Film & TV

Working With Actors

Judd Apatow

Lesson time 12:46 min

Judd discusses his guiding principles for working with actors and lays out the methods he uses to help them give their best performances.

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Judd Apatow
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Judd Apatow teaches you how to write, direct, produce, and perform comedy for film and television.
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Here's the thing about directing and working with actors, is you have to have a great respect for the actors and actresses, because it's just scary. It's a scary thing to do. It's very hard to be vulnerable. It's a difficult skill to access all of your emotions. I think people think it's easy and people are just goofing around. But if you need someone to be sad, they might have to go to a deep, emotional place to pull that up and put themselves in a state of some kind. You could say that for being scared. You could say it for being happy. It's just-- it's emotionally very taxing to be an actor, and it is a gift. They are giving you a gift. They're giving you a piece of themselves, so a set should be built around respecting that. You also want to talk to the actors. Now I can say actors and actresses each time. I'm going to say actors because sometimes people say that to mean both. And it just makes the sentences longer, so actors means actors and actresses. You know what? I'm going to reverse it. I'm going to say actresses, but it also means actors. So you can-- so you want your actresses to feel comfortable. And one way I do it is I tried to set a pace where no one feels rushed. I think that a lot of bad acting happens because people don't know how many takes they're going to get. They don't know how many shots they have and they don't feel trusted and encouraged. So for me, the easiest way to do it is to tell them what we're going to do before we start. A lot of people don't do that. They do a take and they're like, cut, we're done. And people are like, I thought I was going to get five more. And that's what freaks them out, because they want to do a great job. And they need to know, how many runs am I going to get at this? How many times am I going to get to really experiment and play? If you work on a Clint Eastwood movie, he likes to do two takes, sometimes, one take. So when you get hired on that job, you think, I really better know my stuff. He wants something very immediate. And I guess that works for him. His work is, generally, very strong. I don't, ultimately, think it's a great idea. I think if he gave everybody five, maybe some other things would happen. But at least the actresses know what they're in for, what they have to prepare for. And maybe that creates some sort of immediate energy and terror-- who knows-- that brings about some great performances that maybe he wouldn't get if they knew they were getting 10 shots at it. I don't know. But at least he tells them. And that's what I like to do. I like to tell people. But the second I tell the actress, hey, we're going to do-- we're certainly going to do this five or six times, they just go, [EXHALES DEEPLY]. And then-- and you can say the same thing in an audition. Maybe you say to an actress at an audition, hey, we're going to a couple of times, so don't worry. They do it so much better the first time because they're so nervous that...


Get serious about comedy

No joke: at age 15, Judd Apatow took a dishwashing job at a comedy club to watch the acts. Today, he’s the comedic genius behind hits including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Bridesmaids, and Freaks and Geeks. In his first-ever online comedy class, the Emmy Award winner teaches you how to create hilarious storylines, write great stand-up, and direct movies that leave audiences laughing.



Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I learned to draw on life to write funny stuff because life is a fucking joke.

I truly like the delivery by Judd and all of the information that he shared. I did not expect so much information. I am working with a lady who wants to be a stand-up comedian, so I want to help her go as far as she can. Thanks so much Judd.

It got me to sit down and write down some jokes. "Word vomit" if you will. It gave me ideas on how to approach writing and how to get jokes on paper

I confess that I have watched this class for "info-tainment". I love to learn new things, I get BORED with most of the so-called entertainment. I LOVED this class. I am inspired to hang out with comedians. I will probably end up as comedy fodder, but I don't care.


Comments

EK T.

There was a wonderful actress who auditioned for a project I was working on. She blew everyone away. Although the project fell apart, we still wanted to work with her on some project. She was that good. To change the subject, that one take method of doing things may have been the reason the Jersey Boys film did not work as well as the stage production. The actors he casts in the film were all in different casts of the stage play, but that didn't mean they could not have used more takes. Most of the actors agree. The film was still satisfying for many Jersey Boys fans. Critics were not so kind.

George C.

It's great to hear someone as successful and funny as Judd saying he finds that being kind and supportive works for him as a director. It's like he is a psychologist/director.

CLAU

Yeah when I work with actors and actresses is fine but sometimes most of them get nervous of saying their lines but when I do acting I am a pro at it

Mia S.

