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The Director’s Chair Issue #145 – Sept. 14, 2013 (Creating Good Character Descriptions )

Free Monthly Ezine for Independent Filmmakers

September 14, 2013                Scene 14 – Take 8
(NOTE: There was no August issue)

Published once a month.

Publisher: Peter D. Marshall
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1. Introduction
2. Bonuses for Subscribing to The Director’s Chair
3. Directing Actors 2 day Workshop (Vancouver, Canada)
4. FEATURE ARTICLE: Creating Good Character Descriptions
5. Film Directing Coach Services
6. Subscriber Shameless Self-Promotion
7. Filmmaking Links of Interest
8. Product Promotion and Film Workshops
9. Subscribe and Unsubscribe Information
10. Copyright Information

1. Introduction

Welcome to Issue #145 of The Director’s Chair, Sept. 14, 2013

1. The Feature Article this month is called: Creating Good
Character Descriptions. “When you send out your Casting
Breakdowns (Bios), you need to think of them as marketing tools –
you want to create an “advertisement” to attract the right actors
to audition for each role.

Always ask yourself: why would any actor want to audition for my
film? If it’s not for the money (or the craft service) – so why
then?” (Read full article below.)

2. Please send any comments, suggestions, questions or advice to:

2. Two Bonuses For Subscribing To The Director’s Chair

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BONUS #1 – Here is the link to download Day One (41 pages) of
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3. Directing Actors 2 day Workshop (Vancouver, Canada)

“Directing Actors” 2 Day Workshop with Peter D. Marshall
(Vancouver, November 30 & December 1)

This live event is sponsored by Raindance Vancouver.

Working with actors can be one of the most rewarding experiences
for a film director – or one of the most traumatic! And the
difference between a good experience and a bad experience usually
comes down to one word: TRUST!

Actors begin by trusting the director ‚Äì and it’s the director’s
trust to lose. If an actor feels they cannot trust the director
to know a good performance from a bad performance, the actor will
begin to monitor his own performances.

And when an actor begins to watch himself, he begins to direct
himself – and when he does this, he starts to become Director

The main objective of this Directing Actors workshop is to
demonstrate how directors and actors can work effectively
together to build trust; to maximize performance on set; and
understand how to work together cooperatively in a tense,
time-sensitive and often challenging creative environment.

To find out more about this 2 day workshop, please click here:

4. Feature Article: Creating Good Character Descriptions

Creating Good Character Descriptions by Peter D. Marshall
(with special thanks to Brian Casilio.)

1. Casting Breakdown

When you send out your Casting Breakdowns, you need to think of
them as marketing tools – you want to create an “advertisement”
to attract the right actors to audition for each role.

Always ask yourself: why would any actor want to audition for my
film? If it’s not for the money (or the craft service) – then why?

It’s because actors want to work on an interesting story; they
want to play a character that has depth; they want film set
experience; and they want clips for their demo reel.

2. Character Descriptions (Bios)

Ineffective Character Bios only show the “outside life” of the
character. The trick is to also show part of the “inner life” of
the character to add depth. By adding subtext in your character
descriptions, you can attract more experienced actors who will
also be better prepared at your audition.

Good Character Bios should explain essential physical and
background information about the character, but also establish
some conflict so an actor can play with it.

a. Your descriptions need to be written to attract (interest)

b. You should use at least one “emotional conflict” to add to the

c. Use subtext to create conflict within the character

While there are specificities of character that are necessary,
it’s important to understand that outer traits (ethnicity,
height, weight, etc.) are seldom integral to the actual
character in the story.

An ineffective bio only details those outer traits, whereas a
good bio supplies a glimpse into the character’s inner life,
which offers valuable insight into the role for the benefit of
your potential actors.

For example, you might have a character who you view as: “A
muscular, towering, Jamaican bouncer with a bald head.”

First, you should recognize that those are only the outer traits
of the character and, in casting, you have to remain open to
actors who might not exactly look the part (in fact, a lot of
great roles are created by actively playing against type).

So instead, you should find the pertinent inner traits that point
to the same character: “An imposing bouncer, intense and without

In that description you can see immediately the character you’re
describing, but you’re not chaining that character to specific
physical characteristics.

