Directing Actors can often seem challenging or intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. How do you communicate with actors in a language they will understand? How do you figure out why a scene isn’t working, and fix it? Designed for directors at any level, this workshop will equip you with the essential tools you need to get great performances from your actors in every scene.

What’s on offer

James has created a practical, hands-on workshop where each director will
have the opportunity to audition, rehearse and shoot scenes under his
guidance, using techniques learned in class. Directors will receive a copy
of the material they shoot, for use in their showreels.

This interactive workshop will teach you how to direct and communicate
with actors to get great performances. James E. Duff directed the
acclaimed feature film, “Hank and Asha,” (winner of over 20 international
awards), and teaches directing at Prague Film School and Stone Street
Studios in New York City.

James Duff director at afilm
About the instructor

James E. Duff is an award-winning director of narrative features, documentaries and shorts, as well as theatre in New York City.  His independent feature film, “Hank and Asha,” won the Audience Award at the Slamdance Film Festival.  It went on to screen at more than 50 international film festivals, winning more than 20 awards, and is distributed by FilmRise.  His short film, “Life is a Sweet,” screened at over 40 festivals worldwide, and his documentary, “The Cycle Also Rises,” was broadcast nationally on PBS as part of the POV series.  He has taught filmmaking at Vassar College, Prague Film School, the Digital Film Academy and Stone Street Studios in NYC.  He believes in the power of filmmaking to change lives, having taught a directing workshop through UNESCO in Kenya, and at a refugee camp in the Sahara Desert.  In the theatre, James has worked with New York companies such as Ensemble Studio Theatre, and has directed productions at such venues as The Cherry Lane Theatre and SoHo Playhouse, as well as the NYC International Fringe Festival. He recently was an artist-in-residence at Yaddo.  James earned his MFA in directing from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, where he won a fellowship for excellence in directing actors.

What you will get out of it
  • -Breakdown your script to unlock access to the interior of your characters.
  • -Learn auditioning techniques that will land you the actor right for the
  • -Create a Scene Strategy to prepare for rehearsal.
  • -Develop an actor-friendly vocabulary to get the best performance from your actors in a limited time.
  • -Master rehearsal and blocking techniques to create truthful and dramatic
  • -Get inside the head of the actor by acting in scenes with fellow students.
  • -Practice where to place the camera to capture the action beat by beat.
James Duff documentary workshop
What you will be doing

*Class 1: Introduction/Script Breakdown (6 hours)

-Introduce course/student objectives
-Script reading strategy
-The Director’s Script Breakdown

Homework: Each student will choose a two-page scene with two characters from a produced feature-length screenplay, and break it down using techniques learned in class. The scene must have the potential for actor movement, i.e., no car, table or desk scenes.

*Class 2: Casting (6 hours)

-The Casting Director
-Casting Breakdown
-How to run an audition
-Communicate using language that actors understand

Each student will conduct a mock audition.

*Class 3: Rehearsal  (6 hours)

-Rehearsal techniques
-Developing trust with the actors
-How to get a performance quickly
-How to diagnose problem areas
-How to get a fresh performance out of actors every take

Each student will direct their chosen scene in a rehearsal setting using the script breakdown technique. The actors will be other students in the class, assigned by the instructor.

*Class 4: Camera and Blocking (6 hours)

-Blocking techniques/getting the scene up on its feet.
-Camera placement
-Camera movement

Each student will block and shoot a scene, experimenting with camera placement, coverage and movement. Students may keep the scenes for their showreels.

“A class you can’t miss if you are thinking of becoming a serious director. Something you will not learn in a traditional film school. James has developed a unique and outstanding technique to approach actors to bring out the most of any performer, and to create endless possibilities to deliver a scene. His kindness and open-minded personality leave you space and confidence to ask, create and grow as filmmaker.”J. Salazar
“James is one of the strongest and most respected teachers I have ever had. He approaches directing in a very open way, his love for practical idioms of the cinema will always stay with me. He has the talent to pinpoint your strengths, but then in a very kind way make you aware of what you need to work on.”M. Carlan