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Directing Actors: Creating Memorable Performances for Film & Television Paperback – July, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

This is essential reading for anyone interested in directing or acting. Judith Weston's brilliance is to recognize that directors, actors, writers, and technicians are involved in a process that is at essence a collaboration. In order for them to have the best shot at creating something true and meaningful, they must share a language and a method of exchange that fosters creative cooperation. Weston rightly sees the director as the central figure in inspiring the energy of a production's harmony. She advises the prospective director on every aspect of a stage or film production, showing how the director can draw the best performances possible from actors.


The focus on creating memorable performances for film and television provides explicit acting advice and examples rather than the usual generalities. From the initial reading of a script to casting and rehearsing techniques and developing or understanding relationships between actors and directors, this is packed with practical considerations. -- Midwest Book Review

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 314 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions (July 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0941188248
  • ISBN-13: 978-0941188241
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Judith Weston has written two books: DIRECTING ACTORS, and THE FILM DIRECTOR'S INTUITION - for directors, actors, screenwriters - as well as others who may have wondered whether the techniques of actors and filmmakers might be useful in their everyday business and personal lives.

Born in Maine, Judith grew up in New England, and by an early age was drafting brother, cousins, and neighborhood children into living room and back-yard theatrical productions. She dropped out of college in the '60s, and moved to New York City's East Village, working in a bank by day, and (off-hours) organizing "guerrilla theater" events such as the 1968 picketing of the Miss America Contest. When she moved to Berkeley, California in 1970, she started studying acting for real.

"Attending acting class was like stepping through Alice's Looking Glass," says Judith. "It was a parallel universe, new and unique - absolutely absorbing. It became a spiritual laboratory - a way of understanding myself and the world around me. Acting was instantly my university, my hobby, my therapist, my church, my family - and although I sensed that soon it would be the way I made my living, the emotional and spiritual nourishment I got from acting has always remained its strongest pull."

While in San Francisco Judith became a working actor in theater, television and film. As the '70s came to a close, she was drawn to Los Angeles, where she continued her acting career with roles on Hill Street Blues, Newhart, Little House on the Prairie, and other episodics, MOWs, independent films, and theater. She continued studying, with Stella Adler, Jack Garfein, Jose Quintero, and Harold Clurman.

Judith, an idealist with a passion to explore emotional reality, imagination, and the world around her through acting, found in Los Angeles a new creative path - teaching. The date of the first class she taught, March 4th, 1985, seemed prophetic, as she "marched forth" into her true and lasting vocation - coaching actors and film directors.

By now she has been teaching for 29 years, classes and workshops for film professionals - directors, actors, and screenwriters. Judith has been running her own studio, the Judith Weston Studio for Actors & Directors, since 1990. In 2001 the studio moved to its current, and most spacious and beautiful, incarnation, at 3402 Motor Avenue in West L.A. Here she works with directors and actors with the determination to dive deeper into the possibilities of their craft, and to explore the joys and challenges of the actor-director relationship. People sometimes come from far parts of the globe. Her deep understanding of acting and directing as a laboratory of life has led to her reputation as "a detective of human nature" whose insights go to the heart of a scene, and to the soul of each individual artist.

She teaches in New York City once a year, and has traveled with her seminars to Europe, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. People who have studied or consulted with her, and endorsed her books, include winners and nominees of Academy Awards, Emmys, SAG and Spirit Awards, and directors of major studio films, features and shorts in competition at all the major film festivals, award-winning commercials and music videos, and countless episodic television shows.

Her first book DIRECTING ACTORS has been translated into eight languages - German, Japanese, Spanish, Finnish, Korean, Greek, Polish, Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese.

Judith's goal and mission is communication and collaboration. And finding the truest truth in every character and every story - as a means to making it universal and entertaining to an audience. Judith's website contains more information about her books; her workshops for actors, directors and writers; and special events at her Los Angeles studio. She has posted instructional videos on YouTube (; her Facebook page is Judith Weston Studio for Actors & Directors.

Her volunteer community service activities have included consulting for the Make a Film Foundation, and as director and producer of acting workshops and productions for developmentally challenged adults, for physically challenged adults, and for stroke and head injury survivors. She has also volunteered in the Brotman Hospital Life Transition Program, Recording for the Blind, and the Screen Actors Guild "Book Pals" program of reading in the schools.

