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Rick Stout directs his own films. Below are some of the
Directing principles that he strives to honor in his work.*

Screen Grammar

Simulating Human Perceptions

Film grammar (or "language") corresponds to human perceptions that we are all familiar with. For example, as human beings we will sometimes glance, react, study, walk, look around, search, step backwards or forwards, rise, sit, scan, run, or glide. It all depends upon what is happening, how we react to what is happening, and what we are thinking about at the time. Film grammar has developed over time to simulate such human experiences in shot selections, photography, editing, and so on.

Honoring film grammar helps to kindle specific human emotions and feelings. Lens choices, camera locations, and camera movements, are just some of the tools that enable a director to simulate human perceptions within a scene. Traditions have grown into the U.S. film culture, which create expectations (and limitations) from audiences as well. The director’s job is to balance audience expectations with creative innovations of his or her own.

Interrogating a Scene

Questions That Reveal Dramatic Structure

Successfully presenting drama in each scene is an important element of making a film "work." But before scenes can be presented, they must be deeply understood, first by the director, and then by actors and other collaborators. To become clear about a scene's dramatic structure, the scene is analyzed or “interrogated." These are the kinds of questions used to interrogate scene:

Who are the main characters? What are their goals, problems, agendas, subtexts, and likely thoughts? What are the complicating factors? Where are the confrontations, and who/what is involved? Where are the beats? Where is the resolution? And how many dramatic units exist in a given scene?

A director's first job is to understand, and fully envision these things, and to do so more clearly than anybody else. A great director not only shares this vision, but develops it fully with the help of others. And in the process, the director becomes himself aware of problems and needed changes that he may have first overlooked.

 

Working with Actors

Acting Fundamentals & Directing

Acting is fundamentally about experiencing a character's thoughts, sensations, and emotions--and expressing these things effortlessly and unconsciously. It goes without saying that for each dramatic beat, an actor must be able to articulate the character's thoughts, subtext, and dialogue. But eventually, the actor's focus must enable "sense memory"--a spontaneous action that he or she does naturally when in a similar situation.

The director's job is to help an actor stay focused, and reduce self-consciousness. To do this the director must be sensitive to the actor's personality and background, and be able to encourage actors to simply be in the moment.

There are many things directors can do to help actors focus: 1) Rehearse a scene walk through ONLY verbalizing subtext/inner dialogue. 2) Recognize actors' performances. 3) Provide clear feedback to the actor. 4) Ask questions to help actors get focused on their "sense memories," and 5) give only short, actionable, practical directions--NOT abstract things for them to feel, or affects for them to "give."