How Director Ridley Scott Gets Great Performances from Actors
The Martian has already brought home a number of awards, and it was just recently nominated for a total of seven Academy Awards.
Director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Drew Goddard must be doing something right, as the film has garnered a ton of praise, and in this Variety video, they give some essential advice about both screenwriting and directing:
While Scott is often working with the best actors out there, he does say it all comes together when you've got a good script. Once you're working with the actors, he says it's important to move on, not over elaborate, and keep it simple, and that the best actors often just want to hear which speed is best for their delivery — faster, slower, or medium. No two actors or directors are the same, but keeping it simple is important, as everyone has enough stress going on already. If you're doing the work in pre-production, once you get on set you're often only tweaking minor things. Either way — and I'm sure Scott would agree — constant communication is important, especially letting your actors know that you've got their back, and you trust the decisions that they're making.
Scott also talked about the importance of the screenplay, and how it's not all that different from musicians just being able to play music they're seeing for the first time:
If the words are good, that's the music. If you get the music right, you say "OK, just read. 'Do you want to talk about...?' No just read." I want to hear what decisions they're making, because I want to see what they're made of.
Drew Goddard also mentioned some terrific advice he got when he first started:
...anything you're writing at any given moment in this business, you're going to hear about three other projects that are exactly the same all the time. And if you worry about it, you'll never get anything done. Just concentrate on making yours unique.
There are so many variables in filmmaking, just because you hear an idea that sounds similar to a movie you're writing doesn't mean it's going to be. Adding to that, there's no guarantee a project that's been announced will actually become a finished movie, as there are lots of films that fall apart or change well before they're ever released. If you make it your own, and put a piece of yourself in it, it's going to be a different film even if the idea is similar.