Chapter 19 of 32 from Judd Apatow

Working With Actors

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

Topics include: Let Cast Know What to Expect • Keep Direction Simple • Help Cast Maintain Confidence • Respect Their Process

Judd Apatow

Judd Apatow Teaches Comedy

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 class, the Emmy Award winner teaches you how to create hilarious storylines, write great stand-up, and direct comedies that leave audiences laughing.

Learn Judd’s creative process through case studies, scene deconstructions, and practical insight in 32 on-demand video lessons.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps, assignments, and supplemental material.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Judd will also answer select student questions.

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Judd Apatow

Judd Apatow Teaches Comedy