Film school is a funny animal if memory serves, with little to no emphasis on how to communicate with actors. In addition to that rather problematic truth, no amount of kicking and screaming at the faculty to amend that error ever did any good. So one is forced in many instances to make a short film with some really flat performances.
Luckily, I am in the position to recommend a rather affordable remedy: Cassavetes On Cassavetes by Ray Carney. In his book, Carney has assembled a definitive and infinitely intimate series of conversations with America’s greatest director of actors John Cassavetes. In this book Cassavetes lays bare all his ideas, his exercises, his triumphs and his failures as a director on the stage and in film working with actors. There isn’t much that can’t be learned about directing actors in Cassavetes On Cassavetes, which is why it has been a staple on my reading list for the passed four years. If you haven’t already read this book or explored the cinema of the late director, I highly recommend that you do.