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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