20 Film Acting Tips to Make You Set Ready

This week at NYFA, we chatted to the married film duo – actor/director Jonathan Harden and actress/writer Bronagh Taggart. They’ve seen what life is like both behind and in front of the camera. They know how to be great actors and how not to piss off the crew. This is valuable stuff!

Congrats, you got a job! Enjoy the moment, and celebrate every little victory. Now, time to settle down and prepare. Here’s some advice about how to get through it. If you get stuck, remember the golden rule: treat people with respect, and play nice…

1. It’s not all about you

2. If you’re being driven to the base, be ready for the time of your pick up. Nobody wants to wait for you, and they shouldn’t have to. See above.

3. Wash your hair ahead of arriving unless you’ve been told not to, shower, clean your ears, and brush your teeth. Sound obvious, but you’d be surprised…

4. Learn your lines EXACTLY AS THEY’RE WRITTEN. If you would like to change one, talk about it with the director beforehand. The script has been through many drafts, and the line is likely that way for a reason.

5. It’s a collaboration. Have opinions, respect others, and ask for help if you’re stuck.

6. If you make a mistake, keep going until someone says “cut” – the rest of the take may be salvageable.

7. Be patient with others when they falter. Crew generally work longer days and have to concentrate for longer periods, both during and between takes.

8. Don’t get hung up on your mistakes or on apologising for them, just listen to any notes and do your best to get it right the next time. Forgive yourself and move on.

9. If it’s not your shot (i.e. the camera is on someone else), give the same performance as you would if it was on you. The other actor will thank you, and hopefully, return the favour.

10. When a runner or AD tells you you’re needed elsewhere, end your call or chat and go with them. While they’ll pretend there’s no hurry, that’s just politeness. They’ve been sent to get you, not wait for you to compose an Instagram post.

11. Don’t bring your phone to set. You don’t need it and don’t want to be that actor. You’re there to work.

12. You might feel important because you’re being looked after, driven to set, and asked if you want a coffee. You’re no more important than anyone else. They just can’t trust you to turn up on time if you use public transport and can’t afford for you to get lost if you go to get your own coffee.

13. Remember that everyone is trying to a job to the best of their ability, and all toward the same goal.  It’s a team sport: help them as much as they help you.

14. Learn people’s names, learn what it is they do and say thank you when they help you.

15. If you feel someone isn’t respecting you, speak to the 3rd AD. If it’s the 3rd AD (it won’t be), speak to the 2nd AD. Ditto, any other issues.

16. Try to relax and enjoy it. It’s a job, yes, but remember that you love it. Every job is a victory.

17. When you wrap (complete your final shot), you’ll probably get a round of applause. Remember that this doesn’t mean you’re better than the crew, or that you’ve worked harder. You almost certainly won’t have. It’s a silly tradition, like calling the cast “the talent” and it has no basis in reality. Try not to let it go to your head.

18. Hang up your costume at the end of the day. And if you have time and can find it, bring it back to wardrobe too.

19. Try not to linger on a scene you feel you didn’t nail or dwell on a bad day. There will be other scenes, more days or future jobs. The point is to learn and get better.

20. Keep going, you’re doing great.

 

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