?
  19. Scene events: domestic and emotional.


  1. This is the chance for an actor to work with the material and you.
  2. Don’t base your on-screen judgment test.
  3. The character is all about their behaviour.
  4. Let them choose.
  5. Make sure you feel comfortable with the actor you’re working with.
  6. Trust your instinct.
  7. Give each actor at least 20 min.
  8. Get a reader so you can work directly with an actor.
  9. Be flexible.
  10. Watch how the actors work.
  11. Talk to them.
  12. Describe what the scene is about.
  13. Tell the actor what you want them to do.
  14. See if the chemistry between you and the actor is right.
  15. Don’t waste time talking too much. Give a small talk at the beginning of casting.


  1. Run the scene for everyone.
  2. Before you run the scene, take 5-10 min. to talk to the actors.
  3. Always tell actors the shot size.


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