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Old 07-04-2015, 07:32 PM   #1
Stefan the No One
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Question Opinions on Backseat Directing

Whenever I act I frequently have suggestions or input for my directors that they are not willing to discuss, often dismissing me as a "backseat director." I try to only give advice from the perspective of the viewer, expressing what problems they might have with the final product. Should I stop, or are my directors just close-minded?
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Old Today   #1A
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Old 07-04-2015, 07:45 PM   #2
cheeseandachallenge
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Depends what your suggestions are. If you're offering stuff that isn't about acting, you are probably creating a nuisance of yourself. Your job, as an actor, is to help fulfil the vision of the director (and writer, producer ..), not impart your own vision on the project. Some directors encourage engagement and input from all team members, but you need to judge what directors want that input. Even then, there is a tome and a place - i heavily promote cast and crew offering suggestions for my work, but once we get on set your genius ideas (and they may be genius) slow down the process and get in the way of the other million things a director is trying to deal with.
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Old 07-04-2015, 08:36 PM   #3
Cryogenic
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I would say that unless you are a seasoned actor just do what the director tells you. Otherwise you will probably get a reputation as a difficult actor.
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Old 07-04-2015, 09:11 PM   #4
directorik
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefan the No One View Post
Whenever I act I frequently have suggestions or input for my directors that they are not willing to discuss, often dismissing me as a "backseat director." I try to only give advice from the perspective of the viewer, expressing what problems they might have with the final product. Should I stop, or are my directors just close-minded?
I agree with CandC. Because you use the plural it makes me think
this has happened on more then one project with more than one
director and (possibly?) more then one time on each project. Don't
give the directors advice from the perspective of the viewer. You
aren't the viewer and you can't know what problems there might
be with the final product. If you have questions or suggestions from
the perspective of the actor then you should go ahead.

The directors are not being closed minded. They have their vision,
they know what they want to convey from the perspective of the
viewer. Your suggestions may not be within that vision even if you
do think your suggestion is better.
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Old 07-04-2015, 10:27 PM   #5
Sweetie
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Quote:
there is a time and a place
This is the biggest reason I dismiss ideas. Ideas given at the wrong time.

I always welcome ideas, thoughts, suggestions etc. Take for instance, lets say as an actor, you have an idea about the character. The right time to bring that up would be as early in the process as possible. If possible, before rehearsals.

If an actor (or crew member) has an idea about blocking, once you've shot the master, it's often a bad idea to change the blocking. Offer the idea before you've shot any of that scene. Offering up the idea in the close ups is just wasting time.

Little compartmentalized items that can be thrown in (such as a reaction shot) are more than fine to suggest while you're doing the mids, sometimes even as late as the closeups (if you do cu shots for that scene).

If you have an idea of a quick insert/cutaway that should be captured, suggest away.

Be wary if the production is running behind. New ideas often slow things down.

As rik said, you have to get a feel for what the director is like. Some simply don't entertain ideas. Others are very collaborative.
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Old 07-05-2015, 06:21 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stefan the No One View Post
I try to only give advice from the perspective of the viewer ...
Do you know how the scene is going to be edited together? Do you know what sound design/music is going to be used in the scene? Do you know how the scene is going to be transitioned/juxtaposed with it's adjacent scenes?

The "perspective of the viewer" is affected or dramatically affected by these questions. So, if you don't know the answers to them how do you know what is the desired "perspective of the viewer" and therefore if your advice is in any way relevant? Ultimately, this is why the role of director exists in the first place! The actor's role is to concentrate on the acting performance and the other key personnel's role is to concentrate on their piece of the puzzle. The director's role is to understand how all those pieces will fit together to create a complete puzzle.

This is not to say that any suggestions/advice you have will always be irrelevant, just that there's a fair chance that it will be, in which case it's a waste of one of the most valuable filming commodities (time). As others have effectively said, choose the topic (your piece of the puzzle) and timing of any suggestions/advice carefully.

G
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Old 07-09-2015, 05:53 PM   #7
FantasySciFi
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Hi Stefan. Welcome to IndieTalk. As an actor you need to focus on delivering your best performance. As actors, we cannot see what the camera is seeing. Trust me. I've worked on both sides. When you're asked to cheat in blocking it's to make you look good in the camera even though it feels odd and unnatural in reality. It's my main complaint with "acting directors"--actors who direct themselves who refuse to let their DP do the direction for that scene.

All the comments above are from experienced filmmakers and are right on the mark. Unless you're also a producer (which some SAG actors are on indie films), your opinion isn't relevant except for how you conceptualize your character. And that's something you will work out with the director or 1st or 2nd AD early in the process.

With pressure of getting shots done in a timely fashion, lighting, sound and other issues that arise on set, the director isn't focused on what you think would look good. They've already done a storyboard of the shots they want. The larger, more professional the production, the less freedom there is once the process starts. You get paid to act, not to advise on the final product.

Actor's directors tend to be more open. Writer/directors tend to be more inflexible. Visual directors are in between though they are tougher on the crew in their expectations. Experiential/Art film directors are very "do whatever" that it can be frustrating since nothing seems to get done except in the editing room. As an actor, you will learn a lot from all the styles. If you're a new actor, the best thing is to sit back, give your best performance, keep ego in check and enjoy the ride. As you learn and get involved behind the camera, you will get an opportunity to be more involved in those decisions. Some prefer to just be actors, which is fine. Just be aware that acting is only a part of the equation and not more important than the other parts. After the acting is done, the work of post-production begins which gives the film its final form.
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Old 07-09-2015, 06:00 PM   #8
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There is definitely a time and a place.
On set during filming it's likely already too late.

I personally invite criticism during the read throughs and rehearsals, thats when this stuff should be worked out. If anyone can save me from doing something stupid I'll be really grateful.

Once you're filming time is everything.
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