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Arts & Entertainment

Scene Workshop, Part 2: Rehearsing the Scene

Mira Nair

Lesson time 16:23 min

In Part 2 of Mira’s scene workshop, Mira works with Madina Nalwanga to demonstrate how to support an actor an work with them to emotionally prepare for a scene.

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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So Madina, the thing is you're saying three different things, right? Don't say them so quickly because you know it is the script. Remember, in movies, you have to appear as if you have never said these lines before. It is the first time you're grappling with it, you're feeling it. So I sell maize, Coach. That's what you know how to do. I make 1,000 shillings a day and that's it. I know how to do that. - Yeah. - And remember these lines, we made them right on the spot there. Because-- I don't know. I remember that on the set, we made these lines right there. They were never there before. Because I was trying to tell you that you were secure in one thing, which was to sell maize, to sell water. You were not a chess champion. So that's why we wrote those lines right there. Anyway, to give you that-- like that's what I know. I sell maize. I don't do this. So that's one thought. Be in it. Don't rush. Don't run through because you know there's another line. Let him deal with that. And let yourself deal with that. I sell maize. That's what I know how to do. I made 1,000 shillings a day and that's it. But now, you're crying. And actually, you have never cried. Life is so difficult in Katwe. But you don't cry about it. But now, you're crying. And then you take your time. Don't rush. Take your time. And crying is not tidy. It's not neat. It can happen. Just let yourself go to that place, OK? Take your time with that. And then you can tell him, I never cry, Coach. My sister died, I never cried. You're almost like you're blaming him. Then you can look at him and say, and look at me now. I'm a mess. I've cried-- whatever the line is. Look at me now. How is it that chess can make me feel so bad? And I'll help you there. Take your time. And then you just say to him, it's the last-- it's the second-- So the first movement is, I sell maize. The second movement is I don't even cry. And look at me, I'm crying. How is it that chess can make me feel bad, so bad? And the third movement is, I don't belong here. I never belonged here. And then you accuse him, because you have no one else to turn to. You say, why did you-- I wish you had never taught me this game. And then you can actually-- let's see how you go in terms of what you want to do. You could fight with him. Like, why did you do this? Why did you do this? Why did you bring me to this place? You can do that to him. Let's see how you feel. I'm not going to tell you that, OK, you-- and then he will-- he'll control-- he'll continue. He'll allow you to feel what you're feeling. And he'll make you feel, like, finally safe. But he'll let you go through all this tumult that you are feeling because you lost the game. Should we try? Should we try one-- should we do one just physically blocking moment? - Just a walk. - Yeah. - Yeah. - Let's just do a walk. So you stay here, or you come here. Madina, we are just going through the movements of the blo...

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.


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

I learned so much so now I'm going to watch every movie the instructor has ever directed. Thank you! Alison

It's the guidance how to proceed with the film making. Appreciate the effort being put by the masters to share their insights and the wisdom gained from years of work with the students of film making to produce artistic and expressive moving images.

I very much enjoyed her way of making movies. Her point of view.

It was a great experience. Miraji talked about all aspects of filmmaking.


Chadanuch W.

The moment that Mira was screaming with Madina makes tears run down from my eyes, I felt so moved. Mira you are so wonderful.

Pablo S.

I see Mira trying to not tell her to do exactly the actions, but making her going there by herself, I tend to do that too. Puting that into words is very difficult, Mira is great at this.

Eddy J.

This is really good. I have never seen any of her films but now I will. She really knows how to capture the emotions, & work with the actors in a natural and kind way. It is great to see how scenes are played out and changed to fit the situation and make more impact on the audience.

Actress/Director Laura Bianca C.

Watching her coach the actress on the scene made me so emotional and so frustrated that I couldn’t deliver it. #ActorsLife #TheStruggleIsReal


She is giving a lot of direction to seasoned actors, but they understand she is doing this for a class. Good stuff.

Ify M.

Great lesson Mira. My biggest takeaway is to preserve the actor's emotions and work out the process first to prevent burnout when the emotion is actually needed (when the process has been mastered)

Kym S.

I fear this much directing control over an actor's performance wouldn't be well-received by a seasoned, accomplished actor.

A fellow student

I'm really enjoying Mira's perspective on the world and making films, but in this workshop she's giving the actress "line readings" which is acting it out for her. As a newer director, I urge you not to take this route. While it may be a shortcut to getting the result you want, experienced actors will not respond well.

Shawn Z.

Great lesson here is how Mira observes actress's improvised action and carefully selects the ones that help the storytelling and excludes those confusing ones.