(1105 words – 5 min read) This blog is a little unique. It’s about my experience in acting. Expanding my perception of the role of an actor and how this person impacts and is impacted by the whole film crew.
Building up skills in the film industry
I have been a director for 40 plus years and the past 10 years I’ve added editing and shooting to my list of can do’s. Why? Because the market dictated that I be more adaptable, multi-faceted. Smaller budgets, higher expectations.
Yes, I could have stayed a freelance TVC director and hounded the local and Asian markets into my 60’s but that would have been small pickings in a competitive market. In other words, I would be a landscape gardener by now.
And if you recall from a previous blog, you need a great producer to have your back and sing your praises.
So I diversified. It’s worked. I possess a much broader skill set and understand the film process much better as a result. And I’m financially buoyant. Not bulging in bucks, but buoyant, nonetheless.
But something was niggling at me. I suddenly felt I had gained enough confidence to want to add another skill set…acting.
So, twelve months ago, I made a decision…to give acting a crack.
Why on earth would you become an actor at your age, you may ask?
Well, a few reasons:
- I had cast and directed actors and talent of all levels of experience to the point where I felt I had become one of them. That acting had crept onto my ‘CAN DO’ radar.
- I didn’t want to die wondering.
- I wanted to see what it felt like to be on the other side of the camera; to be directed, to be guided, for someone to be yelling (or not), screaming (maybe)….clawing the best performance out of an ageing newby talent.
- Further, to offer up a KPI on myself, as a director. Do I do that? Did I improve as a result of that piece of direction? Is there any improvement I can make in my communication skills on set with actors?
Experiencing casting auditions from the other side
(5 min read) To date, I have auditioned for four short films, two TV drama series, one corporate acting role, three feature films and two TV commercials. I’ve been successful in three short films and the corporate film (check out my vlog on casting tips). Oh, and I’ve enrolled in a US accent class.
Auditions were either with a casting agent, in a studio with the director and producer, or a self tape (relying on family and friends to feed lines in the kitchen is a challenge. No-one, but no-one has the passion you have for this finite discipline. Care factor? Not much).
Most of the roles have been for a grumpy old man, either with alzheimers, dementia, or both.
‘Perfectly cast’, says my wife Carole. Jokingly. I think.
‘What were the roles like’, you may ask?
I don’t remember. 🙂
They have been absolutely awesome.
All short films were student short films and each time, prior to me departing the house, Carole would remind me to keep my mouth shut.
‘You actor, not director’.
Yes, there were moments when I was surrounded by chaos, times I had blood on my tongue.
But I let the chaos wash over me. They’ll sort it out, and they did.
But what personal and acting skills did I arrive on set with, based on my other-side-of-the-lens experience as a director?
- I arrived early.
- Most importantly, I made sure I had learnt my lines.
- I understood my role, in relation to other characters in the film.
- Additionally, I brought a greater range of wardrobe than requested. Sometimes they said not to bring any wardrobe… but I did, anyway. And they used it every time.
- And finally, I listened. Listened to the director, listened for my cues, listened to the constant chatter on set. This part was new to me. The DoP talking to the camera assistant, Runner to Producer, Make-up artist to me. Yes, that was weird.
Film student Ruby Darge making me up on set of a student short film, Sundown
The role of an actor
So Ross, the actor…why were you there?
I was there to play my part in a magical journey; be that the director’s, the client’s, the whole crew’s. Everyone is a stakeholder, in some degree or other. So my role as an actor was to:
- Deliver a believable performance, at the same time an unbelievable performance (Ain’t the English language weird).
- Connect with the audience, to show the very emotions within that makes the role I was cast for special, credible.
- And embracing all these elements, I was there to be efficient. To be a professional.
- By doing that I would help complete scenes in the least time possible.
Me dancing with wonderful actress Jenny Davis on the set of Sundown
A good actor is also a time keeper and the soul of the set
Because the biggest enemy of any film shoot….is time.
Over time means more takes for the crew to re-set, for the editor to pore over, over time means money lost, over time means that frustration seeps in, everyone’s edge slips away. The director loses face, the crew gets home late, then arrives sooner the next day, behind schedule. It’s an ugly domino effect.
So good acting ethics impacts on everybody in the film process. A good actor is also a time keeper, and he or she is the glue that keeps the whole film crew united. I learned that, from both sides of the camera.
Great acting, awesome result. Everyone happy, audience included.
On set of The Announcement short film.
What else did I learn?
I learnt how special an actor is made to feel by the crew. You are given the red carpet treatment, even if you have a bit part. You are given space, moments to reflect, time to get into your role. Not too much, mind!
Time is the creeping killer, remember.
At the end of my scene, when I’m cleared to go, I’m farewelled as if I were a King. The fact I know most of the crew makes it even more special and how those same crew treat me like someone with a passion for this wonderful art of acting, no matter what role I’m playing.
Cast of Dinner student short film. This was the pilot.
And that’s the thing I’ve learnt with my role as an actor, when next time I’m directing:
- To respect the cast.
- Every one of them.
- That can only result in stellar performances.