Acting for Film – Everything You Need To Know From Audition To Set
Acting is courage. Acting is discipline. It’s the pursuit of your happiness despite the many obstacles the industry, and life, will throw at you.
We go from getting accustomed to the idea that acting is something we’d like to pursue, to first steps of action that are workshops or drama school; to first time auditions and rejections, and first on-set experiences and dress rehearsals. It’s a wonderful romance with a beautiful form of self-expression.
Having made a shift from being in front of the camera, to standing behind it as a director, I would like to share some words that might just help you become more successful at this crazy creative life.
WHAT DO THEY ACTUALLY THINK OF YOU WHEN YOU AUDITION
The reason why auditions are so nerve-wrecking is because you walk into a room and expect to be judged. Judged on your looks, your performance, your accent and ability to act. When I was in workshops with major casting directors, one of them said – it’s never your acting ability that’s an issue, it’s literally whether you are right for the part. And that means – do you fit the vision of the director / producer for that character. A rejection is sometimes solely based on the colour of your hair – not because there’s something wrong with it – it’s because the director knows what they want the character to feel and look like.
What’s also incredibly important;
Nobody in that room wants you to fail. NOBODY. They want you to entertain them.
Simply tell whoever is watching a story. Show them something unique – a quirky nuance to your performance will catch their eye, and perhaps spark an interesting idea. What that doesn’t mean is doing something bizarre and completely out of context. Stick to the story outline and your sides.
Fit in the world, but mould it to your vision.
Don’t worry too much about the lines, if you forget it – simply take a second, and say it again. Get back into that focused zone, and carry on. Nobody cares if you messed up the word – USE IT. It will only add something fresh to what you’re doing. If you are asked to do something differently, that’s not because you’re doing it wrong – they want to see if you can take direction and if you can do what they have in mind for the particular scene or role. When it comes to acting – listening is absolutely everything. But not just literally – you need to show them that you can listen to a note / direction, take it on board, and perform as per the request. Notes are never there to challenge your ego or undermine your talent. Because it’s not about you, or the director, or the sound guy. It’s about the story and the film. You’re all there to make it come alive.
The story is the priority.
The main thing I learned about the auditions is that they want to get a feel of WHO YOU ARE. It’s about the energy – and your attitude! – that you bring to the table. Remember, filmmaking is stressful enough, nobody wants to work with someone who will make it even more difficult. As much as it can be hard to believe, this industry is quite small, reputations travel fast and people work with people they like and had a good, professional and fun experience with.
Be professional, natural, punctual, and have fun with creating the character.
FILM REHEARSALS – TIME TO EXPERIMENT AND DISCOVER
Every director will have their own idea of a rehearsal, if any at all. If you do get to rehearse, that’s the fun part of the production – it’s the time to play, to have fun, to be outrageous and try the most bizarre ideas. You’re there with the cast and director to see what works best for the story, what makes it more interesting, and what doesn’t. It’s an ongoing conversation about the script and the characters.
But it’s also your time to raise any questions or potential issues you have with the text. If you are having issues or ideas that could improve the story, discuss it with the director. Make sure to approach the subject personally, on a one to one basis, instead of starting this conversation in the middle of rehearsal, amidst other actors.
ACTING WHILST FILMING – WHERE THE REAL MAGIC HAPPENS
When it comes to filming, you need to be as prepared as possible.
Time is of the essence when the camera is rolling – make sure you are absolutely sure what you’re doing, but most importantly – how the filmmaking works. You don’t need to know the intricacies of the shooting, but be aware of how to work on set. Familiarise yourself with how the machine works, so when you arrive, you’re not lost or intimidated, and you know what happens when you start going for takes.
It will also help your performance, as you don’t need to be delivering 100% on each take – for example, if the director is shooting a wide shot of the scene, it’s best to preserve your energy and focus for the close ups, when you can really see your performance and talent. It’s also great if you can turn up and be an asset to the production by understanding the things around you – the importance of continuity, or the sound, knowing how the camera works and what the eye of the lens will register. You can use these things to not only leave a great reputation behind, but also make it much easier for everyone else to make the film.
What’s also good is if you express an interest in more than just what your role and goals entail. Tom Hanks likes to ask the director what is it he’s trying to capture in specific moment and how, and then adjusts his performance to what’s happening technically around him. This shows you’re interested in the bigger project, and not just your acting.
When it comes to performance, it’s important you know how to stay focused and interested in your lines and objectives. Try and reinvent those underlining things for yourself with each take you go for. Depending on the kind of director you work with, some may welcome you making suggestions on the go in regards to the scene / lines / blocking, but make sure you check that with them first.
Repetition is one of the main things when it comes to acting – as much as it can deplete your interest and focus, what will really help to keep things fresh is trying different approaches to your lines and actions on each take. Offer the director and editor a variety of choices. You’d be surprised what they land on in the final cut of the film, and they will be grateful you gave them options. However – make sure to always stay within the constraints of the story!
Most importantly, be polite, punctual and respectful of everyone around you.
It makes a world of difference when you’re there, willing to work together with the team and are participating as much as you can. Don’t make it about yourself – because it isn’t. It’s always about the story and the film. Everyone involved plays a crucial role – nobody is more or less important than you. And, at the end of the day, it’s much more fun when you get along with the team and are part of this magical camaraderie – it’s a journey and an adventure, make the most of it!
Having worked as an actress and now as a filmmaker, Jagoda has been on both sides of the camera. Having done castings herself, Jagoda knows what makes a photo stand out and what attracts the attention of producers / directors.