TIPS FROM A FILMMAKER
I've been making films and working with actors for over ten years now, and whilst my knowledge and experience isn't at the level of master filmmaker (yet), I do have some worthwhile tips for actors I think they should know
When I sat down to devise this list, "be nice" was the first thing that came to mind. You'll be surprised how many people I've worked with forget to be nice. It has a huge affect on my opinion of you as a person, because let's face it, we don't want to work with an a**hole more than we have to - I almost certainly will never rehire you if you're not a nice person and I can honestly say that the actors I've cast in my own work (especially more than once) is primarily because I like them. They also had a great attitude to the work, and perhaps more importantly when you're producing something of your own, the other people on set weren't offended by them. Obviously, there is such a thing as 'too' nice, but too-much of anything is too much. So just try to be the sort of person you'd want to have around. Filmmaking is a stressful environment, so as a producer you want to know that everyone is going to get on and there are going to be very few problems amongst the cast and crew, and hopefully no more than there needs to be. This also applies to supporting one another - it will go a long way to making you cast-able.
Don't over use social media
There is a mantra flying around at the moment that "you've gotta do it", "you've gotta promote yourself", "you've gotta build your brand", and to what extent I agree with this varies from day-to-day, but I can honestly say that if I look at someone's social media and it's unprofessional (for whatever reason) then it will almost certainly put me off hiring them. It does seem like the idea of being an 'influencer' with tonnes of followers is the end-goal for many budding actors at the moment, but from a producer's point of view, this is low down on my list of priorities. Yes, I'm sure it does happen, but having 10000s of followers isn't the be-all-and-end-all that we're led to believe. If I look at your social media and see someone who takes countless selfies on set, getting into twitter-arguments, spamming content, over-sharing personal information or being totally self-indulgent, I don't care how many followers you have, I'm probably not going to hire you. To see someone with a well maintained 'professional' social media account is encouraging, but you have to remember that we want to see the 'actor' you, and not the personal one. If you over use social media, it's probably doing you more harm than good. If you want to use it, I recommend having two types - a professional and a personal. But the two should never mix.
An actor friend of mine was offered a job via e-mail and she suggested that she would reply later on that day, but I insisted that she replied straight away. When you're dating someone it's good to be a little standoffish (treat them mean, eh?), but not when it comes to film production, I want you to reply as soon as you've got my e-mail - I won't think you're keen or needy, I'll think you're a professional. I tend to sign off e-mails now with something like: "If I don't hear back from you within a day or two, I'll assume you are no longer interested", which is mainly because I've spent far too many anxious hours and days worried because someone hasn't replied. We're all busy, which is fine, I get it, but the production will appreciate an actor (or crew member) who replies promptly and efficiently. It will also give the impression that you're on top of things. If you take a few days to reply, it will likely set some alarm bells ringing because why haven't you replied sooner? And you want to avoid giving off this impression at all costs, especially if you're taking your career seriously.
Learn the script but be prepared to take direction
Lots of actors I've worked with know the script but haven't done enough preparation to be able to waver from what they've either practised or rehearsed. I often see this as the test that divides the good actors from the actors I am going to work with again. I love that you know the script off-by-heart and can jump into whatever bit I want to at the drop of the hat, but if you can't take direction and change a motivation behind a beat or line, then it's going to get frustrating for me as I Iike to direct the script on the day to find something new, but I'll be stuck with what you've memorised. I also like giving direction to good actors not because they've done anything wrong, but often it will freshen up the performance if it's gone a bit stale. I will try to find something that doesn't have much importance over the story and change it slightly. The actor will then have re-think a little, and it often wakes up their performance, and is almost always, for the better. If you can't direction, I'll assume you can only act something you've rehearsed, which limits what we can do.
Professionalism is key
This one finds its way into many of the other tips I've given, but being an overall professional is so important to building and maintaining a career in the film industry. Because what we do relies so heavily on personal relationships, it's easy to forget that we are working in a business like any other. Just because we've worked together doesn't mean we are friends, it means we are colleagues, and our relationship should be treated as such. I sometimes receive 'chit-chat' style messages from clients I've worked with in the past, which is obviously great in one respect because they like me enough to check in, but you wouldn't do this in other industries and expect a welcomed response. I am friendly when the time is right, but I'll never step over that line. To me, it gives the impression that you're not taking the job seriously and are only doing it to make friends. Remain professional.
Lastly, don't job tout
If you're sat at home, twiddling your thumbs, wondering when you're next job is coming in, the worst thing you can do is 'job tout'. If you see a post online about a new project, or a new script, or a new-whatever, this doesn't mean you should approach the person with "hey, if you're looking for an actor...?". It looks desperate. If the person is openly casting, then it's totally different, but if they're only sharing something, then don't do it. Take an interest and support the person, but keep the temptation to ask for a job in your pocket as it will have the opposite affect of what you intended - if someone job touts me after watching a film of mine, I instantly ignore the feedback as I assume it's just an attempt to get hired. Also, when people message me or ask about a future casting, the overwhelming probability is that I'm not looking for anyone for anything. I only make something once or twice a year, and it's impossible to keep everyone "in mind" for a project. So just be supportive and bide your time. Job touting is a big no-no for me and should never be done under any circumstance.
Thank you for reading 'Tips From A Filmmaker'
I've been making films for over ten years now, so my thoughts and opinions have formed from that practical experience. Therefore my biggest piece of advice is to go out there and try it for yourself - it's the best way to learn. If you agree or disagree with any of my points, I'd love to hear from you. Tweet @DHshowreels with your suggestions!