Directing the Actor: A USC course with Nina Foch

Learn directing and acting techniques from renowned actress Nina Foch in this USC Master Class.
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  • Lectures 91
  • Length 4 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English, captions
  • Includes Lifetime access
    30 day money back guarantee!
    Available on iOS and Android
    Certificate of Completion
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About This Course

Published 1/2013 English Closed captions available

Course Description

Produced by George Lucas and Randal Kleiser, this series of lectures are excerpts from Nina Foch’s directing class conducted at the University of Southern California in 2002. The lectures, organized into sections, cover script analysis, casting, directing, and acting. Spend some time watching Nina, learn from her and implement her ideas into your own work. You’ll be amazed how far she can take you.

Who can benefit from Nina Foch’s course? Directors? Absolutely. Actors? Yes. But, it’s equally valuable for writers, editors, producers, and anyone with more than a passing interest in the art and craft of filmmaking. This material can be used for an entire course, as part of a course, or a rich reference source to immerse yourself in your craft.

What are the requirements?

  • None

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Learn how to communicate with actors, analyze scripts, and manage successful castings

Who is the target audience?

  • Filmmakers, Actors, Teachers, Students, Animators, Singers, Lecturers and anyone with a passion for the craft of cinema

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Introduction
Section 2: Breaking Down The Script

How to break down the story into its simplest beats, discover the moral of the story, and find the thing in the story that everyone is trying to do.

The class breaks down the story using her technique that will work for any project. She explores the moral and the spine. Tracking the character arcs in Casablanca reveals major character changes.
Nina breaks each line from the scene into intentions and actions.
See the film version of the scene that was analyzed in class.
4 questions


