How to tell writers they suck

You know you’ve always wanted to know.  I attended a presentation by Hollywood director Mark Travis.  He covered such topics as staging characters and the environment, all relevant when writing or directing cinematics.  In the process, however, he revealed a great tip for talking to actors which can easily be applied to working with writers.

First, I’ll set the stage, so to speak.  Mark brought up two actors who proceeded to read a scene from a movie.  While sitting and reading doesn’t lend itself to great acting in general, I’ve been to enough dramatic readings in Hollywood to know that their performance was a bit lacking.  I was wondering how he was going to address this issue, when he proceeded to give this little lesson.

Whenever an actor performs, it’s scary.  They’re taking a risk by letting it all hang out there.  The worst thing you can do after they’ve taken this risk is punish them for it.  The first thing out of your mouth should be a compliment.  By doing so, you make the environment safe for them to take even more risks. 

That alone would improve your relationship with writers and actors, but the next part is even better.  After the compliment, say, “You gave me a great idea of a new direction we can go in!  This time try…”  You’re basically saying “Change everything,” but the actor or writer hears, “You’ve inspired me… let’s take it further.”  Two words: Brill iance.

The actors, having had the secret of directing revealed to them, performed the scene again, unruffled.  I can imagine a writer would have done the same.

Ready?  Now go on, tell me I suck! 🙂


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