MOONDANCE: On Directing Actors in Film & call-for-entries!

“The flowering, bright green of springtime provides us with a multi-layered, rich, and complex symbol of the self and its journey toward enlightenment and awareness. It is what life can be in its ideal form and when understood in its true nature.” ~ EE

SCROLL ON DOWN: For info, festival news, insider tips on directing actors in film, recommendations, great photos & thoughts for the day!



  • We believe that films, scripts and music can contribute to a healthier society and that these works should encourage the active involvement of audiences to connect and act collectively to address social challenges. The Moondance mission is to entertain, to inform, to inspire, to encourage and to educate.

  • We are eager to continue to be one of the most important film festivals in the world by being innovative, risk-taking, and open to new thinking, new concepts, new talent, and new ways of telling stories.

  • Our mission is also to present a vibrant and growing collection of films, writings, and music, which is an ideal means for communication across perceived boundaries of race, culture, place, age and gender.

~~~~~~~~ Come join us! ~~~~~~~~

MOVIEBYTES.COM lists Moondance as one of the top 10 film festival competitions worth the entry fee!


The 2013 Moondance


is open for submissions!

Get your entry in EARLY for this great opportunity

to showcase your talents and for a good chance to

win the Moondance!





(save $5 on entry fee)


We look forward to previewing your submissions!




~~~~ FILM TRAILERS! ~~~~

Do you have a really good 3-5-minute trailer you’d like to send to Moondance?

Haven’t quite finished your film yet, but want to promote it now?

Submit your trailer here:

The entry fee is only $25!

All winning trailers will be screened at Moondance 2013!




“Lights, camera, and…action!”


Elizabeth English

When judges preview films for film festival competitions, or when distributors look at films they may decide to screen in theaters, or during Academy Award nomination season, or when a talent agent may decide to take you on as a client, or when a production company or film studio is watching your demo reel,  trailer, or film, and considering you to direct a film, the actors’ performances are one of the most important elements they look for in the film. You may have a unique story, the best cinematographer, incredible editing, memorable film score, interesting locations, fabulous action scenes, great dialog, and impressive production values, but…if any of the actors, not just the lead actors, fluff a scene, or are wooden, over-act, are amateurish, or are simply unremarkable in their roles, your film will be rejected, you’ve just lost most, if not all credibility as a film director, and you may never get a second chance.

Directing a feature or short film, commercial, music video, or television pilot requires an extraordinary output of time, energy, patience, and talent. You owe it to yourself, and to the success of the film project, to get the richest, most realistic, relatable performances possible. Directing actors is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding, aspects in the array of creative tasks that await any film director.

You’ll need to know how to constructively and efficiently collaborate with actors to create truthful, compelling, and natural performances. Unlike the creative process of writing a script or generating shot-lists and storyboards, actors are unpredictable, and you can’t completely plan their performances in a film, but you can direct them toward the performance you envision for the role.

Kathryn Bigelow, Oscar-winning director, for “The Hurt Locker”

Some film directors (even seasoned veterans) just don’t seem to know how to communicate with actors – they often don’t speak a language that is useful to them. You need to learn a new language, which enables you, as the director, to give the actor a clear point of departure for a performance, and which allows you to quickly communicate adjustments, as that particular scene or performance evolves, yet also allows the actor his or her interpretation of the character and scene, but always based on what you  and the script require.

This is a directorial process that begins by articulating a “through-line” – a concise statement that captures a director’s interpretation of the script, into language that will help the actors build their performances, and establish a productive working relationship between actors and director. You want the actors to “quit acting” and just BE the characters, tapping in to emotions which the actor has experienced in her/his own life and applying it to the scene. No hitting their marks and just reading their lines!

Woody Allen, directing

Directing actors for film is much different from directing actors for the stage. Because a stage has 3 walls, and the audience sits at the fourth “wall”, seeing and hearing everything on the stage, and everything the actor does or says, as it occurs, there can be no multiple takes, no do-overs. Larger gestures and broader, more visible facial expressions, as well as throwing one’s voice to the back of the balcony, are needed in theater, but not usually in film.

Anthony Hopkins, as Hannibal Lecter

With a roughly a 22’ tall X 52’ wide movie screen, actors can use much more subtle facial expressions, especially in close-ups, simpler body movements ad gestures, and with lower, more modulated voices. A twitch of an eyebrow, or a tiny smirk can easily be seen by the audience, unlike on stage. A good film actor will be aware of this.

And, with film, many takes of the same scene can be shot until the director is happy with that scene. An actor must be capable of accommodating this arduous and frustrating process, and to be able to make adjustments in his or her characterizations, over and over, without complaint.

When auditioning actors for specific roles in a film, you can see, at that time, how amenable each one is to suggestions for adjustment, how patient he or she is, how a particular actor has his or her own interpretation of the role, and how capable the actor is of listening and understanding what you, as director, want to see, and giving it to you. An actor may look right for the role as a particular character, but may not be able to be the character, not merely memorize the lines and play the part.

The camera can move to different viewpoints, can do a two-shot, a close-up, or a crowd scene, or action outdoors, and even use a parkour technique, by following the actor(s) for several minutes moving through a location sequence. With just a single camera, if you’re shooting two actors speaking back and forth, each actor must be able to speak his or her lines and react accordingly, but must then wait while the other actor speaks and reacts, then speak or react when the camera is back focused on him or her. A demanding lesson in patience, and staying in the role while the camera changes position, sound and lighting is set up, makeup and hair are fluffed, and lens focus is established, for each shot.

