ava duvernay: tips on being an effective director

In a recent podcast with The Director’s Guild, Ava Duvernay sat down to discuss her tips of the trade on being an effective director.


Ava’s biggest piece of advice is to know yourself as a director, including your limitations as a director. Knowing what you are and are not capable of creates a more effective production environment. It’s also deeply important to be confident as a director. However, it’s equally important to be able to listen to the ideas of those around you. Duverney went as far as to call the input a director gets from the people around them as gifts.


She also emphasized how important it is to view all three stages of production as a process. A director needs to build a film brick by brick, and it’s critical to surround yourself with a cast and crew that you trust.


Ava’s last key of advice was to train yourself in multiple areas of film and to be able to work in various forms of filmmaking. You never know what’s going to happen, and it’s always best to be able to adapt if need be.


Listen to Ava Duvernay’s podcast with The Director’s Guild Here


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John Badham’s advice on seducing the actor

In a recent podcast with Film Riot, John Badham gave constructive and well-thought out advice on how he as a director has learned to improve his work relationship with his actors. The key piece of advice that John gave is not to persuade the actor but to seduce them.

He explained that all actors have these innate instinct and gut reactions for a scene, and that its best to allow your actors to play out these ideas and experiment within a scene. Instead of persuading an actor out of a bad idea, he suggests tricking them into talking themselves out of the bad idea. For example, if an actor’s instincts for a physical movement or reaction in a scene differs from the director’s vision. Instead of saying, “Can you do it this way?” He suggests talking with the actor, seeing why their innate instinct is what it is, and if possible convince them to try it the director’s way by using descriptive verbs to describe the change you want to see.

The best way to accomplish this is by taking the time to get to know your actors. Spend some one-on-one time with them and watch them in the beginning to establish what kind of acting method they use and how they best communicate. John Badham summed this up by stating: “You can’t program an actor. You need to work with them.”


Listen to John Badham’s full podcast with Film Riot Here


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Ron Howard’s Advice on Being a Good Director

In a recent Podcast with The Director’s Cut, Ron Howard spoke to Jeremy Kagan about the relationships he builds with his collaborators, and the impact these relationships have on a film. He describes the mutual and respectful relationship he aims to develop with both his first assistant director and the cinematographer, stating that both the 1st AD and Cinematographer work just as hard as the director.

Howard says that it’s often the most helpful when the 1st AD also functions in a producer role early on in the pre-production process. This way the 1st AD is more familiar with the film and has a voice in the decision-making process from the beginning. He describes this relationship as helping to identify the absolutes and the possible land mines that will arise later on in the film-making process.

It’s not uncommon to hear the saying- a director, not a dictator. Louise Drumm, an assistant theater director with Dublin Youth Theatre states, “To be a good director you have to know when to let go.” Ron Howard brings this quote to life by establishing a symbiotic relationship between himself, as the director, his 1st AD, and cinematographer. He seems to be aware that filmmaking is a collaborative process, and perhaps this is the reason many of his films have been so widely successful.


“One of the great things about being a director as a life choice is that it can never be mastered. Every story is its own expedition, with its own set of challenges.”

-Ron Howard


Listen to the Directors Guild Podcast The Craft of The Director with Ron Howard Part 1 (Ep. 258) here.