Directing: The Need of a Character

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A handful of needs drives every single human on this planet, and these requirements shape us and dictate our behavior in every given moment. From how we think, move, act and talk, and to how we react in certain situations. For actors, we can call this the character’s goal —the objective— the need of the character.

An actor will require a ‘need’ for their character; it will be the driving force behind every word they speak. A character that needs money to secure shelter for his family will deliver a line differently to a character that does not have the need for that money.

We can collapse these basic needs down to their core so they can be expressed with words that will be able to trigger an organic response from the actor.


Lenore Dekoven author of film and theatre book Changing Direction says;

It has long been my belief, which recent scientific research now supports, that the brain functions much like a computer so that, in effect, when we communicate we are pressing certain buttons in the brain’s computer. For example, I think we can all accept the fact that the need to get love is a basic, universal one to which everyone can relate. These are words which everyone can respond. Here are some of the others that I have found to world well in the process of helping the actor identify the underlying drive or motivating force for the character:

Here’s the list.

To prove one’s worth

To get self-worth

To get security

To prove oneself superior

To find one’s identity

To free oneself

To survive

To save oneself

To get self-respect

To get rid of guilt

To prove oneself as a man or woman

To prove one’s manhood or womanhood

To get love

To destroy oneself or others

To hold onto someone

To overcome inadequacy

To overcome insecurity

“This seems to be a short list, but when it is modified by certain words, which again may evoke varied responses from the computer buttons/brain of the actor, the possibilities become much broader:”

To find one’s worth

To hold onto one’s worth

To prove one’s worth as a man or woman

To hold onto self-worth

To find security

To hold onto security

To save security

To prove oneself the superior male or female

To save superiority

To hold onto one’s identity

To save one’s self-respect

To free oneself from guilt

To hold onto one’s manhood or womanhood

To find love

To hold onto love

To save love

To destroy the pain

To hold onto the status quo.

To read more on this topic, I highly recommend in picking up the book Changing Direction.  You can pick the book from up

About The Author

Lewis McGregor is an aspiring filmmaker, photographer and online content creator from Wales.