Film & TV

Casting

Mira Nair

Lesson time 15:35 min

The relationship between director and actor is built on trust. Learn what it takes to cast the right actor and get them to reveal their true spirit on camera.

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Mira Nair
Teaches Independent Filmmaking
The Oscar-nominated director teaches her methods for directing powerful performances, maximizing budgets, and bringing authentic stories to life.
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When I began to make films, we had no casting directors, really, to turn to in India, especially. Casting was done informally through the grapevine of actors, through people you knew, performances you may have seen. So I operated like that, you know, pretty much casting on my own, and then was very relieved to have found, you know, casting directors who could help widen the search and corral the troops, in a sense. Of course, casting directors help a lot, so long as one shares a sensibility with the casting director that you choose. It is their work to have the eye to really scope the place and bring to you the most untraditional, perhaps, of ideas, and sometimes the traditional ideas as well. And, of course, in Hollywood, casting directors really have access to the talent. That makes life easier as you get to make bigger-- more, you know, films that need commercial names. It is really a joy to work with a casting director because they bring-- they should bring to you, and they often do bring to me, unexpected choices that really illuminate a scene to be made almost differently because of the talent that is being presented to you. But I have done it both ways. I am always, you know-- I'm-- I never forget a great performance. I remember seeing Shefali Shah in "Satya," this independent Indian film. And I just was so riveted by her that, without meeting her, I called her up and asked her to play Ria in "Monsoon Wedding." It's unusual that I would not-- that I would do that, you know, cast an actor before meeting them. But sometimes, the talent is so explosive, you know, that it's very exciting to do that. [MUSIC PLAYING] Make your actors feel comfortable, you know? Have them enter a room and not feel judged. Of course, they are there to be judged. But your work as a director to make them feel that they can breathe easily, that they can-- that they are loved, in a sense, you know, allows an actor to bring to you unexpected things because they are comfortable. When an actor brings something different to you that you did not expect to hear or see, respond to that. Listen to that. Receive that. Take it further. Make it feel like it's a double-- it's not just the actor on display and-- being questioned and judged, but that you, too, are part of that process. I like to do that. I like to create an equation between the actor and myself so that we are both on a journey, even if it's just an audition, to take us to a place that could be revealing and could be exciting and could give me, as a director, ideas on how to either use this person or how to even enhance the character as it is written. Even though actors are so resilient and so used to being kind of rejected and, you know, asked to do all kinds of things in very impersonal surroundings, I-- because I think I was an actor and I really love actors, I really go out of my way to make sure that the atmosphere that is set allows them to feel that they can breathe easily and do w...


Harness the power of your roots

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mira Nair approaches directing with the “heart of a poet and the skin of an elephant,” spurred by rejection and fighting to bring uncompromising stories to film. In the Golden Lion-winning director’s MasterClass, learn to make a big impact on a small budget in film production, evoke the best from actors and nonactors, and protect your creative vision so you tell the story that can only come from you.



Reviews

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

I have learned so much from Mira that I don't know where to begin. Her workbook with detailed notes was great. It helped me so much to remember the videos and her suggested materials which includes books are fantastic. Thank you Mira.

Very inspiring, she gave us great analysis of individual elements, I loved it.

What I valued most about this class and what I felt for example was missing in the Annie Leibovitz class was Mira sharing her thought process. That was extremely valuable, whether one agrees with her thinking and conclusions or not. Loved the way she puts things across. Passionate and intelligent is such a powerful combination.

Eye opener and indepth for any indie filmmakers. I really loved and learnt alot from the directing section.


Comments

EK T.

As someone who will see a film a dozen times if I love the film, I can't say enough, how much a particular actor's performance may be the reason I can sit through a film or television series a dozen times. When I see a film I love, I view it once for the story, again for performances and, perhaps, to see something in the story that I may have missed the first time. But I also have to admit that my ability to sit through "Molly's Game" three times may be the reason that, as an actor, I never get tired of great material or great performances.

Darya B.

I work in casting and she really describes the process so intelligently with such passion...love it! Didn't know what to expect but pretty impressed with her. Her words are just so descriptive and vivid. Very well spoken. I just hung to her every word which isn't the norm for me.

Saba

As an actor, I always give my best work when I know that the director is in my corner and when she talks about trust, that is exactly what I seek. From the day I get the script to the day we shoot the scene, I have worked on the role and I am ready to bring something to the film. If I feel that the director is not receptive to what I bring, it is easy to get frustrated and misunderstood. Young directors tend to talk way too much, as to prove they can direct, and I often wish they would trust that the actor has done his homework before coming to set or rehearsal...

Andrew Kyle B.

It's funny. I'm not a big fan of the idea of "safe spaces," but I respect the need actors have to be safe in failure. This requires the director to create a kind of safe space where the actor knows failure is not the end, but rather a means to the end. In fact, to even call it failure is wrong. The actor must trust the director, the director must trust the actor, the two must work together to create something that works, and that often entails moments of experimentation which result in "failure." No one should ever be uneasy to experiment or play while on set, because it might just work (it might not, but it might).

Bree H.

I would really like it if some actors would be kind enough to share how directors get the best from them.

Andre L.

Any actor would be blessed to work with a director such as this. Fantastic!

Shobhana R.

This class gave me the chance to ponder over the journey that the director and actor take together to a level of growth where anything can happen! Mira places emphasis on creating a safe environment for the actor so that they can deliver their best performance. She also teaches us about the alchemy between actors and non-actors, and the "unprocessed truth" that this process generates. I also understood how important the casting process is since it is the actor that brings a screenplay to life. Casting, it seems to me, requires stamina and a strong intuition to identify the best actor for a particular role. It would help to have a casting director.

Lance P.

Nice lesson, I have to say though, I'm very worried about casting directors now. I got a job as a director on a feature film, I put a lot of hours in developing the script, looking at actors I wanted, locations etc etc I thought rather than contact the actors myself, like I usually would, I would get a casting director who had worked on some friends films. I told him the actors I wanted and he said impossible, they wouldn't be interested. He then went behind my back, after I got him the job (was just trying to do him a favor) and told the writer, producer, that I was not experienced enough and if he wanted named actors he would have to get another director. The writer, told me this and listened to him, so I lost the job. Then the casting director got his friends involved, producer, director. I was so upset by this, I felt so betrayed, especially as I was trying to help him by giving him the job. For them it was just a pay day, for me, I could have just got all my friends involved too, but I didn't, I knew the writer was putting his home on the line and I wanted every best possible scenario for him, as it was 1-2 million pounds. Well they made film, it was nothing special, as for them, it was just money in the bank, I feel sorry for the writer. Anyway, be careful with some of these casting directors, especially if you're not the head producer, make sure contracts are signed before you do any work, if it's not your own production of course, there are a lot of snakes out there.