Acting Tips from a Movie Director
There are many acting tips from actors to actors. Not much from directors to actors. I have directed five feature films and have worked with hundreds of actors. (My first film “The Keyman” starring Adam Baldwin is available on iTunes and Amazon Prime). Some of them famous, many of them local to the locations and cities we shot the film in. But there are a couple of things I wish every actor knew on the set. Things that could save me time and money in production. Time and money allows me to spend more on areas I need it to tell the story.
First of all, let me tell you what my job is as film director: Guardian of the Story. Every decision I make should go through this filer– does it help or hurt to tell the story? Unfortunately, we are all human and all have ego. So I can look back and see some decisions made as director were not always for the benefit of the story. I have to get ego out of the way and let the storytelling be the purpose. Likewise, you the actor need to push ego out of the way so you can hit your purpose on the set.
What is the actors purpose? Theatrical Truth. Tip Number 1: Pursue theatrical truth in every aspect of your performance. Doesn’t matter to me as the director if you get there by method or some other acting technique. Just get there. When I watch the monitor, do I really believe you are that person, reacting to that particular environment and situation? Or do I see someone pretending to be that person? That’s the difference for me. Now as the director, I will do whatever I can to help you achieve theatrical truth. But the faster/easier you get there, the better.
My second tip is: Know Your Lines. It’s not enough to have them barely memorized. The lines for the day need to be engrained– where you can say them without thinking about the lines. When you can do that, you can think about all the other decisions you need to make as an actor. If brain cells are having to try and recall the words, other cool decisions aren’t being made. So when you get the sides the night before, memorize your lines. While sitting in the makeup chair, memorize your lines. While waiting between takes, memorize your lines.
The third tip today: Consistency in Performance. This is a big one for actors who have not had a lot of movie experience. What I mean by consistency is blocking, gestures, movement, etc. It’s a world of difference when I’m directing an experienced movie actor– he or she will pick up the glass at the same time with the same hand in each take. And in each new setup. It’s a real pain in editing to find I can really take a shot I really like because the actor is doping something different than the master. Many local day players end up on the cutting room floor– not for lack of acting chops, but because the continuity errors were just too great.
I might only have to do two or three takes with an experienced actor– because they know these acting tips. But for inexperienced actors, I might have to take twice or thrice as many takes, just because of the technical aspects of the performance. Learn these acting tips and keep getting better and we’ll see you on the set!