Hot off Birds of Prey, Cathy Yan is taking the directing world by storm. Turns out, doing a successful studio movie can reinvigorate interest in your past works, like her underseen film Dead Pigs.
Everyone wants to know how Yan adapts to different sets and deals with actors. But it turns out, aside from having a ton of talent, she has one word she uses to get the best out of her performances.
In the latest episode of Demystified from StudioFest, Yan speaks with fellow director Anna Mikami about the things they have in common, how they work out ideas, and the one word she used to inspire actors. Check it out below.
In Yan's words, “Basically all I said was just, ‘react.’ I think in an interesting way that kind of pushed everyone out of their comfort zone. ... On the flip side, it was nice to not talk so much about what was happening and just react in the moment. And that’s typically my method, actually—it’s very much to just play around when we’re shooting. And maybe I’ll give direction to the off-camera person in order to get a reaction on-camera.”
Yan finished the thought by saying, “That was a sort of method… that really worked on Dead Pigs and kept it alive and funny and I think we found a lot of interesting moments that way. And on Birds, too, a little bit.”
I thought this was fascinating. A lot of times we make big-budget and indie worlds so different, but when it comes to directing, it's really about how you relate with actors and how you control the set.
There's not really a secret magic word. But there is a way you handle yourself and the lessons you learn along the way, no matter the size of the project.
One of the things I loved about both BOP and Dead Pigs was how much the actors bought into their roles and really believed in the characters. You could sense the fun on screen, even as the genre elements were engaged in both features.
Will you use the word "react" on set? Got any other magic words you want to share? Let us know in the comments.