Of course, there are certain aspects of physicality that are
necessary to mention. If, for example, special skills are
required in the role – like the ability to ride a bike or swim –
then that should be mentioned.

Similarly, you’ll want to specify if it’s integral to the story
that two characters look physically related: brothers and
sisters; parents and children etc.

Lastly, give some kind of description of what is required in the
role. It’s important to casting if there are any physical
demands, violence, implied nudity and/or sexuality in the part.
In short, be precise in what you need; be flexible over what you

3. Character Descriptions should have two parts to them.

a. TEXT: Describe the “outer life” of the character? (Age,
general description, what they do for a living etc.)

b. SUBTEXT: Describe some part of the “inner life” of the
character (What is really going on inside of them? What conflicts
do they have?)

EXAMPLE 1: John is a 45 year old dishwasher who limps from a car
accident when he was 7. He is passionate about classical music
and he dreams of playing his violin in an orchestra. He lives at
home with his mother and his step-father, who abused him when he
was a child.

EXAMPLE 2: Mary is a vivacious, 25 year old university student
studying Engineering. She grew up with three older brothers who
always bullied her. She constantly pushes herself to be the best
in a man’s world while struggling to accept her emotional, female

4. Sample Character Descriptions (Ineffective and Effective)


John is a skinny 28 year old Caucasian. He has short hair and a
beard. He was born in Berlin and can speak fluent German. When he
was 15 his parents divorced, and his mother brought him to North
America. He felt ostracized in high school and spent most of his
time reading the works of Bertolt Brecht. He now works as a


John is a brooding German male in his late 20s. Even though he
makes a living by entertaining children as a clown at parties, he
emits an intense aura of defeat and depression. He’s obviously
worn down by too many regrets, and seems to be wavering on the
verge of a mental breakdown.

5. Film Directing Coach – Peter D. Marshall

Actors, Singers and Athletes Have Private Coaches. So Why Not
Film and TV Directors? http://actioncutprint.com/filmdirectingcoach/

Hilary Swank used an acting coach to prepare for her role in Boys
Don’t Cry. She won her first Academy Award.

Singer Renee Fleming has always used a vocal coach. She has won
several Grammy Awards.

Rafael Nadal’s coach urged him on from the sidelines during his
Wimbledon tennis tournament win in 2010.

Arnold Palmer improved his game with the help of a coach. Even
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As a matter of fact, winners in nearly every profession
(athletes, actors, singers, business executives) know that
without the right coach, they won’t perform at their peak.

They know that without the support of an experienced and
qualified coach, they would constantly struggle to achieve

So if these top professionals in their respective fields use
coaches, why not film directors?

So why hire me as your film directing coach?

Along with my international teaching experiences and my 39 years
of professional filmmaking experience (as a TV Director and
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With that in mind, I would like to introduce you to my Film
Directing Coaching services via Skype:

6. Subscriber Shameless Self-Promotion (Free Advertising)

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1. Nathanael Draper: Machinima is a relatively new medium which
utilizes video game engines to make films. Here is a short film
I’ve recently completed which combines dry satire with video game
content to tell a story. The film is titled War and Cease. Enjoy.

7. Filmmaking Links of Interest

1. How a Thriving International Market Has Changed American
Filmmaking http://bit.ly/14FBt8Q

2. 5 Tips for Creating Your Own Film or Series

3. 5 Things You Should Know About DSLR Film Making

4. 15 Female Directors Who Made Their First Feature After Turning
40 http://bit.ly/19tonKB

5. Understanding Film Design http://bit.ly/17mxTga

6. Walter Murch: How new technologies affect filmmaking

7. 6 Filmmaking Tips From Nicolas Winding Refn

8. David Lynch’s guide to film-making http://bit.ly/12VFDqi

9. Top 10 Elements of Film Making http://bit.ly/13OSs8F

10. 3 Ways Future Filmmaking Will Implode http://bit.ly/13CUaZg

8. Product Promotion And Film Workshops

From time to time, I will contact you to inform you of film
workshops, filmmaking products or Online courses that I feel are
beneficial to filmmakers like yourself. Of course, you are under
no obligation to purchase anything – I only offer this
information as a service to subscribers of this free ezine.

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