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#1 Jim Nelson

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 05:46 AM

Hi,

I understand that in each scene, the character has a goal and a motivation for that goal. But does each line of dialogue in a scene have a motivation of its own? And if so, when you direct the actor should you tell him: ok for this line, this is your motivation to say it, and for the next line, this is your motivation?


Thanks for your help :)
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 07:16 AM

Not necessarily. I don't think I've ever seen a director give motivations for every line. Some key lines, sure. Each line should serve a purpose in the film, but it doesn't necessarily have to be related specifically to goals in the scene or in the film- many of them can be related to get an idea of "person," or better put, to inform the audience and other members in the film on the character.
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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 08:33 AM

Dialogue can exist for a number of reasons, badly written it can be pure exposition, on other hand the character can be trying to meet a particular need or some other purpose or they could just be lying.

Directors tend not to direct line by line, it's more over all feel or feedback to the actors (who should be bringing something to the role), as to where their particular character is coming from and going to and how they're pitching their performance in the scene. If the director has to do it line by line, there can be something going wrong somewhere.
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#4 Jim Nelson

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 11:44 AM

The thing is, I thought that in each scene, the character has a goal and a motivation for that goal. And therefore everything he does (his actions) and says (his dialogue) must be to fulfill that goal. Isn't this correct?

Also, how would you recommend me to direct the actors in terms of their actions and what they say?

Thanks so much :)
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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 02:15 PM

Depends. Each scene has a point to it, but it may not have a specific goal. Some scenes can exist just to inform us on a character, or the story world, or be expository to give us background information etc. Other scenes are motivated by a person, and yet in others the person is motivated by the scene (for example, something acts upon someone and they need to do something). Why not try taking a film you know very well and deconstructing it scene by scene and shot by shot and figure out how they all interrelate. which ones inform of character, on story, on history (of the story world) and which ones are motivated by what.
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#6 Jim Nelson

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 02:39 PM

But in the scenes involving characters, shouldn't you tell them what their objective is and why they do each of their actions (for example, in scene A: why he picks up the phone, why he goes to the living room, why he puts on some music etc), in order for us to get the right emotion out of them?
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#7 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 02:42 PM

Tell whom? the actor? not necessarily. Hopefully the actor will have read the script and realize why he's doing what he's doing. In terms of the audience, a lot is left to interpretation. You can try to inform and direct their interpretations (or not if you so choose) but there is no way to guarantee all viewers will come to the same understanding.
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#8 Jim Nelson

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 03:09 PM

The thing is, in the book an Actor Prepares, Stanislavski says that "If the actor believes in the purpose of an action, the movement will be more believable." So that's why I'm confused whether you have tell him the motivation behind each of his actions.?

- I also learned that everything that happens and is said in a scene must be according to the purpose of that scene. So I'm kinda confused here too.

Edited by Jim Nelson, 19 August 2010 - 03:09 PM.

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#9 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 03:11 PM

Well the purpose of a scene could by myriad. as the for actor, hopefully they can innately understand why they are doing what they're doing, once they get into the mind of the character, the director then shapes that, and I'm certain, in those instances, where a particular line or action is of tantamount importance, then the director will work on it with the actor.
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#10 Jim Nelson

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 03:24 PM

I'm sorry I don't want to be a pain, but I still don't quite get it :(

I understand now that a scene can have various purposes. But I still don't get how to direct an actor :(
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#11 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 03:28 PM

There really isn't, I don't think, one hard and fast way to direct and actor. you spend a lot of time rehearsing and speaking with them, and you need to know what you want from the scene as a director, and you have to know how to talk with that specific actor to get that result (for example, some director will insult the hell out of an actor to really get 'em mad in a scene, if that's necessary and works for that specific actor. others will let the actor do what they want to do with the scene, and then move them towards how the director wants the scene.) Directing actors, like lighting a room, and anything which is a creative endeavor has many paths to many different ends and now two people really will approach it the same way. There isn't a set formula (thank god!) as that would lead to very formulaic results.
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#12 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 03:33 PM

The thing is, in the book an Actor Prepares, Stanislavski says that "If the actor believes in the purpose of an action, the movement will be more believable." So that's why I'm confused whether you have tell him the motivation behind each of his actions.?

- I also learned that everything that happens and is said in a scene must be according to the purpose of that scene. So I'm kinda confused here too.


A good actor researches their character and tries to understand where they're coming from, the director may discuss the character, but the actor has to invest in the character. What happens in scene depends on what is in the script and its importance to the story. Everything lies within the script, although sometimes (or often) it's not fully developed and the actor can bring their skills to enhance what's there.

Unfortunately, all this doesn't always work in a logical manner, it can be organic, with the actor bringing things from their own lives to the character.
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#13 Jim Nelson

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 04:39 PM

Thank you for your help :)

May I asked you one last quesiton. What's the difference between the objectives for each beat in a scene, and the overal objective of the scene?
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#14 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 04:53 PM

Robert McKee in Story explains it:

"A BEAT is an exchange of behaviour in action or reaction. Beat by Beat these changing behaviours shape the turning of the scene"

In a way they're the building blocks that build the scene, what the beats consist of will depend on the characters and their actions and what they're trying to achieve. Of course, it's entirely another matter if these characters succeed or or fail by the end of the scene and if this is good or bad for them.
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#15 Jim Nelson

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Posted 19 August 2010 - 08:01 PM

But isn't it like: in each scene, a character has an objective and the beats are the different tactics the character uses to fulfill that objective?
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#16 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 20 August 2010 - 02:34 AM

Also how they react to the other characters, they may not achieve their own personal objective in the scene, but (for example) may do something "for the greater good". You need more complexity than everyone trying to fulfill their own objective.

Perhaps need would be a better way of putting it, an objective may be different to a character's underlying need.
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#17 Frank Glencairn

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Posted 20 August 2010 - 03:05 AM

I'm sorry I don't want to be a pain, but I still don't quite get it :(

I understand now that a scene can have various purposes. But I still don't get how to direct an actor :(


I know how you feel - I was in the same boat once.
Judith Weston´s books "Directing-Actors" and "The Film Director's Intuition: Script Analysis and Rehearsal Techniques" where a real help and eye opener for me.

best, Frank
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#18 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 20 August 2010 - 11:10 PM

It depends. I was talking with Peter Bogdanovich a while back and asked him about directing Cybil Shepard on The Last Picture Show, see Cybil was a model and had never acted before so Mr. Bogdanovich basically gave her a line reading on almost every line. She took direction very well and the performance speaks for it's self. I'm a proponent of letting a good actor find his owe way and pulling them back when it is called for. Actors can come up with some amazing interpretations of your work and that can be incredibly satisfying. I even have an unofficial rule that they can change a line as long as what they come up with is better than what I wrote.

IF you did a good job on the script, your actors will find their motivation, the trick is to let them find their own truth and reality in the scene so they can bring those essential subtle touches that make the difference between a competent performance and a work of genius. CASTING is 99% of the job. You find the right actor for the right role and your life gets infinitely easier and given the thousand and one things a director has to focus on at any given time, making your life easier is a Godsend. There WILL be those occupations when you and your star just plain DON'T see eye to eye so you'll have to do whatever it takes to get the performance you need and remember if it ain't in the can, it don't exist make it happen. B)
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#19 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 21 August 2010 - 04:33 AM

Yes, casting is the key. There are a surprising number of films in which actors very much associated with that someone else was originally proposed for the part.

http://www.forbes.co...Speed=undefined
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#20 Jim Nelson

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 06:17 PM

Thank you everyone so much for your help :)
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