Acting Advice

Ask Me!: How does direction work?

I was just wondering. Does director tell the actor that in that scene he will come across the room, take a mug with coffe and sit on a couch? Or maybe an actor do it by himself? I mean, does someone tells him what to do or he has to imagine it by himself?

Thanks for asking this Annie,

It all depends on the director, the actor, and the performance.

Generally, the director will “block” the scenes. That is the industry term for what you’re asking. Blocking is the same as sketching in fine art, or walking-through the steps in dance. It is necessary to help illustrate the story visually, and by blocking a scene in rehearsal it is helpful for the lighting technicians, and, in film, the cinematographer. It also helps to prevent actors from crashing into each other which can happen with less experienced casts.

Sometimes a director will have a very specific vision in mind and will know exactly what he/she wants to see and they will have a lot to do with the blocking of a scene. There are other directors who enjoy improvisation – seeing what happens with the actors in the moment – so they would have less input on blocking. And then there are the directors who do both – they like to see where the actor wants to go naturally and then modify it to suit their vision if they need to.

It is very rare, though, to be left to block a scene by yourself as an actor (although, personally, I prefer to). And, in theater, the blocking is usually written down and enforced by a stage-manager once it has been established in rehearsal. Which puts an awful lot of pressure on a performance and can sometimes hinder it’s growth over a long run of a show.

Direction, though, is much more than blocking. A director is usually responsible for communicating how everything should look and sound – from lighting, to set, to wardrobe, casting, and so on. Direction can also differ from genre to genre (film, TV, theater, commercials, etc). Sometimes a director can be in charge of every little detail as mentioned, or they can simply be a glorified traffic-cop – someone who keeps a set in line by calling action and cut, keeping things on schedule, and making sure that every scene is covered.

I am looking forward to interviewing a few directors for my podcast this year. Hopefully they will help to shine a light on what directing means to them.

Have a question about acting? Ask Me!

About The NYC Actor

Angela Dee is a professional actress working in Film, Theatre, TV, Commercials and Voiceovers. She currently lives in New York.

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