indie filmmaking

WORKING WITH ACTORS…. GRRR

Actors. Jeez. Fucking actors. If you work in corporate or short form then you are mercifully spared the long term anguish of dealing with actors.

You might think I hate actors by the start of this blogrant. No. I love em. They’re like all craftspeople: when they’re good they’re amazing, when they’re shit you just fire them, and when they’re mediocre they make you want to rip off your limbs just so you have something to hit them with.

The problem stems from the notion of value. It’s very hard to put a value on an actor’s contribution compared to, say, a focus puller. Both very important, but the actor deals in stuff you can’t touch, shape, mark up or measure.

As directors we get taught to treat actors with a huge amount of respect, wrap them in cotton wool, protect their egos, support them, treat them like kids basically.

I’ve done that and what happens is actors start behaving like kids because you let them. And that sucks.

The best actors I’ve worked with expected and enjoyed being treated exactly like the crew. They didn’t have to sit in a quiet room for an hour before a take. They could switch it on and off, they could repeat every take exactly like the previous one with the notes you’d given correctly delivered.

In other words, they were professional about it.

Does that make the other kind of actors ‘amateur’? No, it just makes them the kind of actors I have no interest in working with. The crew I enjoy working with understand the job, they love the job, but they also don’t take themselves too seriously. The best actors I’ve worked with are no different.

So, from now on, I’m not going to baby my actors, I’m just going to treat them the way I treat everyone else. If they’re not strong enough to deal with that then I probably won’t cast them.

Actors often talk about trust, how they have to trust a director. The argument runs that everyone else controls the set, where the actor has to give themselves up to the rest of the crew to deliver what’s required of them.

My counter argument runs that actors have all the control. Without them there is nothing. That’s ultimate power. Apart from catering, every single job on set is replaceable at a moment’s notice. Your actor goes awol you’re screwed.

That’s control, that’s power.

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FIGHTING MEDIOCRITY

So, first post. Let’s make it count, eh?

I hear a lot of hate these days. Natter natter, this fucka did this, or this fucka got this opportunity and I didn’t… blah blah blah.

A lot of people I meet don’t like Philip Bloom. Very few of them have actually met him, but they don’t like him anyway. Or rather they don’t like the fact he’s successful. They think he’s a poor filmmaker. A me-too champion of the mediocre who just happened to be in the right place at the right time, a rancid symptom of the democratisation of video.

Us video pros resent how quickly our skills and protected day rates have been eroded by the emergence of DSLRs putting cheap tools into the hands of the great unwashed. How dare they?

Philip Bloom is the leading hate figure of this movement. We hold him up as a shining example of how the appreciation of the finer elements of craft is being lost as self-satisfied smug little bloggers share everything and in so doing make it okay for everyone else to be gently crap.

It’s amateurs posing as pros.

We pros hate it. We think we’re better.

And here’s the problem. Often we’re really not.

Those who diss Phil Bloom are envious of his success because he got lucky. So what, tons of people get lucky. Does he not deserve it? Sure he does. I don’t know anyone who works as hard as he does at preserving his reputation and his position.

It’s not a position I want and I don’t envy him in the slightest.

If you are one of these bitter pros then there’s a simple fucking solution.

Just be fucking better. Get off your fat arse, stop assuming because you pay the bills by waving a cheap camera around that you’re in anyway a good filmmaker because you’re probably not.

Filmmaking is fucking hard, to be good at it is really fucking hard. Drama especially. There’s so much more to it than S35mm chips and stills lenses. You actually have to have talent and precious few have any.

In a world of Instagram and Magic Bullet Looks the worst thing you can do is moan about how mediocre and shit everything has become. You have to rise above. You have to be the best mutha in the pit. If you can’t do that then you clearly are nowhere near as good as you think you are because, honestly, the level is so fucking low right now any fucking shred of originality is immediately pounced on and heralded as the greatest.

Just fucking shut up.

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