How To Direct The Best Acting Performance – Dan Attias

Dan Attias, Director, Producer and Author: So we light the master and we get ready to call everybody, we do the master angle, he comes in and does it the same way. So now I’m thinking Oh boy, all right.

Film Courage: How to get the best out of your actors?

Dan: Directing actors I would identify as the most important responsibility of the director. Of course there’s many, many other things one is responsible for as the director, but let me read what I wrote. 

Film Courage: Your book is right there. 

Dan: This is my book Directing Great Television and I have a chapter on directing actors which is the second longest chapter in the book. The other is on the language of camera. Let me just read the opening of it and then I’ll maybe take off from that and summarize some of the things I do discuss. I start the chapter:


Watching a great performance take shape is one of the true thrills of directing. Something emerges that is deep and revealing about being human. Helping your cast get there is among the director’s most important responsibilities. Some projects are more actor dependent than others but in my experience a story’s impact is directly related to how much truthfulness, emotional honesty and depth of understanding the actors bring to their performance. That’s not to say that every character is truthful, honest or deep, quite the contrary but actors who have accessed those qualities in themselves are in a better position to enrich the story.


I think that’s so true because I know as I’m watching something if I feel the actor is in touch with something true and interesting…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

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Dan Attias has worked as a director in the film and television industry for 37 years. As a director of series television he has received the Directors Guild of America award for outstanding direction of dramatic television and has been nominated for multiple Emmy awards for his comedy directing. He continues to work on some of the most celebrated and critically acclaimed American television shows, including Homeland, The Americans, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Billions, and The Boys. Previously he has directed The Sopranos, The Wire, Six Feet Under, True Blood, Entourage, The Killing, The Walking Dead, True Detective, Ray Donovan, Bloodline, Friday Night Lights, Northern Exposure, House, Lost, Alias, among many others. His first professional directing assignment was the feature film, Stephen King’s Silver Bullet, produced by Dino DeLaurentiis. Dan started his career studying acting, then worked as an assistant director on E.T. The Extraterrestrial, Airplane!, One From the Heart and several other feature films. He has taught acting and directing workshops in the United States, and has appeared as a guest speaker at festivals in Italy, Brazil, Greece, Mexico and Canada. Before working in the film and television industry, Dan was enrolled in a Ph.D. program in English literature at U.C.L.A., then transferred to the Theater Arts Department where he earned an M.F.A. in film production. 





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