If an actor delivers the lines but is not believable, how do you direct him/her?
I usually tear them apart prior to the shoot. Get them to be as vulnerable and as broken as possible so true emotions register. I always believed in the truth of the TEXT. I never liked the "method" of brining out a bag of tricks for on the spot sense-memory tears. The Actor has to bring the character to life and not impose his own experiences onto the character.
I'd ask for another take, and I would try to think of someone they could emulate.
Sometimes I will step in myself, perform the lines how I'd like them read, and they can copy me.
I try and guide them to pull from their own experiences the motivations of the character.
The key is not to act. I usually get good performances form actors because of my acting experience. If you over direct, actors over act. I like to set the space so that exciting things can happen. I like to give a lot of freedom within a solid structure.
That's situational, based on the personality of the actor, their "malleability," their inclinations. I would try to find an organic solution to reach a proper level of authenticity. What I would never do, unless in a very specific dilemma, is give a "line reading".
Let them know that the take was great. Then say that this time go without said line and replace it with something fresh.
But the other actors don't this is happening. They are expecting the same line again.
I am not an acting teacher that's not my job so when an actor comes in for me and reads for me and doesn't wow me or doesn't get the character or is unprepared I know that the actor is not right for the part. if they are a little off I can redirect them easily and they'll get it right away.
Help them get inside the head and heart of the character they are playing, find out what the roadblocks are and energize them to believe that they can make the changes and become the character. It's on a case-by-case basis.
There is so little time and money that I only ever work with actors who I find believable. It's my job to set up believable actors in the casting process.
But if say an actor were having trouble with a scene, I'd give them time and space as much as possible and improvise. Always keeping them creative, thinking about the world of the piece... and I listen to their ideas.
Describing what kind of lines/expression/gesture that i need, and let him/her remember how does he/she react in such circumstances in their personal life. Then let them applying it in their lines/scenario/gesture. An actor/actress should always be him/herself.
During the casting process I search for believable actors. Believable actors are a must. A good actor will bring the character to life.
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