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Should Actors Direct?

Tips & Resources

(By Theresa Syn)

Ben Affleck’s latest box office hit Argo debuted at number two in its first week with a $19.5 million opening, then advanced to number one in its third week.  With yet another hit under his belt, Affleck is definitely doing something right. He is one of the rare actors with the talent both in front of and behind the camera. This league of successful Hollywood actor-directors includes big names like George Clooney, Ben Stiller and Mel Gibson who won the Academy Award for Best Director and Best Picture for Braveheart in 2004.


Academy-award winning actor-director Gibson shows that he can handle both sides of show business. (Geek Tyrant)

In most productions, the director has the final say over the creative execution of the film, while actors are beholden to the director’s vision. This is why Affleck chose the path of directing. “I’ve been on sets where you and the director have opposite ideas about what’s good,” he says. “That’s why I started directing in the first place, because I wanted to see if I…should listen more” (Rolling Stone).

Many actors make the transition from acting to directing to have more creative control in a production. Actor-turned-director, Tommy Lee Jones once noted that some actors want to be directors to satisfy a type of artistic greed. (Wisegeek) However, some actors choose to be directors because they see it as a career accomplishment (Quora). Television and film actress, Helen Hunt, has commented that she prefers directing because she appreciates the talents of actors and feels protective of them.

Actress Helen Hunt finally found her place behind the camera after 10 years of acting (List film)

Do good actors make good directors? Sometimes yes, sometimes no – but having on camera experience is definitely an advantage. Actors-turned-directors understand the art of acting and how it feels to be on the receiving end of directions. Thus, they know the limitations of an actor, what drives them and how to work with them – something directors can find it hard to empathize with. Actor-directors have greater insight into their actor’s motivations and experiences, and can therefore better connect and communicate, bringing out their best performance.

As a result, when actor-directors direct themselves, they are more inclined to create an environment they feel is most conducive for actors. “You can do anything you want. You can walk off-camera… It doesn’t matter. Anything might be good,” says Affleck.

But there’s more to directing than working with actors. Directors have to be at the helm of the production at all times. They have to analyze and interpret the script, tell a story, work with multiple designers, hold auditions and above all, motivate and lead a huge cast and crew. Thus, actors new to directing may be overwhelmed with the responsibilities of directing.

Not your typical director – Affleck gives his cast the freedom to be relaxed and comfortable on set.

Ultimately, it is about who can tell the best story. Directors, we encourage you to step in front of the cameras once in a while to understand the workings of an actors mind. Actors, use the experience you have in front of the camera to your advantage and give directing a go.

Actor or Director, we want your films! Submit your Film today!

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