For the longest time I thought I was directing short films. I'd say for five years straight I retained the title of "director" in all my videos. Fine, that was my prerogative, but it was a prerogative filled with lies! Briefly I'd like to go over some bad directing habits I had to break, and still am trying to destroy.
If you do yourself a favor this year, purchase this book. I picked it up a summer ago and it completely changed my outlook on how to direct. The author, Judith Weston, is an experienced actress and director. She wrote the book to be very specific - even citing example directions in list format that can replace your poor "results-based" direction. What do I mean by "result based" directing?
It's when you explain the result you are seeking to the actor. Weston is wise not to say results-based directing is always wrong, but I think she is onto something when she states it works every now and then out of luck - not because it's particularly effective. Let me give you an example of results-based directing:
"After she hits you, you get angry," "Can you give it more energy," "Don't say 'I'm tired of your antics.' instead say, 'I'm tired of your antics.'" "Your character is a know-it-all."
Result based directing typically uses adjectives which are prejudgments that keep the actor from truly finding their character. They are ineffective at making the performance real. Instead of using adjectives, try to stick to verbs when you want something out of your talent.
My favorite example that Weston gives is how to direct a romantic first encounter. Instead of saying things like, "be sexy" or "be flirty," tell your actress to "flirt" with him, "smile" at him, or "touch" his hand. These are all verbs - they are actions - and action is what we want!
Weston goes over many more bad habits aspiring directors (such as myself) pick up. Habits such as using judgements about a character (which boxes them in) instead of facts. One example of this is to say a character is "depressing." Instead, you can say your character once tried to commit suicide. One is a judgement about him (he's depressing); the other is a fact about him (he tried to commit suicide once). A few more bad habits are doing line readings for your talent, asking for certain emotions from your talent, and forgetting to create a back story for the characters.
I highly suggest anyone entering in the 54 Film Fest to practice directing. Do it on your friends just for fun. I spent a whole summer annoying my brother and friends by directing them with verbs, facts, images, and back stories, just so I could get used to it and break my old poor habits. It paid off too, because for the first time I won a directing award (first runner-up) at a film contest that summer.
One of the prime reasons the 54 Film Fest has an element called "action" is because we want to challenge the directors of each team to truly direct. How will the action play out in your film? It comes down to how you, as a director, convey that action to your talent.