New Classes

Hello to the 15,000,

Here are two of the new classes I’m teaching at Film Acting Bay Area, which meets at Expressions College, Emeryville, CA.  Join up and work with me, or tell your friends about it.  I’m also offering personal one on one sessions with directors, players. and writers. For those who can’t make it in person I’ll be available on phone or Skype.  Find the information you need for these sessions below.

I’ve also included a piece describing my realization that I could teach my method of directing to others.  Stay tuned and read what I discovered.

Buena fortuna for now.  Keep fighting for an Art of truth seeking, with vision, epiphany, emotion and intuition fully included.  The present day fakirs of Pop still reign, but they can’t last.  Our ever more complex world will eventually make it necessary for us to seek the cathartic value of the Arts once more.  I know I’ll continue to fight for it.


for Actors & Directors
with Rob Nilsson

Rob Nilsson has made 30 feature-films and has won numerous international awards
including the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the Grand Prize at Sundance, the San Francisco Critics Circle Marlon Riggs Award and several Lifetime Achievement Awards. In June of this year, the Moscow Film Festival will hold a retrospective of his work.


“Rob Nilsson’s Workshop was a transformative experience. It was inspiring and liberating to meet other directors and actors, to work, experiment, and create together, and to challenge our fears and limitations under Rob’s guidance.” - Josh Peterson: Writer-Director

“Rob’s charisma, knowledge, and experience has gone way beyond inspiring me. It has shaken my very core foundation, it has allowed me to free myself of my own mental blocks and fears, and get rid of any falseness that sometimes gets in the way in traditional methods of movie making.” - Tiziana Perinotti: Writer-Director

“It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this creatively energized!” - Arthur Vibert: Writer-Director

“Rob keeps it real. His style, his instruction, his direction is real. As an actress in his class, I felt free to express and that’s what it’s about. I was honored to learn from him.” - Taylor Brock: Actor

“What I discovered, then explored in Rob’s Workshop was beyond any film workshop that I had ever experienced: The truth of the human experience. I now use “Direct Action” approach to prepare and rehearse scripted work. I highly recommend Rob’s “Direct Action” Cinema Workshops.” - Micci Toliver: Actor

“Working with Rob is a pleasure. He is passionate without being pushy. He lets things unfold without forcing and being intrusive, pretty much what directing is all about.” - Marianne Shine: Actor


Direct Action Cinema is a grass roots method for conceiving and producing contemporary dramatic feature films. Developed by director Rob Nilsson, its techniques have been practiced in his films which have won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the Grand Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and numerous other international awards.

In this 8-week class, we will screen films done with Direct Action techniques, discuss the underlying ideas behind them, and practice the acting and directing methods used in their production. Working in teams, we will conceive and shoot Direct Action scenes to provide first hand experience of the method (all equipment including digital cameras required for shooting the scenes will be provided).

All class-work will be recorded with digital cameras on thumbdrives for the workshop participants to review and keep.

Directors and Actors of all levels of experience can enroll. A sample of short-films & clips generated during the previous workshops can be seen at Videos.

Start date: April 28, 2011
Class time: Thursdays, 6:30 pm - 10:00 pm (8 classes on: April 28, May 5, 12, 19, 26, June 2, 9, 16)
Instructor: Rob Nilsson
Prerequisite: Rob Nilsson & Celik Kayalar’s approval at and
Tuition: Directors - $400; Actors - $300 (Payment Plans are available. Please inquire.)

NOTE: Class-size is limited to 6 Directors and 14 Actors.

ROB NILSSON OFFERS:  EXPRESSIVITY FOR THE ACTOR- a class for players (actors) to experience strong emotion, cathartic energy and powerful human connection.  A work out and tune up session for seasoned actors and a supplemental class for actors at all levels.  Exercises in relaxation, concentration and strong emotional commitment will be used to enhance confidence and to eliminate mental blocking.  Using the techniques of Direct Action, a system designed for the creation of dynamic cinema, we will work to enhance the actor’s natural gifts, encourage free and courageous performances and to eliminate  pre-conceptions, excessive rationality and fear of failure.  The goal is a player alive in the moment and fierce in the expression of all things human.

Sundays April/May at 3:00, Expressions College, Emeryville, CA- Three hour sessions for 8 successive weeks: $400.  Drop- ins allowed, $65/session. All acting levels welcome with teacher permission.  Contact:

Director/Writer Rob Nilsson has made 30 feature films and has won numerous international awards including the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the Grand Prize at Sundance, the San Francisco Critics Circle Marlon Riggs Award and several Lifetime Achievement Awards. In June of this year the Moscow Film Festival will hold a retrospective of his work.


