Whether you are a main character, background, or even a waiter at a restaurant, everyone gets noticed says director Oren Moverman. He sees that everyone’s different and has a wise point of view on how actors can stand out in every role and every day.
I sat down with Oren Moverman to discuss his directorial debut on THE MESSENGER a story about U.S. Army officers who inform loved ones of fallen soldiers and face many emotional and ethical dilemmas. The film, which he also co-wrote with Alessandro Camon, won several awards on the film festival circuit and features rivetingly real performances by Ben Foster, Woody Harrelson, and Samantha Morton. From both a writer and director’s perspective, Oren says that as actors we must believe ourselves in order to make a subtle yet powerful impression.
It starts with the script, but then it’s all in the hands of the human being, Oren says. He didn’t force his actors to be a role. It’s not about getting script right. It’s about shaping the character for you. What gives you the most and brings the character out of you.
In order to bring the character forward, Oren suggests, listening and being open to changing things in the moment. We are making movies and it’s a chance for actors to use their instrument, their face, their eyes. If an actor is deep in the character and meaning, who they are will show up. If they believe the role, their eyes are the characters.
Oren realizes that not acting – can be tough, and he recommends living as way to become more deep and versatile. Do a lot of living, listening, interacting. By learning from our surroundings, we can see what others are doing and bring that learned knowledge into our craft.
Working on craft is important because although they say you never know, a lot of times you do know, