The importance of good direction

I did an acting course on the weekend. Anyone who knows me will know what a bizarre statement that is for me to make. Not only am I terribly self-conscious and hate people looking at me, I’m also a terrible actor. If there was a competition for world’s worst actor, I’d be sure to make the finals.

But not anymore.

The course I did was called “Acting for Directors and Producers” and was run by Sydney based actor and dramaturge Nadia Townsend. If you ever have the chance to work with Nadia, take it. 

The beauty of this course was that everyone was in the same boat. We were all self-conscious, we all prefer being behind the camera to being in front of it and, to be honest, none of us were great actors. But that’s who the course is designed for. It’s for people like us, who work with actors, and would like to know more about the craft. It’s one thing to call yourself a director, but it’s another to know how to work with people, particularly actors, when you don’t really understand their craft. I’m not saying that I’m now an expert, nor that I completely understand the process, but I have a much better idea now than I did a week ago.

Nadia not only helped us explore some of the philosophy behind acting, she also got us up on the floor and took us through some tasks that helped solidify what we’d been discussing. This was invaluable for a group of people who spend a lot of time in their head. Actually getting up and transforming the theory into practice, was great. A lot of what we touched on during the weekend I’d read about and was, in some way, familiar with, but it was putting this theory into practice that really brought it alive for me. And, not only that, I wasn’t as bad as I thought. None of us were. Throughout the weekend there were a number of times when we were so shocked by each other’s performance that we’d break into spontaneous applause. What was amazing was how effective just the right exercise or technique can be in encouraging a good performance. Even the smallest piece of direction, if it’s right for that moment, can make the world of difference. I saw it play out in front of me.

And that’s the main thing I’ll take away from the weekend – the importance of clear, constructive, well-timed, insightful direction and how transformative this can be. It sounds like something I should have already known and, I guess on some level I did, but actually seeing it play out with such dramatic effect really made an impact on me. If we were able to respond so effectively to such direction, imagine how invaluable that is to someone who actually knows what they’re doing. That’s the type of insight and understanding I want to develop as a director and that’s the kind support I want to be able to give my actors.

I don’t know that I’ll ever act again but I’m glad I had this experience and I have no doubt I’ll be a better director as a result.

By Julie Kalceff