"There is a way to direct comedy where you are yelling things out in the middle of takes. This is something I only do at the very end after having a lot of times which I like. Then it can get really sloppy - 'Say this, say that, try this' - you can get all sorts of pieces, but you're not going to get the full performance of the scene. That can be very hard for actors and actresses to be interrupted, to lose their energy flow, the fact that they're feeling an emotion. You want to make sure they feel happy that they got full performances. It is really about whether or not everyone has decided they like working that way. If someone says, 'I don't really work that way,' then we do it that way. You have to respect the fact that you can't force people to work in a style which doesn't help them to do their best work."

Mia S.

"I try to get people who are really qualified and I try not to interfere with their ideas as much as I can. Then I try to subtly inject my ideas. The first time I directed, I was a writer on the show, I was terrified to direct. I read one book about it - 'David Mamet, On Directing' - he has very strong theories about all of this, and I agree with 19% of it. But he said one thing which I think has helped me more than almost anything else: 'When an actor does a take, you don't have to give them tons of notes and try to say, 'Say this line this way, there you feel bad that you were angry.' You're just going to get into peoples' heads and drive them crazy. If you give someone the tiniest simple direction, it will change everything they do in the entire take.' Every line will be said differently. Once that feels right, you might say, 'By the way, on this one line, I think you've got to hit it harder.' But I try not to give many of those to the performers. Every person responds differently. Some people want it all, and other people you literally don't even direct them. There are people that, you can see them fine-tuning their own performance, they just know how to do it. Some people need a lot of support. After a take, actors are like, 'How was it?' They want you to walk over and help them keep their confidence - they feel very lost. If it's not going well, it's very important that you find a way to be supportive and kind, but also very honest and direct. 'I don't know if that's coming across yet, let's try a couple more and see.' They respect that as well - people don't want to get beat up on. They want to feel like they have a relationship with the director, where they can trust their judgment about how they're doing, where the director is being truthful with them. That only works if the performer and director are generally in sync and respect each other, and creatively have the same intentions. And that takes work, and that's why it's helpful to get to know each other, build that rapport. If it's not going well, it doesn't have to get weird. 'What are our options for how to make this stronger?'"

Mia S.

"You have to have a great respect for the actors because it's a scary thing to do, it's very hard to be vulnerable. It's a difficult skill to access all of your emotions; I think people think it's easy and people are just goofing around, but if you need someone to be sad, they may need to go into a deep emotional place to put themselves in a state of some kind. It's emotionally very taxing to be an actor, and it is a gift. They are giving you a gift, a piece of themselves. A set should be built around respecting that. You also want to talk to the actors. I try to set a pace where no one feels rushed. I think that a lot of bad acting happens because people don't know how many takes they're going to get, they don't know how many shots they have, they don't feel trusted and encouraged... For me, the easiest way is to tell them what we're going to do before we start. A lot of people don't do that. That's what freaks them out, they want to do a great job - they need to know, How many runs am I going to get at this? How many times am I really be able to experiment and play? If you work on a Clint Eastwood movie, he likes to do two takes, sometimes one. When you get hired on that job you think, 'I really better know my stuff, he wants something very immediate.' I guess that works for him. I don't ultimately think it's a great idea At least the actresses know what they're in for, what they have to prepare for. You could say the same thing at an audition - 'Hey we're going to do this a couple times, don't worry.' They do it so much better the first time, because they're so nervous that they're not going to do it right the first time, they're stiff. It's very hard to be loose and in the moment when you're trying to impress somebody. But if you take them off the hook immediately, then a whole layer of interference in their mind sometimes disappears, and they have a quicker road to doing what they wanted to do for me."

Amy J.

I joined an Improv class. I never did theater, I hated public speaking and I wasn't sure about this class due to being held in a church. And as I suspected, the Improv company respects the idea of a cuss free, PG minded zone. It sucks, however; I am learning to punchline without an F bomb . It is difficult. Learning to tone my ghetto slang is a great lesson. Nothing I want to stick with, but experimentation is always a plus! Respecting the process is now something I understand. I had to redirect mine several times

Christopher S.

I love how Judd is very self taught but also learned by just observing everything. A lot cheaper than college!

Billy R.

It sounds like Judd tries to accommodate the style of each actor as much as he can.

Joseph O.

As an actor I find this to be excellent advice. Yes, it is frightening to be out there all exposed, wondering if you're making the right emotional choices. Having someone yelling at you adds emotions that don't belong in the scene. Having someone give detailed specific directions might work, but it would require writing them down and memorizing them with the lines. Blocking is hard enough to remember without practicing. My acting teacher, Anne Alsedek, often said that a good director never gives an actress a read on a line. If they're not getting what they want they might do a MAC: ask them to Make Another Choice. I think doing some acting should be a requirement for any new director. :-) Judd sounds like a director who knows how to get good work from his people.