Read the review at MicroFilmmaker Magazine
The relationship between a film director and their actors will make or break the final movie. Despite beautiful cinematography or excellent sound design, the performances will ultimately control the believability of the characters in any story.
As the director, one must guide and encourage the actors to deliver work that feels real, even though the film around them is artificially constructed. So how should a director approach this task? In the first volume of his video course, Directing Actors, Per Holmes breaks down a very thorough approach to communicating with actors, building characters, and bringing out the best performances possible.
This video series contains extremely dense material, but fortunately Holmes breaks it down into manageable segments. The total course will eventually span two volumes and a total of 17 segments, with each segment around 1.5 hours in length. This allows the viewer to take their time watching each of the lessons without being overwhelmed.
This review deals with Volume I, which includes parts 1 – 8.
Holmes begins by laying out the structure of the course, so that viewers know what to expect. Then, he tackles each layer of directing performances in actors, starting with the least complex and slowly diving into the more difficult concepts. This step-by-step approach aids in understanding.
Additionally, visual aids help to demonstrate the techniques in action, making it simpler to grasp their use in real-world situations. First, Holmes details the concepts he teaches in the videos with color-coded, animated graphics. Then, he dives into his practical use of the techniques by showing behind-the-scenes videos of his real-life film shoots.
With this series, viewers get the unique experience of seeing the directing process from an inside perspectiveDirector Per Holmes works with his actors between takes while shooting an interrogation scene
In his video series, Holmes walks us through a wide variety of methods for communicating with actorsWe get detailed looks at the cast members as they rehearse…
… And, we get to see the finished result in completed scenes from the film
This video series covers an incredible depth of information. We’re currently reviewing Volume I (which consists of parts 1-8). In this first half, Holmes walks viewers through virtually every directing technique available for working with actors. He also explores the reasons and psychology behind the techniques. Furthermore, he dives into acting methodology so that directors can better understand where their performers are coming from. He also explains scenarios where the techniques may not work, or can be overused.
(According to the course layout, future videos 9-17 will take viewers through an entire production experience alongside Holmes as he directs, from the casting process through shooting.)
Throughout these videos, Holmes includes comprehensive footage of himself on the set or in rehearsal, using the techniques he outlines. Viewers see him give a specific direction to an actor, and then study the result in the finished take. He also shows the ongoing discussions with the actors about the choices they make for the characters. The fly-on-the-wall approach taken in these videos provides an extremely good insight into how and why the techniques are used.
Anyone driven to improve their directing will find this training series very interesting. While it covers a lot of length, Holmes designed the course to be watched at a slow, steady pace. Plus, the clean visuals and production values of all of the footage, as well as the inclusion of clips from a finished narrative film, help keep the interest level quite high. Additionally, moments of intentional “bad directing” examples provide humor and entertainment, as well as education on what not to do.
This course currently has (and will have even more once completed) an excellent re-watch value because of its content, and also the nature of the craft it teaches. Directing is such a complex task that no single approach will work every time. Having a video series to refer back to between projects will greatly aid anyone trying to solve a particular directing problem or even just to refresh their knowledge.
At $429 for half of the series, or just over $600 for all 17 parts, the price may be higher than some of our film budgets. However, these videos are nearly equivalent to a college course in directing, and cost far less than tuition. Viewers will get an astounding amount of depth in this video series.
While a downside is that you do not receive any direct criticism from a professor or classroom peers, it is counterbalanced by the advantage that the videos can be kept and reused. So long as the same high quality persists in the next volume, I feel that buyers will receive the best value by buying all 17 videos for the discounted price, which is 30% off of the total.
Ultimately, one’s value judgement will come from whether the techniques presented here work for them. Holmes believes that he has outlined all existing directing methods in his series. In the end, it will be up to each individual to choose what works for them and their actors as they build performances. However, having an extensive tool kit to choose from is essential when directing, and I feel Holmes has a good chance of providing that with his series.
The first volume of Directing Actors provides a rich education on the craft of directing, as well as the opportunity to observe another director in action. Holmes and his team have created a valuable resource for all directors, from the beginner to the veteran looking to refine their skills.
With its reasonable price, especially when purchasing the entire series, this course should serve as an excellent tool for a filmmaker’s growth.