Directors aren’t looking to see how well an actor fits a direction to the scene or makes the direction work with the scene. Directors are looking to see how well the actor can turn the scene into what they want it to be. If actors want to be hired and re-hired by directors, they will try the director’s direction even if it doesn’t fit the scene. Great directors of acting know that playing against the scene creates a more three dimensional performance on camera.
Here are three things that make directors want to work with actors again and again while recommending those actors to other directors.
Play the direction not the scene. When given a direction, instead of looking at the script to figure out how the direction fits the scene, use the scene to play the direction. Instead of making the direction fit your pre-determined line readings, let it determine what your line readings will be. Think of it as cinematic improv. If a scene is written as angry and the director wants it delivered as heartbreak, the clever actor will have the audience weeping over a passionate and very moving break-up scene.
Recreate your character not your moments. Given the number of takes required when shooting, the only way to keep your performance fresh is to recreate your character while letting your your moments be fluid. Moments don’t dictate character. Character dictates moments. Character dictates everything.
Options, options, options, options. If you’re working for a professional director, she or he has one mission going into editing: options. If you can keep your character consistent while playing different emotional intentions, you will be the actor with whom directors say they want to work again and again.