Are You Director-Proof?

Are you director-proof?

Most directors struggle to speak the actor’s language. While some take an interest in the craft—even signing up for the occasional acting class—others have no idea what we do. This results in some pretty unfriendly direction, focusing on results, even veering into frustrating comparisons. “Remember that time when John Cusack did that thing in that movie with that girl—do it like that!” Hence the storied goal of acting teachers everywhere: to create “director-proof” actors.

The director-proof actor is open to the director’s vision and input but not dependent on the director for his or her process. He can take a result-oriented direction (“Do it angry!”) and turn it into something active (“Attack him with my words”). She’s quick to let go of accidental insults (line readings, anyone?) and listen, not only to the director’s words but to the intent behind them. When faced with ineffective—even ridiculous—direction, he can rely on his technique to carry him through. Instead of complaining about what the director “isn’t giving” her, the director-proof actor analyzes the text, makes decisions about her character, constructs her objective, chooses dynamic actions, and makes choices. When the director jumps in with a contradictory idea, she simply adjusts.

Tell a director you’re director-proof, and you’re likely to offend. It isn’t the coziest of metaphors, after all. But a smart director knows a director-proof actor is his greatest ally—one who works with him, but doesn’t need him, to thrive.

Jackie Apodaca is an associate professor and the head of performance at Southern Oregon University.

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