#38 Actor’s Golden Rule

20 April 2021 - 08:39 BY Louw
Actor’s Golden Rule 


I’ve had the privilege to work with both generous actors as well as extremely selfish actors. It’s funny (not in a ha-ha kind of way) that by far, the generous actors have a longer and more diverse career. 


I don’t know about you, but I strive to be as diverse as possible. I don’t want to be typecast. I don’t want to play the same type of character over and over. I will never be able to challenge myself and grow as an actor. Therefore, by watching the greats, the legendary South African actors I have had the privileged to work with, I’ve seen how being generous does not only positively affect their own careers but those they share a scene with. 


Being generous during scenes makes other actors WANT to work with you. When part of your day’s work is to give the other actor as many truthful stimuli as possible to react to, those actors love working with you. Directors will acknowledge this. They will realise you will give more than expected, and they might take a chance of casting you in a whole new type of role you’ve never played before. 


Tool to try:


- Be generous. This sounds like the most basic and useless tool for any actor, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised how this small tool can improve your chances of generating work and to grow as an actor.


-       How does human behaviour look like? We receive stimuli from things or people, which triggers us to respond all day long. We are reactive. We don’t randomly react, maybe sometimes we do when the 7th cup of coffee kicks in, but mostly it’s something that triggered you at the moment. This pulls us forward; it generates a forward movement through our daily lives; it can be physical, emotional, or sensory experiences. We have “things” that make us do the things we do. 


- Being generous means you provide your co-actor with “things” to react to. When the camera turns, most actors will return the favour. 


- How each person responds to these “things” or stimuli creates the type of person they are. In life, we respond at the moment, from moment to moment. We don’t know how we would respond if someone pulls out a knife at points it in your face. That depends on the given moment. Responding honestly and generously within a moment will fuel a scene, generate respect, trust and most of the time, a return in favour.


When I had to do scenes with extremely selfish actors in the past, I will admit I struggled to stay in the moment. I couldn’t believe someone can be so selfish, almost as if it’s a competition to see who can stand out within the scene. The contradiction is, when you try and stand out or compete within a scene (on a personal and selfish level), the other actor will 99.9% of the time be acknowledged and not you. Her performance will be truthful, subtle and layered. 


If you do find yourself in a situation where you co-actor selfishly tries and steal the scene, smile and let them give it their all. Stay subtle and focused on your character’s Bottom-Line, stay in the moment and don’t try and fight for attention. You’ll see how people will probably acknowledge your performance in that specific scene and not his. 


Remember, directors have to work with actors for four weeks and more. They don’t want to work with difficult and selfish people but with generous and passionate actors. 


An actor should never be larger than the film he’s in.

Christian Bale

How did you find the technique/tool/advice? Did it work for you? What was different this time? Share with the tribe and let’s keep on creating beautiful, honest and memorable performances. Let’s execute our best selves! 

Kind regards 
Edwin van der Walt 

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