Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Prepare Your Actors

I'm directing a short film, and so far it's going really well.

We've been in preproduction for months. Lots of moving parts, you know. Locations. Equipment. Lights. PAs. Craft services. Getting this movie SAG endorsed.

Being the director I have a unique insight into the characters... I know exactly what I'm looking for from my characters. I should. I wrote the film.

To prepare my actors, I gave them each a packet.  My film has three main characters, so each packet was tailored specifically for each of them. For my lead actress, I compiled data with unfavorable outcomes to help get her in a darker "zone" if you will.

My lead actor received a packet with statistics and data. His character is a thinker and a doer, and would know stats about the issue that is plaguing him.

For my supporting actress, I gave her a manual from a local police department on how to solve the crime the movie focuses on. On top of that, I sent her a two page back story on her character.

A few months before the shoot, we had a read through.  ALWAYS have a read through of your script. You'll hear what works and what doesn't. Dialogue is tricky, and believe me, in a film, if it's not organic, people will mock you for it. With the read through, I made some minor adjustments, and we were good to go.

On the shoot, while the crew set up the shots, I was able to sit with the main actors and go over their packets.The actors did a marvelous job of grasping their characters and bringing them to life. They asked questions; great questions; hard questions. I was able to gently direct them where the characters needed to be. Everything went wonderfully:  after a few takes, the roles "set in" and rather than watching actors, we were witnessing a couple going through intense pressure and merely capturing it. When you turn around and see the men on the crew in tears, you know you have something magical going on.

I'm not sharing this to brag. I'm sharing this to encourage you. Get a great Assistant Director.  Let him/her run your set so you can spend time with your actors.  The more time you cultivate with your actors, the more trust is established, and the better the performance you can draw out of them. Note, I say "draw out" not 'beat out'.

A lot of things will make or break your film. The writing. The sound. The acting. So do your best to create a safe haven for your actors.  It can only improve your film.  ~SC

Photo Credit: Erin Moore

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