You might have heard his name before as an actor, but Edward Burns is also an accomplished director in his own right. He's been steadily making films for more than a decade now (his newest is The Fitzgerald Family Christmas), but it's only been the last few years that he has tried to make films the DIY way, raising small amounts of money to make smaller movies that he can distribute digitally. If you needed any proof that digital distribution can work, look no further than his recent films. A little while back he sat down with Ghetto Film School in a Google Hangout to discuss directing and give some advice on how to work with actors.
For me, casting is huge. I've often written parts for specific actors in mind, so sometimes it works a little backwards for me, but if you can cast someone knowing their abilities and how far you can probably push them, there's a good chance you won't be fighting hard to get the right performance out of them. It's also not just about casting each role with the right actor, but choosing actors who you think will work well together. This is something that is often seen on big movies with huge stars. Just because an actor has a fantastic resume doesn't mean they can work with another actor with a great resume. I don't usually have the luxury of being able to do a reading with actors who are auditioning together and don't have the part yet, but if you can, I think it can be helpful depending on the type of movie you're making.
I think the part about encouraging actors even if you don't like what they are doing is important. If a scene isn't being played the right way or an actor is playing the dialogue or the emotions wrong, rather than tell them it's not working, I'll usually come back and say, "That's good, but let's try [___] on this next take." I have found that I can quickly guide them back to where I think they should be in terms of the scene and the overall arc, while at the same time making sure they feel confident that they are doing a good job -- because if they lose that confidence, the results can be disastrous.
Have you used any of these tips in your own work? What might you add to the advice in the videos above?