20 April 2021 - 08:43 BY Louw
Some Advice Past Down To Me By The Greats
Working with great actors is like an acting course on its own. It would be best if you decided whether to learn or let those golden pieces of advice fly past.
I don’t think talent is enough. Jip, I said it. I don’t think talent is enough to have a long and successful (whatever that means) career. For me, having a long career means doing different types of roles – challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone. It means being part of films that I genuinely believe in – no matter its success in the cinema. I want to collaborate with the best in their field, from the best directors to cinematographers, art directors, actors, wardrobe and make-up artists… And lastly, I would like to have made friends, found mentors and met the most amazing people on this journey.
I believe acting is more than just your face on that screen. If you plan on having a long career, you need to find joy in ALL things working on a film.
I have been privileged enough to have worked with some of SA’s best actresses and actors and I try and become a sponge when they surround me. These are just some of the advice I have learnt in the last couple of years:
Tool to try:
Be on time, 15min before call-time
Be kind, playful, present and fun
Be a generous actor
On set, learn as much as possible crew and co-actors names
Respect co-actor process + personal life
Give Yourself Permission To Be On Set – Don’t let people walk over you
Take the initiative, help co-actors with other lines, bring options to the table for the director, hang up your costume and greet as you leave
Be on time. I had a rugby coach who always said, “5 minutes early is 10 minutes late. “That stuck with me all through my life, not an actor, but it linked to what Stian Bam also taught me. Stian, one of my mentors, while working on my first professional play with him, I saw how he would always be early for rehearsals and shows. 15 Minutes minimum is when Stian would arrive and it inspired me. This helps me to relax, knowing I am on time, I can get use to the location and start the day of shooting in a relaxed manner.
Being kind, playful, present and fun – these are small characteristics that help you move smoothly through the day. Shooting days can get long and some people quickly get irritated and pessimistic, which can negatively affect those around them – don’t be that person. Open yourself up to conversations and ask questions, this helps to stay in a present, playful and fun space which helps to stimulate creativity. I tend to have the best days when I decide in advance to be playful and open to everyone on set. People will be kind to you and you might even get extra dessert at lunch.
Be a generous actor. Our job requires us to respond or react, and when you have selfish actors opposite you, they only give themselves stimuli that help no one except themselves – and actually in the long run, not even themselves. There is a saying which I agree with; “you are just as good as that what your co-actor gives you.” I find this to be one of the key elements in my career thus far, as I have had the privilege to have worked with some of our country’s most talented actors. The truth is, I did not have to do much, but just respond as they gave so much of themselves and more than enough stimuli to respond to. Being that type of actor, directors will also be acknowledged and will possibly create more work in the future. This is a team sport and we can only thrive if we co-lab with generosity.
Get to know as many crew and cast’s names as possible. When you arrive on set, you can greet the cast and crew by their name. This sounds so simple but it is something that will help your time on set be much more enjoyable, and, as my mentors taught me, having good manners and ethics on set, is actually the norm. This is your “family” for the next couple of days, weeks, months and the least you can do is get to know their names. This also shows that you acknowledge them and generate a positive connection. One day you might want something, like a specific prop in a scene, and by connecting with an Art Department crew member, she might go out of her way to get you that prop or the second-best option to it.
Respect co-actor process + personal life. Everyone has their process and we are all here to execute the same project, so respect their process. Between scene setups, actors talk a lot, and as actors, we tend to open up and talk about our personal lives and although some actors tend to keep their personal and work life separate, which have some value to it, you need to respect anyone not willing to share their personal life with you. If this is the case, connect on subjects like acting or other interests they are eager to talk about.
Give yourself permission to be on set. Sometimes, especially as young actors, we feel that we don’t deserve to be on set, or we feel that people are treating us badly because we are not deserving of being on “this” film set. But you need to remember one thing; the director has cast you in this role for a specific reason, YOU, not any other actor, but YOU. Don’t let any crew or cast member treat you with disrespect just because you are younger or less experienced or might not have as many scenes as they do; from the start of your career lead by example and treat everyone the same, with respect but also stand firm, don’t let people walk over you. You have all the right to stand up and say something to that crew or cast member or production if you feel any crew or cast members are disrespecting you.
Take the initiative. Make sure you bring performance options to the table. Learn to give yourself notes like a director will during your preparation. Think about what notes will make you vary your performance. Think about how you can add any action or movement in a scene that will add to your character’s objective and the scene. Ask co-actors if you can help run lines with them if they have big scenes during the day (if they need/want your help) even if you’re not in it. At the end of the day, when everyone is in a hurry to leave set and get home after a long day of shooting, take your costume off and hang it back up on the hangers, which will be provided. It seems small but it makes a huge difference. Greet fellow actors and crew members as you leave, don’t “Ninja-bomb” or sneak out. Put on a smile at the end of the day, you’re doing what you love. Remember that.
Integrate what you believe in every single area of your life. Take your heart to work and ask the most and best of everybody else, too.
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!
Edwin van der Walt