As a producer I got to witness first-hand what actors had to deal with to become good at their craft. Some actors thoroughly impressed me with their skills. However, it was what they did while not on set that, in my opinion, made them great.
Recently I filmed ‘Standing Firm (One Family’s Fight Against Domestic Violence)’. During the filming, I had the opportunity to witness some talent that will take the industry by storm. Later, I met others seasoned and experienced actors who demonstrated the same attributes. I realized that to be a great actor you had to have these attributes in your repertoire.
I had the opportunity to interview four outstanding actors. They provided their keen insights to the list as well. Here we go!
10 Things Actors Need to Remember on set
Come Prepared. Being prepared overcomes a multitude of sins. Reduce mistakes by being familiar with your character, lines and the production. Not only does being prepared help you, it helps your co-workers, as well. If everyone knows their lines and knows what to do perfectly, then things will go smoothly. Virginia Anastascio is a seasoned actor who has played in many productions. Some of which are ‘Justice by Any Means, ‘The Bernie Mac Show, ‘Blue Streak’ and ‘Commando’. When asked about being prepared, Virginia answered, “Practice, practice, practice. I follow three things when I learn my lines. First, I write them out. Then, I walk back and forth saying them repeatedly. Last, I record them to make sure I’m prepared before I go on set.” These may or may not work for you but find what does and ‘practice, practice, practice’!
Breathe. Renata Mikae starred in the movie, ‘Standing Firm’. She said, “Breathing techniques are essential for your vocals and for delivering lines .” If you haven’t learned any breathing techniques you need to do so immediately. Knowing these techniques and practicing them daily can set you apart from others.
Know your character. Knowing your character is akin to being prepared. During your preparation you should engulf yourself into the role. Study everything you can on the topic surrounding the production. Learn everything you can about who your character is and ask questions. Become the character in your everyday life to get a feel for him/her. David A. Jackson, star of ‘Standing Firm’ said, “You have to know the role inside and out to make it believable. I want the audience to feel and see the emotion of any role I play. Whether they hate me or feel sorry for me, I want them to feel something for that character.”
Be ready and open for direction. Taking direction is imperative. If you can’t follow the directions of the directors you will have a very hard time being successful on set. The director has the vision of the entire production and is aware of all changes. You may not be aware of what’s going on in the background. If the director tells you to do it a certain way, adapt and follow his/her directions.
Arrive early. The only thing better than arriving on time for a production is arriving early, at least 30 minutes early. Get there, get the feel of the set, and learn every nook and cranny. If you still have time, practice.
Stay in character. During any production it is a great idea to remain in character while you’re on set. Remaining in character means you’re still in tune with the production and your focus is on it.
Study while waiting. You can’t possibility over-study. The best actors take advantage of every opportunity they have to study their lines. They knew what scenes were coming up and they continued to prepare for them. One of the best actors I had the chance to meet on set was Elliot Bunche, who played Don in ‘Standing Firm’. Elliot’s advice on studying while waiting on set was, “Always have your script and notes with you on set. When you’re not shooting you can be reviewing your script and notes.”
Be patient. Things change on the set. That’s a fact of life, so, if you’re not patient, you’re going to have a very hard time adjusting. It’s not a nine to five. I haven’t had a production go exactly as planned yet. The good thing is most of the actors I was honored to work with had patience in their repertoire. Renata Mikae added, “Patience is a humbling experience. It can be a turnoff if you’re impatient to those who hire you.” I am in total agreement with that statement. Working with patient actors is a great experience.
Use nervous energy to your advantage. Virginia Anastascio said, “I use my nervous energy to bring out my character in the most positive way that I can. When I find myself getting nervous, I channeled that energy into my character.”
Ask questions. The old saying goes, “The only dumb question is the one not asked.” If you don’t understand something, ask the question. I asked Elliot about asking questions on set and he replied, “I’m always asking questions on set. I think it’s important for the actor to make sure they’re on point and aware of any changes that need to be made.”
This list is not inclusive but if you follow it, I am sure you will be called back for more acting opportunities. The actors on my ‘A List’ follow all these attributes and when I need someone, especially in a flash, they’re the ones I call.