The Director-Actor Collaboration

October 16, 2023 An African American Steering Committee Virtual Event

On October 16, the African American Steering Committee (AASC) virtual meeting featured the one-on-one discussion, The Director-Actor Collaboration. Committee Co-Chair Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Woman King) and Actor/Director Sanaa Lathan (On the Come Up) discussed the dynamics of working together and the ways to develop a strong partnership.

During the lively and instructional conversation, Prince-Bythewood and Lathan shared stories from their over 20-year collaboration that began with Prince-Bythewood’s award-winning feature, Love and Basketball.

Prince-Bythewood focused on tactics to develop trust with the Actors you are working with. She emphasized that the relationship starts with respecting and developing a deeper understanding of what Actors are doing, recognizing that they are being vulnerable and are often physically experiencing the emotions of the scene. She shared her opinion that taking an acting class can help Directors develop a deeper understanding and language to help elicit the performance the Director is hoping for.

Lathan spoke about creating space for great performances, scheduling rehearsals when possible, being open about what the Actor brings to scene and soliciting their take on the performance. She described how her experiences in front of the camera, working with many Directors throughout her career, has informed her decision-making when she is behind the camera as a Director. She said that having a mutual understanding you are working together to create and tell stories, while allowing space for the Actor to find the performance and recognizing their contribution, leads to the strongest collaborations.

About the Panelists:
Gina Prince-BythewoodDirector Gina Prince-Bythewood
Prince-Bythewood’s directorial credits include the award-winning features, Love & Basketball and The Secret Life of Bees; the award-nominated feature, Beyond the Lights; the critically acclaimed features, The Woman King and The Old Guard; the movie for television, Disappearing Acts; and episodes of the series, Women of the Movement, Cloak and Dagger, Shots Fired, Girlfriends and The Bernie Mac Show. She has been a DGA member since 1999 and currently serves as Third Vice-President of the DGA, a co-chair of the African American Steering Committee, and on the Western Directors Council. 

Sanaa LathanActor/Director Sanaa Lathan
Lathan’s directorial credits include the feature, On the Come Up; and segments of the anthology feature, With/In. Her acting credits include collaborations with Prince-Bythewood on the feature, Love & Basketball; the movie for television, Disappearing Acts; and episodes of the series, Shots Fired. She became a DGA member in 2021.


About the Committee:

The African American Steering Committee (AASC) was born of a desire to address the specific needs of the African-American members of the Directors Guild. One of the primary goals of the Committee is to establish a productive line of communication between African-American members and the creative community. The Committee meets monthly to plan events throughout the year celebrating the achievements of African-Americans, as well as forums with industry executives to proactively address what can be done to hire more African-Americans.

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