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Film Independent Director's Closeup: Nicole Holofcener




I attended the first of five Film Independent Director's Closeup panel conversations, which featured indie auteur, Nicole Holofcener (The Land of Steady Habits, Enough Said). This panel was moderated by Karen Kusama (Destroyer, Girlfight) and featured Nicole's long-time casting director, Jeanne McCarthy (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Blockers) and actor Thomas Mann (The Land of Steady Habits, Lady and the Tramp). They discussed the art of casting and directing actors and what it takes to bring memorable and believable characters to life. Below are some notes I jotted down.

  • Don't over direct. Talking too much before a take or giving the actor an entire backstory doesn't tell them what you're looking to get out of the scene. Keep it simple and clear. "Slow it down. Go softer." When you get too cerebral, you run the risk of an actor not being able to get out of their head.

  • Don't quiz the actor about what they think the scene means. You're the director.

  • There's a difference between adlibbing and improvising. Sometimes it's too much pressure to ask an actor to completely improvise a scene. Know their strengths.

  • First-time directors need to be less rigid in who they wan to cast or how they envision a scene. It's truly a collaboration.

  • Actors want to feel like they're in good hands. It's important that they feel protected, in a safe space, and won't be embarrassed. They need to feel like you know what you're doing on set and that you have a clear vision.

  • Always call for references when you cast actors. They may give a great audition, but may not be great to work with.

  • Casting directors often look at who the producer of a film is when it's a first-time director. It helps to to have someone experienced on the team to gain trust.

  • It's always a balance of getting what you want and pleasing who is paying for it.

What else should be on the list?


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