Justin Chon got started as an actor and then began directing. He shares how his insights in front of the camera have shaped how he rehearses his actors, troubleshoots a difficult scene, and elicits emotional truths in performances. 

Key Insights

  • As a director, it’s important to understand the actor’s experience. Try to take acting classes or workshop scenes with other actors.
  • Preparing for a role takes time. As a director, you can provide images and music to your actors to help them develop their character’s world.
  • Try to get your actors to relax, be in the moment, and not anticipate where they’re going in a scene. 
  • Some ways for an actor to prepare for a scene are to physicalize and vocalize the emotions of their character. For example, If they need to be angry, it can be helpful to have them punch and yell.
  • Deliver notes on a performance based on the type of scene. If it’s a group or collaborative scene, you can give the notes together. If it’s a scene with conflict, consider giving the notes separately so the actors have different information going into the scene. 
  • If a scene isn’t working, you can break and talk with your actors to hear what’s blocking them. If the scene continues to not work, then try having the actors put the scene in their own words based on what needs to happen and what their character wants or needs.
  • Sometimes a scene just doesn’t work; continuing to try and push it will only waste time and energy. If the scene isn’t integral to the film, consider cutting it to move on. 
  • Work from your skill level. Focus on where you are instead of where you want to be and you'll be happier in this lifelong process of evolving your craft.

Justin Chon was born in Orange County, California where he learned to drag race Honda Civics. He most recently wrote and directed MS. PURPLE that premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in the US Dramatic Competition. more...

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