As a director, if you’re working with non-professional actors, or interviewing people for a documentary, you may need to remind them to pay extra attention to their total body language (head-to-toe) in a scene, tone of voice, and facial expressions, to get a realistic characterization from them. In narrative and documentary filmmaking, actors & interview subjects generally need to move a bit more slowly than normal (but not too slowly) through a scene, in order for the camera to focus and catch the image, and not cause the audiences to feel they are being forced to visually follow the scene too quickly.

Acting is reacting. Reacting to another actor’s dialog or actions. Reacting with what is already known, and can be, should be, brought into the role’s characterization from the actor’s and director’s own life experiences and personal observations, as well as by what the particular role requires.

One might consider the talented actor as a visual story-teller, a creator of visions who can transport movie audiences out of their habitual ways of being, create an atmosphere of “suspension of disbelief,” and who leads them on a journey of self-discovery and possibly new perceptions. Personal magnetism and charisma, intense body awareness, voice control, and great sensitivity are among the special abilities that contribute to the actor’s mystique, and a film director can encourage and inspire the actor to bring this out in performance.

As a director, you should know all there is to know about filmmaking: cinematography, editing, production, lighting, sound, and etc., and that, of course, includes acting. You need to study the art and craft of acting, both stage and film acting, especially improv, and consider learning to be an actor, yourself, in order to understand actors and communicate with them, and most effectively bring out the best performances from your actors.



Changing Direction: A Practical Approach to Directing Actors in Film and Theatre: by Lenore DeKoven, foreword by Ang Lee

Directing Actors: Creating Memorable Performances for Film & Television by Judith Weston

The Film Director’s Intuition: Script Analysis and Rehearsal Techniques, by Judith Weston



“We tend to make spirituality a part of our lives in the same way we go to a yoga class, but it can’t really benefit us if it isn’t consistently becoming more and more the core of our being. 

Spirituality isn’t something we do. It is part of our consciousness. It is how we see the world. 

The spiritual path is a constant walk where we make a conscious effort to be the best version of ourselves, and make a difference in the lives of others.” ~ YEHUDA BERG


“It’s no good running a pig farm badly for 30 years, while saying, ‘Really, I was meant to be a ballerina.’ By that time, pigs will have become your style” ! QUENTIN CRISP


Photo by Dominique Browning

“Patience. Clay cannot be forced to dry faster than it wishes. Clay cannot be forced to do anything faster than it wishes, lest it explode. We must do everything in stages lest the process become overwhelming. You have to focus, so that you move the clay and the clay doesn’t move you. The clay does have its memory, so you must have a firm idea in mind before you begin to shape a form. And stop when you are tired, as that is when things fall apart. Same with our mortal clay.” ~ DOMINIQUE BROWNING, Slow Love Life blog (excerpt)


National Geographic photo

It’s sometimes tough to accept, but nothing happens suddenly. We don’t awaken one day and find a full-grown tree on our front lawn, because in the world of physicality, there is always a process. 

Every action we make plants a seed in our lives that will manifest something positive or negative. 

A good deed today may manifest a blessing later when it is needed most.” ~ YEHUDA BERG


“The Obstacle in Our Path”

In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a 

roadway.  Then he hid himself and watched to see if 

anyone would remove the huge rock blocking the way. Some of the

 king’s’ wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by 

and simply walked around it.. Many loudly complained and blamed the

 king for not keeping the roads clear, but no-one did

 anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a simple peasant came along, carrying a load of 

vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the 

peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the 

stone to the side of the road. After much pushing

 and straining, he finally succeeded. After the 

peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed 

a purse lying in the road where the boulder had

 been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note

 from the king, indicating that the gold was for the 

person who removed the boulder from the roadway.


peasant learned what many of us never really understand: Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve 
our condition, and maybe even to help others, in the process.

Dominique Browning photo



~~~~~~~ 7seas Productions ~~~~~~~

7seas Productions, an enthusiastic Moondance International Film Festival sponsor, offers professional screenwriting, screenplay reading services, critiques, coverage and edits to screenwriters & filmmakers, other writers, and to production companies and agencies, at a special discount price!

Focusing on the elements crucial to creating a compelling and readable script, or a winning, marketable film, our helpful comments will allow you to concentrate on solving the problems that will make your material move toward receiving a CONSIDER or a RECOMMENDED from a studio or prodco reader, and will assist in advancing your script or film up toward WINNER in screenwriting competitions & film festivals.

An advantage of this low-cost service is that we will help you prepare your screenplay or film before sending it to producers, agents, managers and others who may have requested it.

Elizabeth English, the founder, executive director and artistic director of Moondance, is also a professional screenwriter, with 3 award-winning screenplays produced, and currently in pre-production on 2 more. She is available for feature screenplay commissions from individuals, novelists, writers, directors, producers, production companies and studios.

Contact Elizabeth at:

or call 303-545-0202 or 303-818-5771 today!




Filmmakers, screenwriters, composers, playwrights, short-story writers, TV writers, and the many indie film audiences, internationally!


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ROGER EBERT (1942-2013)

Bettmann/Corbis photo

A “two-thumbs-up” accolade for the nation’s best-known movie reviewer, who wrote about movies, (both great, good, mediocre and bad ones), with a passion, and with real knowledge of film and film history. Ebert was one of the most influential film critics in the US, won a Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism, and was the first film critic to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. From the Chicago Tribune & The New York Times: President Barack Obama issued a statement that “movies won’t be the same without Roger. Even amidst his own battles with cancer, Roger was as productive as he was resilient — continuing to share his passion and perspective with the world. When he didn’t like a film, he was honest; when he did, he was effusive — capturing the unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical.”


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MOONDANCE NEWS & SPRING CALL-FOR-ENTRIES! 21 Suggestions to Better Your Chances of Winning Screenplay Competitions
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