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Directing Actors for the First Time

Looking back, I think a big part of casting came down to not only how well the actor read for the part, but I also wanted to make sure I was compatible with them. I needed to feel confident we could comfortably work together.

Before we ever got on set, I felt like I had a really great cast. It was just a gut feeling since I had never been involved in a movie production before. The thing I felt the most was that, beyond being great actors, the people we selected for the film were really great people.

Working with our actors was very enjoyable for me. I found that each brought a slightly different approach to the character they played. These are talented people and the vast majority of the time they brought something that improved the character, the scene, and ultimately the movie. I discovered that the best way to direct them was very subtly. I never said, “act like Al Pacino in Scarface” or “move your hands this way.” Not only would that offend them and shutdown their creativity (which I certainly didn’t want to do), but it would also take the fun out of making a movie. Army & Coop is a comedy and it was very important to me that everyone on set was comfortable and having fun!

The other thing I discovered is that every actor delivered their scene much differently than I envisioned it when I wrote the script. In most cases, they improved the scene immensely. I had a few very funny actors who loved to improvise, so I let them. I asked for one “clean take" the way I had written it, then we would do a few takes where anything went. I’ll bet we got over fifty amazing pieces of improv in the film through that approach. In fact, Gary Miller, who plays the antagonist in the film, conceived and sang an entire song that we actually used in the film – it’s was that good!

Let your actors act! That’s what they do. And if you give them creative license, you’ll end up with some great takes, a happy group, and a good film!

Next time we'll discuss how to work with the crew, which is much different that working with the cast!

Check out Army & Coop at

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