Judith is married to John Hoskins, who works with her on the business side of things. They have a cozy Venice Beach home where they garden together and dream up exotic wall colors. In 2004 Judith battled a rare but treatable form of cancer, and because of great good luck, and because of John, and because of the work she loves and the students she treasures, she is flourishing.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

53 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Thor Vader on May 29, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Though I felt that this book was a bit too touchy-feely for my own taste, it did have a lot of valuable insights into the actors mind and how to work with them in a collaborative sense. If you are a director that does not believe in running with the actors own take on a character, then this book would be painful for you to try to read. Nevertheless, if you are looking to have a truly collaborative experience (not all of us are), the advice contained within is very solid.
Weston breaks the process of working with actors down to how to give concise words to help get a performance. She further spends time developing adjustment techniques. I think this book is particularly strong in its discussions on script breakdown, and having multiple approaches to playing a scene. It gives some helpful advice on casting as well, and really challenges a director to cast the best person in a role as opposed to the one that they feel "nailed the part" based on ones preconceived notions.
The biggest weakness in this book is that really favors the actor over the director at times, and leaves me asking (as a director) why would I want to have this relationship. I do not believe, as Weston proports, that a director should always allow the actor to find the voice of his or her character without explicit direction. Nevertheless, it certainly challenged my own technique, and I am a better filmmaker from having read it.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 25, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A practical, technique oriented introduction to directing actors. It's really from an actor's perspective, and has a very condescending attitude toward directors. But this is useful. The anecdotes are really enjoyable. Not a substitute for acting and directing experience, just one set of possible tools to try to put into practice. Harold Clurman's "On Directing" is of the same aesthetic perspective, but at the same time broader and more succinct, and more sympathetic to directors.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Miguel Ali on September 24, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First off -

if you are serious about directing, then I highly recommend taking a directing class ---- the personal interaction is the best way to learn this stuff --- in addition, just making movies or working with actors also helps, but its only in a directing class where you'll learn the best techniques

with that said ---- Weston has written a terrific book!

I am a grad student in Film Directing, and I would have to say that the best lessons I've learned are all outlined in this book

Weston has a great directing philosphy --- make directions simple and make your actors feel comfortable --- as simple as it sounds, there is an art to it, and Weston does a great job of explaining it

Mostly, I appreciate Weston's list of VERBS to use when directing --- those pages, alone, justify why every director should have this book around, simply as reference

For all though, especially students ---- I do recommend purchasing this book, but make a POINT of practicing what Weston's preaches ---- from there, you will give yourself the best chance of developing a unique directing style, that still caters to most actors

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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By carneyofsteel on December 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
Completely unpretentious. Thoroughly knowledgeable and confident. Allows you to discover the concepts yourself, rather than spouting them at you. And yet...also completely able to be referenced.
In other words... the best book on directing I've ever read. The only I will ever recommend. To actors and directors alike.
I hate to call it "hype," but after reading the book feverously (which, for a book on directing, is almost unheard of), it is safe to believe it here. All the endorsements on the back cover from people working "in the industry" no longer ring of marketing salesmanship, but of complete honesty. There are few things in this world I would endorse, given the chance. This is one of them.
I don't want to say it "changes you." But I will say I had more thoughts and ideas OF MY OWN while reading this book that ever before. The reason? It's like any craft: if you sit down to make something, you usually don't really know what to make specifically until you get to know your tools. Then--once you know what you can be done, what things are available to you to use, the ideas of what you can do with these tools start flowing.
I'd like to thank Ms. Weston for introducing me to some of the tools. Actually, I have thanked her. She called me back. I'm still floored by that.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By John Harpur on August 26, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A lot of this book is about motivating actors to perform and respond to director requests. I found the book useful but a bit too academic in places. My own approach, as a director of amateur ators, has always been to get an understandign of the limits of the emotional expressivity of each actor and work back from there into the charaacter. I was glad to learn that the book approves of this tye of method. Overall, it is a useful book, but there is a mechanical component to its instructional model which may jar with the European outlook. It is a personal opinion of course.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dick Oliver on October 17, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book isn't just for directors. It is an invaluable resource for actors as well. I've taught film and video acting for a number of years and never found a book that was worth having students read even part of. Until this one. Unlike most books on acting which focus on techniques that may work great on stage but are worse than disastrous on film, Judith Weston goes under the surface of acting and directing to the core of what a close-up camera needs to see. That, in a nutshell, is "lending the character your unconscious," so that absolutely nothing looks (or is) fake or "pretend." Even more importantly, she provides down-to-earth, extremely effective techniques for directors that support and demand genuine, affect-free performances. She discusses the creative process of the director at a level that is not idiosycratic or based on her personal "style" (as so many books for directors and actors do). Her advice is both common-sensical and deeply insightful, it's what every good director knows but often can't articulate consistently enough. Don't miss this book if you work in film or video, whether you are a director, actor, teacher, editor, DP, AD, or even a gaffer. After reading Weston, you will see every aspect of the actors performances more truly and clearly, and find yourself finding new ways to get the most out of every second on screen. One of those books that changes your life by telling you what you already knew more clearly than you ever thought it could be said, and giving you fresh new ways to put it into practical use. Highest recommendation.
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