Chapter 26 of 28 from Helen Mirren

Working With Writers & Directors

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Helen advises you on how to create successful relationships with writers and directors, and she shares lessons learned from working with renowned director Robert Altman on the film Gosford Park.

Topics include: Nurture Good Relationships With Writers • Collaborate to Strengthen the Dialogue • Negotiate Using the Correct Channels • Suggest New Scenes With Backstory in Mind • Learning From Robert Altman's Freedom

Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren Teaches Acting

In 28 lessons, the Oscar, Golden Globe, Tony, and Emmy winner teaches her process for acting on the stage and screen.

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You have to be very careful when you're dealing with writers. I won't say dealing with, but in your relationship with a writer. Because a writer has his or her ego. And this is their work. And it might have been a painful process to get this script on the page, or the scene on the page. And they might have put an awful lot effort into it. So you must be very careful with your relationship to that. Sometimes they haven't quite got it right. Or sometimes they've got it completely wrong. But nonetheless, you know what? You agreed to do the role, so it's your job to kind of make sense of it. Some writers want to work with you as an actor, and others don't. And really, you have to judge that. And you have to judge whether it's appropriate or not to approach the writer if the writer is on set. It's always great if the writer is on set, incidentally. And if the writer is on set, go make a relationship. Say hi. Say how much you love their work. That's always a good thing to do. And make a relationship with them, so then you can approach them and say, I'm having a slight problem with this line in this scene. And I'm not quite sure why it's there. Could you maybe help me a little bit with that? So make a relationship with the writer If that's feasible, if that's possible. I would say always treat the writer with respect, because they're on their own mostly, when they work. They're isolated. And they don't know whether this thing is going to fly or not. So I would say, treat a writer with respect, but not so much that you can't contribute. Because in the end, what we do on the screen is an absolute collaboration. The first moment of the inception of this baby that we were all putting out into the world-- it takes its little toddling steps out into the world-- the moment of conception is the writer with his empty page. Then comes the director, and comes the cinematographer, the production designer, the actors, the editor, the music. And all of these elements-- all of them-- in every moment this work of art shifts and changes, gets added to, and morphs into something. And you're all contributing to that. Every one of you. So be conscious of that. That you are a part of a very complicated whole. Sometimes writers, because they have so much to deal with, they haven't quite grasped-- They've got the scene right, but they've actually got it in the wrong order. And you, as an actor, because your job as an actor is to make the mental connections between this word and that word, this speech and that speech, this relationship and that relationship. And we have to consciously make those psychological connections. Great writing-- It's very interesting to me that good writing is really easy to learn. Bad writing is really difficult to learn. Because in good writing, those subconscious, those psychological connect...

Find freedom in your roles

Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy, and Tony winner Helen Mirren is one of the greatest actresses of our time. In her first online class, she discusses the dualism that is core to her method: the necessity for mastering technique (craft) and then letting go so that your imagination can take over (art). Learn how to break down a script, research characters, and master techniques so you can transcend them to find freedom in every role.

Helen brings you behind the scenes to show you the secrets of her acting technique.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Helen will also critique select student work.

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Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren Teaches Acting