Cannes and Sundance winning writer, director, actor Rob Nilsson is now available for individual coaching and consultations for actors, directors and filmmakers:  in person, via Skype or on the phone.  Contact: for rates and times.


Available for sale: copies of the chapter in Rob Nilsson’s book in progress, WILD SURMISE, which includes his writing on the purposes and practices of Direct Action Cinema.   $25.00 e-mailed.  $35.00 regular mail.

By Rob Nilsson

The new classes I’ve been teaching at Film Acting Bay Area have been eye opening.  I have been developing and refining my Direct Action filmmaking approach for many years and over the production of my last 25 films, but this is the first time I’ve tried to teach it to others.  It’s fascinating to see, first of all, that it works for other directors, and also, how various their approach is in using it.  I love it when I see a director, intent, prowling around the players as they improv their scene, directing the shooter with a gesture, a guiding hand, slipping in between lines to deliver a quick direction to players, involved in the way a musician is involved in a tight combo, everyone working for the emotional and dramatic music the system is designed to create.

I find that I am picking up new approaches by watching how others use the system.  It had not occurred to me how transferable this knowledge was until I stood back and watched.  And it’s gratifying to see how easily players fall into this groove as well, as if they had been doing it all their lives.  And they have.  Because this is a system which literally relies on the experience of a lifetime.  Players live out fictional lives in front of cameras, responding to language and action which allow them to invent a fresh and surprising scene using their own life choices and patterns.  And working close to the truth of natural instincts allows directors to create characters their players are literally born to play.  The process is interactive.  A story can be brought in to be developed and shaped working with players to refine and define, or it can be invented after observing what players do, and what they might best do.  The distance between writers and players is considerably diminished in this way.

Direct Action is a system which catches human behavior closer to the ground and  friendlier to the spontaneous reactions and capacities of players.  So much less effort and energy is wasted working this way, and much better material gathered for use in editing.  The more I see, the more opposed I am to teaching film acting by giving players scripts for roles which require so much attention to memorization that reality is sacrificed for orthodoxy.  Why give actors scenes from well known plays and screenplays which are far from their experience, and for which they’re almost always unsuited, when they can build drama directly from their own experience and develop a working sense of personal truth in a very fascinating act of transformation, being completely, and triumphantly, themselves.

The chameleon actor who seems to slip into an entirely different reality with each role,  the Stacy Keach, the Jon Voight the Gary Oldham, is a very rare breed anyway.  Most actors are unable to stray very far from their native ways of being and expressing themselves.  And this is how an audience wants its Robert DeNiro anyway.  Everyday we see critics mistake what they consider acting for that which is really just personal character, charisma, personal ability and charm.  Most aficianados feign horror at what they consider typecasting.  For me, and for the cinema generally, the very best casting is typecasting.  Caricatured roles are to be avoided like the plague.  But roles which come right out of the cauldrons of living experience are always the most convincing.

Another thing I’ve stressed in my classes is that cinema is as much about places as it is about players.  People in a classroom, for cinema, are people in a classroom, no matter if they are playing scenes from Henry IV Part one, or Waiting for Godot.  Whenever possible, if you’re in a classroom, play a scene from a classroom.  Or if the ultimate scene is to take place in a bar on Market St., do your back story rehearsals, wherever possible, in places native to them, and do the scene in a bar on Market St.

For example: in the class just completed I worked with four directors each of whom created and directed a scene for two to three players.  As a group we decided that the scenes being  developing separately should eventually converge and evolve into one.  The process evolved over 8 weeks, and at the end our fiction found us in an airport, with four groups of people stranded travelers and one group with a solution… a private jet owned by a company one of them worked for.  The plane was located in a small airport outside the bad weather zone and, for a fee, all four groups could take a shuttle bus there, board the plane and head for a hub where everyone could fly to their destination.

Well, we developed character back story with back story improvs in a classroom.  Cameras but no location reality.  We didn’t have the time or the access to do the airport scene in an airport.  But for our final class, we traveled to a small airport and filmed the four dramatic scenes we had been developing on a real jet, and went on from there to work with everyone’s greatest fear, an airplane losing control, and beginning its descent into oblivion.  It was electrifying and, to me, further proof that film acting classes should work, as much as possible, with life as it is being lived in the moment, and in the locations appropriate to it.  This is excellent training for the real thing: the day directors and players are out in the world shooting the feature film they are passionate about in locations which exactly suit their scenes.

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