Film & TV

Working With Directors

Samuel L. Jackson

Lesson time 12:20 min

Learn Sam’s tried-and-true methods for developing strong working relationships with directors.

Samuel L. Jackson
Teaches Acting
One of the most successful actors of our generation teaches you how to elevate your acting.
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Let's remember, we are in the business of make believe. So there is no limit to what you can make believe. Go as far as you can go. One of the things I always tend to do when I show up to do anything is show with too much. It's way easier for a director to ask you to drop this, drop that, don't use this, don't do that, than it is for him to try and pull something out of you that you haven't figured out, or you need to figure out because he's trying to pull the performance out of you. Show up with much shit. It's easy to drop something than it is to find something and pick it up. The actor-director relationship, in the theater, it's one thing. In the movies, there's a couple of different things, because you have guys who are shooters, and you have guys who are writer/directors. And you have guys who are lucky to be there. So the shooters, the shooters hired you, and they're glad you're there, because they're going to leave you alone to do the performance so they can get it. So all they're concerned with is composition of shot. They just want to make sure they got their shot composed, and they trust you to do what you do. Those guys, I love them, because I mean you hired me for a reason, and hopefully I'm going to give you what you want, and you hired some other people that are going to give you what you want, and everything is going to be fabulous. All you got to do is make sure you get it in the camera and shoot it. Writer/directors, depending upon who they are, sometimes they know what they wrote. And sometimes they don't. And hopefully, they're not very precious about what they wrote, because one thing's for sure when you hire me, you're getting a black actor. And if you wrote it, and you didn't see a black actor when you wrote it, or even if you saw one, sometimes what you put in my mouth is not how I talk, depending upon what I read. You created a character who's a lot more educated than you allow him to speak. You know, I can conjugate. And a lot of people can't. So I don't need you to write black vernacular for me. I can say what you want said, but you need to say it this way. If I'm from somewhere else, I can say it that way. But from what you have here, and who this character is, he's a lot smarter and more educated than you made him speak. We don't all speak like somebody on a rap video. So I can fix that for you if you'll let me. And if your ego is not too precious, then all I'm doing is making your movie better, I hope. Sometimes you have to go back the other way. You've written this character, you've elevated this character, but that's not who that character is. He needs to not be able to conjugate as well as this character. And there are things about him that are very different in terms of the way he looks at the world, in terms of right, wrong, and otherwise, that impact on how he reacts with the other people in the script, and we can talk about that. And a lot of those writer/directors are open to that, you ...

Get into Character

As a kid, Samuel L. Jackson stuttered so badly that he stopped talking for almost a year. Today he’s one of the world’s most successful actors, with roles in over 100 films, including Pulp Fiction and The Avengers. In his online acting class, the Oscar-nominated star shares how he creates memorable characters, powerful performances, and a long-lasting career. Learn to master auditions, analyze scripts, and find the truth in every role you play.


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

As an actor here in Hollywood, I really loved soaking up all of the things that Sam shared.

The class has improved my thought process in many ways. I however feel the price is steep, I feel the information is something worthwhile, but this is more of a reflective lecture, than it is for interaction. I wish each class would start with a goal, that goal would progress with you through the chapters and you would build on it, and grow.

I'm a writer. I benefit from listening to actors, directors, cinematographers, editors, everyone involved in film and theater. So thank you very much for taking your time to share your experience.

It was very much fun and insightful at times. I'd recommend it for anyone really. I'm not into acting professionally or otherwise but I've definitely benefited from this.


A fellow student

Honestly, if you are an actor thats just starting their career, this advice isn't the best...but if you are as established as he is, its solid.

A fellow student

Very cool lesson. This is an essential part for actors not just in the performace but also developing patience and respect between actors and directors. Many directors have different syles of working, what you dont want is to create problems for personality or professional differences

Douglas S.

As a young actor who is just starting out (especially if you are working with a well known director) couldn't it really hurt your reputation or future prospects to tell a director "no, I don't want to do it that way because I don't want you messing up my performance?" I totally understand Samuel L Jackson saying that becuase he is a legend and everyone know he is a good actor, but what about someone liike me who nobody knows?

Jenna L.

One of the best lessons, really made me understand how to treat directors and how you should get treated by them and how to be professional. I wrote many things down and I also learned how to share your own ideas with directors.

Maya A.

I haven't started this yet, but wow. So far, I am absolutely enjoying this class. Had to just say it now

Eric G.

I just finished my eighth film with a director who was 50% number 2 type, and 40% number 3 type and 10% number one. It was his third film. However, he came to me from a different perspective than my other directors...As a classically trained theater actor originally with 20 years on stage, I am used to a lot of rehearsals and a director who brings you notes. This director did that and, as Samuel pointed out, we worked on those things in his notes he wanted to see. He was open to some ideas as the role required a culturally correct characterization, not unlike what Samuel was referring to in principle when he was talking about him not needing someone to tell him how to speak as a black actor in a certain setting. It worked out fine although he did do the Kubric thing of dozens of takes for my scenes. In the end, though, I worked with him on some small improv ideas and we tried one of them. It proved hilarious in an otherwise incredibly poignant scene without dialog. Ultimately, I don't look at my takes on set, but the director wrote to me later and said he was sending me mine because he thought they were the best ones in the film. That was a satisfying moment professionally, especially because I had just turned down a role from one of number two and three type of directors, who was all about himself on set, and in public, didn't have a clue what he was doing with his films (which are always action flicks centered around violence and his girlfriend as a star,) and he was incredibly unethical in his actions with me in the preproduction casting. Understanding directors and how to work (or not work) with them will always be a key to your success in films the same as it was for my huge successes on stage. This is a great series.

Eddie G.

Was able to have a wonderful conversation on my character, goals and vision with my director. Thank You

George B.

As a wanna be director, this is really helpful to know how to treat the actors and what ways actors will tell me I'm wrong, he's right when he says that everyone else has been on more movie sets then the director has, and it is important to just take a step back and not overly control everything, because chances are you'll just fuck up the whole production.

Janice H.

I don't act, ha! I bought this course because Samuel L. Jackson inspired me to want to express myself and then i took an 8 week acting class...during those 8 weeks we didn't act...fuck that! So i am going to write and direct my own film based on a true story in my life...for sheer fun, creativity and expression. I love watching these lessons with Samuel l. Jackson, he inspires me.

Ellak E.

Good class. I like this one because it conveys rare information about working with directors.