It's actually expected of our industry and our art form that people have their own ideas, it's a subjective medium after all but there must always only be one figurehead leading the creative charge (co-directing is a joint effort) and your set can get very confusing, very fast if you have too many opinions around you, especially for actors, and all this does is damage the quality of the film. So can you as a Director, make sure you're doing your job most effectively?
Here's my three top tips to help you when making your next film.
1. Talk to your actors as little as possible
Now, to clarify, this doesn't mean ignore them and then shout orders at them when it's time to do the take. Actually it means quite the opposite.
As YOURSELF, you should be speaking to everybody and making time for everybody, welcoming people to your set and just generally trying to answer as many questions as possible, and this includes your actors! However, when it comes to directing, one of the biggest things I see is actors and directors engaging in very long conversations, usually monologues about motivation and such from the director... this is folly.
You need to learn how to convey what you want into as few words as possible, the instructions should be clear, concise and to the points during the scene. Also, if you can be brisk, your AD's will love you (which is always a bonus). Film sets are highly pressurised places, so by being the way, you support the smooth running of the set.
2. Give your actors 'playable direction'
I once saw a Director say to an actor 'you're happy, but you're sad... it's intense' and then look at the take in frustration as this impossible mix of nonsense was not played out on screen. As an actor, what on earth is that person meant to do with that information? (cue trying to mimic whatever face the director might have been looking for)
Try giving your actors direction based on what their characters WANT in a scene, what's their goal, why are they thinking that? Help them to INTERNALISE the decision making process of their character and lift the script from the page into a real performance. If you've got a good script, a good actor and you've prepared, this should always be easy.
3. Preparation is (Almost) Everything
Always write a shot list, if possible storyboard every scene so you know it cuts together, so the coverage you have planned is clearly defined for your creative team. This means you can work quickly, decisively and become the kind of leader the entire set needs you to be, as opposed to feeling out of control. Another plus is that your AD's can schedule the day, your actors will know their call times and all will be right with the world... until it isn't, because you MUST always leave yourself free enough for inspiration to strike, for an idea to come through from the team or yourself, and you must always be able to consider it effectively, and if necessary, work it into the coverage. Never impose your restrictions so heavily that you do not allow the freedom of artistic expression from your collaborators.
I've seen directors rely so heavily on a shot list that when the scene didn't quite work, they had a meltdown and we didn't see them for an hour. Be prepared, but never be closed minded to new possibilities.
Talk less. Think more. Prepare properly.
It sounds very simple when you write it like that but truth be told, it really is. Directing is about making choices, informed and educated ones based on the story you're trying to tell. Sometimes you don't KNOW they are right, you just have to listen to that little voice inside you called 'instinct', you'll know when you're on the right track. And if you happen to be on set and realise you have no idea what you're about to undertake and whether it's going to work, for God's sake don't tell anybody!