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Directing an actor is not simple. You need to know what you want and articulate it right in order to get the most out of your actor and a believable performance. The following is a guideline to help you through the difficult task of directing the actor.

The tendency with unexperienced directors is to result-direct their actors. Result directing happens most often when you've figured out in your head the way your actor should read his lines, how specific his facial expression should be at that precise moment and what kind of movement he should be doing while delivering his lines. It's when you've completely nailed down your "vision".

The problem that occurs when you start directing your actor is that you begin to attempt to describe the result you are after, i.e., how you want it to end up looking or sounding. You might start to generalize like saying: "Can you do it more funnier?" or "Could you take it down a little?". You might also try to lay out an emotional map like saying: "Now, he just came home from work and he´s really tired but then he sees that she's there and he gets all excited because he badly wants her back, but then again, he's still a little bit heartbroken".

When you do this, you're asking your actor to first figure out what you meant, and then to translate your wishes into something playable. The key question you need to ask yourself first before giving your actor directions is: "Is this playable?". Using adjectives like "be happy" or "be sad" just describe someone's else's impression of the character. They're subjective, interpretive and therefore not ideal communication tool. For example, "friendly" could be considered by one as "sexual" and to another as "aggressive".

So what's 'playable'?
 A good and playable directions generates a behavior in the actor so it's objective and specific rather then subjective and general. You want your actor to be constantly re-acting. One of the ways to get that kind of performance is by using action-verbs. Action-verbs are verbs that has both an emotional and a physical component. They get your actor to do something to someone else. Take for example the verb "to accuse".

When your "vision" is to have the character "angry" in the scene, try to ask him to "accuse" her for leaving him. That way you shift the actor's concentration from the self-conscience "am I angry enough?" to allowing and encouraging the actor to listen and to engage with his scene partner. You simply focus the actors' attentions on their scene partner.

You can also try different verbs depending on what kind of energy you're looking for. Using "complain" instead of "accuse" could take the energy a little bit down while "belittle" could raise up the energy. As with everything connected to art, there's no exact formula that explains what's right to do or not. You might want to try various versions, depending on the script, in order to get the performance you're after.

Stories are based upon what the characters does, not what they do with their feelings. In other words, you want your audience to be constantly asking what happens next. Verbs describe what someone is doing, they're active not static; they describe experience rather than a conclusion about experience. So next time you're directing the actor; keep your directions simple and try figuring out a way to explain to your actor what you want by using action-verbs.

Written by Rúnar Ingi Einarsson