Friday, March 24, 2006

On Directing

So here's something that I really enjoy when directing a scene. Typically, you do all the preparation ahead of time. You know what today's scene is about, you know the subtext you want to bring out, the tone you want to paint...etc. And then you say action. The actors do their thing and you observe them at the monitor, watching on behalf of your audience, seeing how this moment will fit into the larger picture (the scene and the film). And when you say cut, you make modifications, you tell the actors okay, I need you to move here, do this do that... etc to try to get what you're looking for. And sometimes actors or performers don't get that thing that you're looking for. That's where the challenge falls upon you. How are you going to make this a good scene? You don't want it to bring your movie down. You can't tell them what to feel. You never do that as a director. And here comes the most important tool at your disposal: Objective and Obstacle.

How do you create a real performance? I will give you a perfect example from a movie I made recently that may seem silly, but really was a terrific exercise in directing. Over the holidays I made a short called Liffi Liffi in Jordan. It's about a girl looking for an address. All but one were non-actors, but I think we ended up with quite a dynamic little short. The heart of the movie is just a scene really. The girl is looking for an address and the guys on the street give her a hard time. I had to find a reason why she wouldn't drive away, so I got this book and wrote on it the address she was looking for, her agenda book. So when she stopped to ask the guys on the street, I had them take her book as they tried to help her. If they take her book, she won't want to leave without it, thus we have a reason for the scene to exist. So in directing the performances there, I told the actress Rama that this whole scene, you keep looking at your book, you want it back so you can leave. And I told the guys Usama and Nadim, keep the book in your hands, keep it near her, but don't let her have it, and keep trying to help her, but argue with each other. The scene is not about helping. It's about one-upping each other. Once the objective was clear to all parties, the scene had its core and it worked.

One man's objective is another man's obstacle. From that, you get drama. Simple, but man is it a powerful tool. So next time you're directing a scene, find your objective and obstacle for your actors, and they'll deliver the goods without trying to perform for the camera.


Blogger Hareega said...

you've been subar-tagged with all planeters

2:58 PM  
Blogger moi said...

Hi Amin,
I enjoy your blog and your work. I was pleasantly suprised today when I checked my email to find you featured in the latest edition of the MidEastConnect.

You make us Jordanians proud, keep it up :)

11:24 AM  
Blogger Amin Matalqa said...

Thank you Moi,
It's quite exciting to be featured. It's great to have all the support. We'll need it while making the feature film.

8:18 PM  

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