The Acting Training That Will Make You A Better Director

Are you a director looking for an innovative way to work with actors? Then you may want to check The Warner Loughlin Technique, a book that came out at the beginning of the year and is already changing the way I look at screenwriting, acting, and yes, directing.

Amy Adams, Zooey Deschanel, and Ryan Reynolds are a few of the well known actors using this revolutionary approach to acting. While the technique has been around for over 20 years, it’s fresh take on approaching characters will open up a world of possibility to you as a director.

It will take work though. Lots and lots of imaginative homework.

EMOTION WITH DETAIL – Pure Imagination

The beauty of this technique is how heavily it relies on your imagination. A director’s number one job is to use their imagination to create shots, with compelling performances. Everything a director does is to aid the story.

A big tool to tell a story is to imagine.

The simplified idea behind Emotion With Detail is to have the actor sit with their eyes closed. You as the director could give them an object the character would have and they would begin to imagine, speaking out loud in first person about what the object means to them, slowly expanding their world to the room their sitting in and describing it all from a place of sentimentality over cold hard facts. The more emotion and personal significance they give the better. For example, in her book, Warner has one character sitting in a room doing Emotion With Detail, talking about the desk in their room. It’s not just the fact that there’s a desk with green glass knobs, but it used to be their mom’s desk, but their dad doesn’t like it because it’s girly.

Sitting with an actor in a rehearsal and imagining the character with them through the use of Emotion With Detail will not only help your actor to discover the character better, but it may help you as the director thinks of a different shot that will tell the story better. Because it won’t be just the actor who has a deep understanding of the character’s past, you will too. You’ll find little things that you hadn’t thought of before.

All because of imagination.


Reading The Warner Loughlin Technique and learning about Base Human Emotions was eye-opening for me. Not just as an actor and writer, but as a director and human being. Warner describes a Base Human Emotion as an “overwhelming, overriding emotion – triggered by an event that occurred early in life – that leads the character to interpret and perceive the world in a unique and specific way.” (The Warner Loughlin Technique) We may have a few, but there’s one that will stand out and consciously/subconsciously move us to respond one way or another.

Learning more about this helped me discover the motivation of a character, but it can also help the director tell the story with sharper discernment.

For example, there may be a sho

t you think should be a low angle to show how powerful the character is, but on working with the actor and the Base Human Emotion, you discover a high angle is the better choice because what you thought was a strength was actually fear. These subtle changes can really help your film go that extra mile.

“I’ve been working with Warner Loughlin for years. Not only has she helped me become a better actor, but she’s also helped me truly enjoy this work in ways I never imagined.” – Ryan Reynolds

I am only just brushing the surface of what I’ve learned from this book so far, but as an actress, writer, and director I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s taught me so much about how to make movies that shine not only in the performances but the overall product too.


  • Charis Joy Jackson

    Producer, Director, Writer, Actress

    Charis Joy Jackson is a writer, director, producer and teacher working with The Initiative Production Company. During the day she makes movies and in her spare time is writing a novel. She's a self-proclaimed nerd who wishes she could live in Hobbiton. You can follow her on Instagram @charisjoyjackson


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