Taught by AWD Founder and USC Professor Jennifer Warren, AWD’s Directing the Actor program meets for monthly sessions over a nine month period, covering various topics such as in-depth scene breakdowns, rehearsal exercises and techniques, and playable direction and adjustments for actors.
Last month, the graduating AWD Members of the 2022 Directing the Actor Lab screened their scenes as part of the final class of the course, which began back in January.
Reflecting on the conclusion of this year’s program, instructor Jennifer Warren shared with us:
“Another final screening for the 2022 graduates of AWD’s Directing the Actor Lab has just been completed and I am pleased to report that their work was excellent. They were able to illicit touching and dynamic performances making the scenes come alive. It’s gratifying for me to see their fine work and know that they are leaving not only with more tools in their directing toolbox, but also with a cohort of their peers who will support each other in the coming years. To illustrate that point, I just got a letter from Rebecca Louisell from the class of 2019, who tells me that their class has written a screenplay, secured a producer, and formed an LLC, while raising considerable money for development of their anthology feature film. This is exactly what the Alliance was created for and I couldn’t be prouder of them all.”
At the beginning of the course each of the participating directors selected a scene from an existing screenplay, cast it, and rehearsed the scene outside of class before presenting it in class to be critiqued and workshopped. Before directors shot their respective scenes, they had one final rehearsal and prepared a shot list. They then shot their scenes on location and edited them before screening them to the class to be critiqued.
The goal of the program is to discover the spontaneity of the moment while telling the story. No matter how good the script, how experienced the cinematographer, or how inventive the production designer, unless the actor engages the audience, the film will rarely succeed. Over the course of the program, directors learn how to use their most valuable asset, the actor, to enable them to create the performance and thereby, the film they envision.
To further articulate the Directing the Actor experience, the 2022 graduates generously shared with us their reflections on participating in this year’s program:
“Participating in Jennifer Warren’s lab was an invaluable experience. I learned how to analyze and prepare scenes for rehearsal. I feel more confident about diagnosing a scene, determining which tools and adjustments are needed to improve an actor’s performance, as well as how to communicate adjustments in a manner that will inspire actors to do their best work.” – Candice Carella
“It’s been a wonderful experience learning new tricks on how to connect with actors. From this lab, I’ve learned how to pay close attention to the way I communicate characters’ emotions, and I now feel I’m a better director because of it.” – Sofia Garza-Barba
“Going through the lab has changed my entire way of engaging with actors, from the way I cast, to rehearsing, to working with actors on set. It’s given me the confidence to trust in the process of developing a scene incrementally, and to ‘lean’ more on an actor’s skills instead of thinking I have to come up with all the answers. Workshopping together with Jennifer and the group was a fantastic experience. I had gone in hoping for new tricks of the trade in directing my own scripts, but I found to my surprise I was able to bring all my newfound knowledge and skills into my day-job of directing commercials too.” – Eva Midgley
“Directing the Actor Lab was a unique experience, which nurtured me to work on a very specific directing muscle. The camaraderie with the fellow Alliance of Women Directors is genuine and Jennifer Warren’s feedback is intelligent and nurturing. The entire lab is organized with what bell hooks would have called the “love ethic” – it’s a workshop led by Love for the working women directors to Grow as Artists.” – Anna Sang Park
“Being a part of the Directing the Actor Lab has been an absolute highlight of 2022. The breadth and depth of learning shared by both Jennifer Warren, and the other directors in the group, was invaluable and led to my being able to explore deeper relationship dynamics with my actors. Having insight and guidance from creative peers, and a supportive sounding board space, allowed me to grow and develop my skills as a director. It is an experience that I highly recommend to any directors seeking to expand their knowledge base and to gain a community.” – Natalie Simpkins
“The Directing the Actor Lab was in incredible experience, and has given me much more confidence in my work with actors, and that’s only because of the wonderful tools that I’ve learned throughout the class and especially because of Jennifer’s thoughtful and encouraging feedback.” – Sarah Smith
“I had a great time working with my fellow directors, discussing directing techniques, and learning how to get the best possible performances from our actors. Jennifer Warren is an amazing resource, and it was valuable to get her feedback during live directing sessions with our actors.” – Cameo Wood
Congratulations to the graduating directors of the 2022 Directing the Actor Lab: Candice Carella, Mora Carew, Sofia Garza-Barba, Eva Midgley, Anna Sang Park, Natalie Simpkins, Sarah Smith, and Cameo Wood! Thank you to Jennifer Warren, the 2022 program participants, and program coordinator, AWD Board Member Kylie Eaton for making this year’s DTA Lab such a success! Following another rewarding year of Directing the Actor, AWD is thrilled to announce that the program will continue in 2023!