Directing Real People (Non-Actors)

Don't expect non-actors to act. This included most want-to-be actors. There aren't many real actors out there.

The key to directing real people is NOT DIRECTING them, but letting things happen that you prepare for. Remember "Candid Camera". Not all of it was faked. People were often real.

Set up a comfortable environment where people can be themselves and act naturally. Let strangers get acquainted. Have a friendly atmosphere. Avoid Hollywood movie talk. (Use English) Have the situation and equipment absolutely ready before people arrive. No last minute microphone or lighting adjustments. People forget a lavaliere faster than a boom mic. in their face.

Don't tell non-actors how to act. Manipulate the environment and people around your real person to get what you want or get realistic things to happen. Don't expect real people to regurgitate words and actions that are not their own.

Ask people to explain how they do things they are good at.

Keep camera at a distance and the operator quiet. The director should not be next to camera. I had my AD give instructions when I operated.

Twist the expected. Play on what is expected for their age. Kids trying to be adult. Old folks being kids.

Find out "secrets" from a spouse, parent or friend to have someone ask on camera "how about the time you...."

Shoot "50-50" (talent not knowing camera rolling) be absolutely ready and everyone on the crew knows it. The crew should be pretending to continue working, but not make noise or get in front of camera. Once people find out that you have been shooting and they survived, they usually relax.

Earpieces from the radios can help keep radio noise down.

If you are using a prop telephone, make it "practical", get someone to talk on the other end.

Put weight in a prop suitcase so it looks real. Don't ask people to act like it is heavy. Make it heavy.

Make people physically comfortable. People will look uncomfortable if they are. They will often not want to complain, but take the time to make them comfortable.

Take people for a run if you want them to look exhausted.

Always think carefully about how to manipulate the environment, props, people and your instructions to allow people to be themselves and do what they would do naturally.

© Copyright 1999-2004 Ron Dexter. All Rights Reserved.