Performer Jenny Slate shares her perspective on how directors can better collaborate and communicate with actors to facilitate their strongest performances. 

Key Insights

  • An actor’s job is to make themselves vulnerable take after take. As you appreciate the difficult emotional and physical work they are doing for you, Jenny offers the following thoughts:
  • Every actor is different, so learn what your actor needs, how they work best, and the most effective approach to communication. 
  • Providing feedback to actors is useful and necessary - but deliver it in a positive manner. Don’t be rude or shame your actors.
  • Do not physically move your actors! Actors are not props or dolls. Verbally communicate with them.
  • Understand that your actors will have their own thoughts, opinions, and will make choices that don’t always match your ideas. Be open, listen, and give them an opportunity to show you.
  • Giving the direction to perform a certain emotion (e.g., “anger”) is too subjective and non-specific. It's more helpful to give an action or a behavior to pair with an emotional pathway (e.g., “you are so angry you could rip something off a wall”, or “all you want to do is leave”), which is a specific action and expression of anger. 
  • Actors all work differently. Jenny advises to not give direction privately to actors and instead suggests sharing direction openly with all actors to equalize the collaborative process on set. Often, the notes that are being given to one actor will affect everyone in the scene and gives your actors the opportunity to support each other.
  • For Jenny, the best sets feel like a community where transparency, sensitivity, support, and curiosity are the qualities that should exist to create truly meaningful work. 

Jenny Slate made her feature film debut in Gillian Robespierre’s critically acclaimed OBVIOUS CHILD. Slate starred as “Donna,” a twenty-something comedienne whose unplanned pregnancy forces her to confront the realities of independent womanhood for the first time. The film premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and was released by A24 Films. more...

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