The number one complaint actors have made since the new incentives were enacted, are the lack of prominent parts in the feature films that come to town. Background extras, day player roles, those are out there, but they want more. The only way they are going to get more is through partnering with filmmakers to create reels and a body of work that will get them noticed.
Unfortunately, while a number of filmmakers really like and care for their actors, very few are producing the types of projects that can assist themselves and their cast. Quite often, the actors might as well be props that just happen to have lines, as opposed to professionals asked to bring a character to life.
So we asked Georgia actors to tell us what Georgia filmmakers could do to improve. What jumps out immediately, are the requests for clearer communication, and the desire for filmmakers to connect actors to other filmmakers.
The heart of the communication problem is that filmmakers don't know how to speak to actors as actors, in terms that will aide their performance. Compounding this is the lack of communication before and after actors arrive on set .
- 1. Clear and concise info in breakdowns.
- Give feedback on what you did well and what you might improve on.
- Call me and explain what you want out of me in performance.
- Don't use your film school terms around me. I went to film school.
- Poor direction, resulting in poor acting choices.
- [Stop directing] with results in mind, like "you need to cry here."
Actors want to be connected to other filmmakers, the crew and the community itself. This is a people business. Walking on set a stranger, to walk off set after your scenes are done still a stranger, doesn't benefit an actor, or make them feel a part of a larger community.
- The best thing is that old adage: "word of mouth". If you like our work, tell other directors - that's the lifeline we need in indie work!
- And make me feel welcome. Introduce me to the crew. Otherwise I'm walking in to a group who already know each other and they are staring at me like an animal in the zoo.
There are more in the answers that are relevant, repeated, and not unexpected; poor dialogue, hiring inexperienced actors, not taking chances on actors, and hiring actors on looks alone, are among them. Filmmakers AND Actors should give this a read. We will aim to do a followup round table discussion based off these answers. How do we address these issues so we all benefit and see the Georgia film community continue to grow? That requires solutions we can develop, use and share.
click on the link to jump to the answers for that section
What's the one thing you wish filmmakers would DO when working with actors?
1. Clear and concise info in breakdowns. 2. More respectful of actors time, on set. 3. If possible, allow rehearsal time.
Follow thru on your word as a filmmaker. Do what you say you're going to do. Don't lie or embellish about the project's financing or who's going to be involved - just be honest. Actors are happy to work on a low-budget project if they understand the real deal up front, and things work out much better in the end for everyone.
Give feedback on what you did well and what you might improve on.
Make the final product easily available for our reels - we need this product for our marketing, and the easier you make it for us, the more compatible our relationship could be, especially since we so often act in indie films for little or no money.
Call me and explain what you want out of me in performance. I'm all about collaboration, but I want to know what you're looking for from the beginning. When I was younger I took risks. Now as a producer and director myself, I realize we need to get this thing in the can and move on. Tell me what you want and tell me what your movie is about.
And make me feel welcome. Introduce me to the crew. Otherwise I'm walking in to a group who already know each other and they are staring at me like an animal in the zoo.
I wish filmmakers would remove the kid gloves. We're more thick-skinned than you might assume. We don't all have delicate sensibilities just waiting in our trailers for the camera to roll on us. Some of us actually enjoy the maddening beehive on set and being spoken to like an adult who knows what they're doing. Don't pull me aside to whisper direction you feel will embarrass me if overheard. Shout it from video village, we're on a schedule!-Scott Poythress
Learn how to speak with actors and give them direction without line readings. Understanding the different acting techniques will help you learn how to speak the language of acting.
Audition actors in person as often as possible -- don't rely on tapes. This way, you can see which actors know how to take direction and you can make adjustments so that a good actor who may start off with a different choice than what you envision can have a chance to show you what you want.
Actors: What's the one thing you wish filmmakers would STOP doing do when working with actors?
Direct with results in mind, like "you need to cry here." That doesn't work-instead direct from a point of intention "this is a devastating loss for you, how would that impact your character?"
I wish filmmakers would stop hiring actors simply because they have the right look. Find talented dedicated actors who can bring something to the table and allow them to help craft the scene. You'll end up with a much better film.
Stop making us chase you down to get a copy of the work you did on the project. Especially if it's part of your pay. Also don't pay actors crapy and then go over time.
The directors I work with have been very considerate. However, if it is a feature, letting us know the scheduling as far in the future as possible, and as detailed as possible, makes our lives a bit easier. Nothing is more frustrating than sitting in a motel room at 6 p.m. not knowing when your call is the next day, or even IF you will be called the next day.
Don't use your film school terms around me. I went to film school. I get it, but it annoys me and most actors have no idea what you're talking about.If you want me to connect to the other actors, make sure you are connecting with me.And be realistic about your times. Don't tell me "it's only going to be an hour." No one in the history of cinema has ever "only taken an hour." I've got places to go. Don't lie to me.
Stop making assumptions. Please don't assume I will jump at the chance to be in your project when you've barely given me a decent pitch, let alone given me the opportunity to read the whole script. Stop assuming your project is Citizen Kane and that everyone else would be lucky to be involved. Making movies is a team sport. Oh, it's a Sundance submission?! So is every other movie if you've got the $80 application fee.-Scott Poythress
Actors: What's the one thing filmmakers do that most HURTS or HELPS an actor's career?
Helps: Opportunity, collaboration, taking a risk on an actor. Hurt: Poor direction, resulting in poor acting choices. Hurt: Taking too long to get footage to actors, which is often their payment.
HURTS - Not being dedicated to giving the project your best. Prepare every detail ahead of time - budget, storyboards, rehearsals, etc. If the filmmaker is not dedicated to giving it his/her all, it makes everyone look bad in the finished product.HELPS - Worry less about creating great action sequences or special effects. Focus on your story. Craft great dialogue; don't just use it as boring exposition so that you can move to the next scene. Actually make the dialogue within each scene interesting. Better writing = better film = better overall experience for everyone involved.
Give IMDB and SAG credit. Also recommend to other Filmmakers to hire you.
The best thing is that old adage: "word of mouth". If you like our work, tell other directors - that's the lifeline we need in indie work!
I don't think filmmakers can hurt an actor's career. It's like saying reality television edited a personality to look bad. You put it out there. Take ownership of it. Critics can see bad performance and see and actor trying to make the most of crap. Every man for himself. If the script is crap, turn it down. No one forced you play "big boob girl #2."A filmmaker first and foremost MUST have good material. Rich dialogue. The story is what is NOT said. Develop interesting stories and complex characters. Show us something we haven't seen.
Taking a chance on someone. This only helps when the actor has training and proves to be worth the risk. This reinforces both the actor and the market from which they came. This same chance taken on an actor without training or experience can backfire easily, hurting both the project and the actor. Actors, get training. Research where to do so. Lose the sense of entitlement. Atlanta is enticing much more experienced actors from bigger markets, so here's your wake up call; being on top of your game is not optional.-Scott Poythress
Giving us unrealistic dialogue. No matter how good an actor you might be, nothing can make bad dialog sound good.
It hurts actor's careers who have spent years (and lifetimes) training and working when you don't know how to recognize legit training and experience on resumes. Not all training is the same. Not all credits are the same. These days a lot of actors are listing Extra Work and class films on their resumes and creating reels from them. It does a disservice to the actors with true training and credits and it hurts all of us by making filmmakers from LA and other places think that this is the best GA has to offer.