April 22, 1996

We had our first auditions tonight. I find auditions possibly the most emotionally charged part of filmmaking. The actors are at a great power disadvantage, set up to look bad with an unfamiliar script, erratic direction, and uncongenial surroundings. I feel sorry for them and try hard to make the process gentler, but I am cast in the role of the dominant just as they are cast in the role of the submissive, and ultimately I realize that it is better for everyone if I appear comfortable with the power invested in me. In reality, I myself feel as if I'm auditioning as a director. If an actor can't get to the character, is it because of their acting or my inability to find the right way to direct them?

From the auditions through the end of production, I have to get used to a new way of talking about the characters in my film. Left to my own devices, I'll discuss characterization in terms of its effects: effects on the other elements of the film, or on the viewer. With actors, it's usually better to discuss characterization in terms of its causes. To help me make this transition, I sat down this afternoon and wrote about all the audition scenes from the point of view of the emotions of the characters. It's a different language altogether.

Going into the auditions, I feared that I might be tempted by too many performances, that the auditions wouldn't give me enough information to tell if I had the wrong person. It turns out that, if anything, I am erring on the other side, and my characters now seem like very difficult targets, glass slippers waiting for Cinderellas.

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