Undergraduate Acting Student: Advice for directing for the first time.

 

Hi guys me again, this time for a change I’m not writing about love and relationships, today I’m writing about my experience and upcoming experiences of being a director for the first time, instead of a acting, as part of the final year of my degree. Some of you probably don’t know that I’m a third year BA (Hons) Performance student at Southampton Solent University.

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This year, for the first time, I am taking the Directing for Actors, Performing for Directors unit of my course to which we could either act or direct and so I have chosen to direct.

So here are my top 5 tips for first time directors and why they have/are working for me;

1)  There is nothing wrong with directing only an extract of a play instead of a whole one. Now I know this might sound stupid ‘Whats the point’. The truth is to direct a play you have to be confident you know the play, and for some people the idea of directing like and hour and a half show can be an incredibly daunting task. For me, for the unit I am directing a 10 minute extract from the play ‘Blue remembered Hills’ by Dennis Potter. This, for me, is perfectly manageable time for my first attempt. Not only does it allow me to develop my directing style, I could later apply to a lengthier play if I wanted to. This might not necessarily work for others but this works for me really well.

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2) Don’t be afraid to use a script that you have studied before in some way. Blue Remembered Hills is a script that I have studied before at A level. I never performed the play, it was used for character analysis essays as well as looking at how certain scenes would be directed as well as lighting and set design. Now I know how it probably sounds, ‘Directing a scene from that would be easy you’ve done it before’ And I would say yes I have but four years ago as a hypothetical project, with no boundaries in terms of budget when thinking of set design etc as well as skills that were not as advanced as they are now. Therefore the direction taken on this would be completely new, with obstacles to block my creative vision. All this does is provide you with a confident backdrop for you to take your first steps into being a director, you need to be confident in yourself and there is nothing wrong with going with what you know sometimes.

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3) Don’t be afraid to work with actors you know well. I think to be honest that this is a no brainier, working with actors you know well is always a good idea, you know each others strengths and weaknesses as well as how each other likes to work. For me, this time round I am working with three first year students I had the pleasure of mentoring during the first week of uni this year and hopefully a fourth member who I’ve worked with in my class for the past three years. For me, this is perfect. I know we all have good chemistry while also bridging gaps between years to help and get to know each other which I think is beneficial throughout your degree.

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4) Be willing to experiment with media when it comes to directing. For me, personally, this applies to soundbites, audio voice overs as well as music and sometimes image projection in order to aid the scene, whether this be to help set the tone of the scene or just to help with the actual set design. I feel it all can be beneficial when used correctly and this also applies to lighting and costume but I’ll touch on that a little more in my next point. Anyway, for example, in my directing piece because I am limited in terms of time and actors I am considering using a voice-over in order to build up to the scene I’m planning on having conjoined onto the main scene with three of my actors, this is because the actual play the scenes do not follow each other and there are things that happen in between the scenes that I feel are necessary to be shown in some way in order for the proceeding scene to take place. Again, this is just how I do it and what is working for me and everyone will find their own way.

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5) Finally, do not be afraid to get creative in terms of set and costume design and don’t be afraid to spend a bit of money. I know as a student money is tight, that’s why any clothing I own can become costume and why charity shops are always my go to for costume. Not only this, but don’t be afraid to see how you can elaborate with your set design. For me, because other performances are coming before and after my scene, my set cannot be too extravagant, instead I am looking at how I could possibly use a simplistic and symbolic set to still set my stage appropriately in order to communicate properly with my audience. I hope to achieve this through the use of lighting as well as possible projections but also with costume as well as accent to set the rural background of my piece.

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These are just how I am going about directing for the first time and this is just to help anyone who maybe struggling to find a starting point. Good luck to those of you who are! Also for those of you wondering, the pictures are ones from the production of ‘Spring Awakening’ I was in back in the Easter! Thanks for reading! 🙂