Section 3: Casting
What to look for in a headshot. What are the best questions to ask? On the back of the headshot is a summary of the actor’s qualifications. Learn what questions to ask to put them at ease.
Learn what to look for when an actor enters the room. How to break bad habits. How to relax the actor. What is the proven subject to bring them out and get their guard down. What are the danger signs to look for that would make you not want to cast them.
What kind of directorial notes get the best results? How to use intentions in your directing of a reading. What to watch for when they follow your direction. What to do immediately after the actor leaves the room. How to analyze the pluses and minuses of each actor.
During a reading of “Fargo” Nina suggests an unusual adjustment for the actor’s second read.
During a reading from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf" Nina analyzes how to spot an actor who is not in touch with themselves.
During a reading from "Sex, Lies, and Videotape" Nina explains the definition of a scene.
Section 4: Quick Tips: Casting
What instructions to give the receptionist or secretary in the outer office to get the best results in casting sessions.
How to avoid common mistakes in the setup of the casting session.
Clues to watch for on a resume.
Evaluating personal habits in regard to casting.
What not to say to actors and when to listen.
The top tips to avoid.
3 questions
Section 5: Class Exercises
Learn how the “Hot Object” exercise teaches the power of partnering first-hand. Nina shows how to guide the student as they connect with personal items that mean something to them.
In the first example, Nina demonstrates how to push a student to connect and what not to do.
In the second example, the exercise is a success as the student becomes emotional as he connects with his object.
Entrances and Exits
Learn how to create the circumstances and places the characters are coming from and where they are going.
Airport Exercise
Generalities can kill a performance. This exercise teaches how being specific can make an audience believe in the truth of the scene.
Nina boiled down the essence of delivering a line into three specific words. When an actor follows these steps, in order, the line will be delivered more believably than they would if simply memorized and repeated.
Here, Nina shows student filmmakers what it is like to act and receive direction. This gives them perspective on the challenges of giving a performance.
Section 6: Video Scene Analysis
Learn how to make sure that every part of the scene works with no cuts, no edits, with organic camera movements from start to finish. Nina worked in live television for years, and theatre extensively before that, which made her one of the craft’s leading experts in maintaining the seamless scene.
In these scene analyses, watch Nina force her students to examine every frame, every detail, every moment, and every line of their scenes. Some of her words may seem harsh, or unfair. But, Nina always states that when you make a film, you have to live with these details for the rest of your life.
Nina teaches how to pace a scene and how to overlap blocking and dialogue.
Learn blocking and filling each moment. Simulating the effects of cocaine are discussed. Learn the concept “Actions Come from our Partner’s Needs”.
The concept of cheating is outlined. How to deal with an actor’s bad habits. What is sequential linkage?
How do you fill each moment? How to use body language, how to discover intentions and best tips for blocking are discussed.
How do you structure and deliver a joke? How do you fake? What is the best way to block?
Concepts discussed: Partnering, how to deal with uncomfortable actors, tips on staging , importance of playing one action at a time, finding the action, moving the furniture, and the concept of false exits.
Sex is notoriously hard to direct. Nina points out tricks to making love scenes work. How to make the actors comfortable. How do you direct the way actors touch each other. How do you reveal character through intimacy? Choosing truth or beauty, how much nudity to show. Also discussed: Homosexuality and the class system in America.
Section 7: Directing Lessons
What is a scene? There are many ways to answer this question: conflict, setting, character, and a host of other qualities. Nina Foch had a simple answer to this question.
Over the years, Nina discovered the best action when actors need to be sexy. It’s an elegant description of a complicated acting choice.
Techniques of connecting with your actors so they open up and trust you.
What are the top bad habits and how do you deal with them?
When do you bring up the problem? Things to watch out for.
When are these helpful and when do they kill a scene? How do you find the intention of a handle? When do you delete a handle?
How to use this technique to get closer to the truth of the scene.
The trick to making narration work. How to break down the beats. Creating an entrance for the narrator. What is the action of the narrator?
What to do when an actor says they are uncomfortable with a line. When to use and when not to use improvisation.
How to get the most out of the first read with the cast. Finding
the tone and meaning of the script.
The best way to integrate the writer without giving up control.
How do you get the most from the writer in rehearsal?
The best way to bring your own viewpoint to the script. How do you integrate the talents of the actors, cinematographer and other crew?
The biggest advantage for directors who try acting. Picking up the language of acting. How to think like an actor so you know how to communicate with them.
What to watch out for when you start the shooting day. How to instill confidence from your actors and crew. How to be flexible and adaptable.
What not to say when actors mumble. The trick to getting them to speak up in an organic manner.
How to conceive the right blocking for a scene.
Section 8: Quick Tips: Directing
The fight every director faces on the first day and how to win it.
How to handle them on set and off.
The trick to instant relaxation.
How to handle this scenario the right way.
The dangers of yawning.
The best way to indicate these in your script.
5 questions
Section 9: Acting Lessons
What causes this habit? How do you break an actor of the bad habit of looking down.
How do you avoid cliches and make this kind of behavior believable?
Raising your voice or clenching your fists if you’re angry are not sources of power. Nina explains where an actor’s power comes from for a scene and how to generate it.
How do you motivate yourself to get excited about a scene? How do you let loose and be wonderful?
What are the techniques to create believable characterizations so the audience knows where the actor has been and where he is going? How to create energy and propel the story forward.
A scene is not just memorizing lines. Learn the fundamental principle behind sequential linkage. Where does the actor find the connections that make this work?
Learn how to use the five senses to create specific connections that reveal character.
Nina shows when to use this directoral technique and how to loosen up the actor so they can do the best work.
What every actor should know about a shooting day’s breakdown.
How to prepare for the unexpected. How to create a situation where
changes are easily adapted.
How to make each moment motivated. How to work backwards
to achieve believable beginnings.
The trick of using animals and foods as a acting technique.
Nina explains this technique that allows an actor or singer to create an emotional moment no matter what the distractions.
Nina breaks down the best way to relieve tension and how to achieve a complete state of relaxation instantly.
Section 10: Quick Tips: Acting
How the feet of an actor can add comedy to a scene.
Nina demonstrates how to improve a student’s entrance to a scene.
3 questions
Section 11: Showbiz Tales
We won’t spoil these anecdotes with comments. They are best experienced first- hand.
We won’t spoil these anecdotes with comments. They are best experienced first- hand.
We won’t spoil these anecdotes with comments. They are best experienced first- hand.
We won’t spoil these anecdotes with comments. They are best experienced first- hand.
We won’t spoil these anecdotes with comments. They are best experienced first- hand.
We won’t spoil these anecdotes with comments. They are best experienced first- hand.
We won’t spoil these anecdotes with comments. They are best experienced first- hand.
We won’t spoil these anecdotes with comments. They are best experienced first- hand.
We won’t spoil these anecdotes with comments. They are best experienced first- hand.
We won’t spoil these anecdotes with comments. They are best experienced first- hand.
We won’t spoil these anecdotes with comments. They are best experienced first- hand.
We won’t spoil these anecdotes with comments. They are best experienced first- hand.
We won’t spoil these anecdotes with comments. They are best experienced first- hand.
Section 12: Life Lessons
Why you should never be late on the set.
How to use failure to help you move to the next level of accomplishment.
How to approach the work so that you challenge yourself at every turn.
What never works on the screen and how to avoid it.
Section 13: Nina Foch Critiques Herself in "Illegal"

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Instructor Biography

Nina Foch, Actor and Instructor at USC School of Cinematic Arts

Nina Foch was born in the Netherlands of a notable Dutch family and starred in Broadway plays, over a thousand television programs, and more than fifty Hollywood films, including “An American In Paris", “Spartacus", and “The Ten Commandments". She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in “Executive Suite". Her television credits include “Tales of the City", “War and Remembrance", “Just Shoot Me" and an Emmy nominated performance in “Lou Grant".
She worked as assistant to the director for George Stevens' “The Diary of Anne Frank" and has directed plays and television movies. The public knew her best as an actress, but her life was centered around teaching.

Instructor Biography

 Randal Kleiser's first feature Grease is the most successful movie musical ever made.  Other credits include The Blue Lagoon,The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, Summer Lovers, Flight of the Navigator, White Fang, North Shore, Getting It Right, Lovewrecked andIt's My Party.
In 2007, his USC Thesis film Peege was selected by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Registry. Working in 70mm 3-D, he directed Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, which has been running  for over a decade at the Disney Parks in Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo, and Paris.

With George Lucas, he recently released a 2 DVD set, "USC School of Cinematic Arts presents the Nina Foch Course for Filmmakers and Actors". In 2010 he was elected to the Science and Technology Committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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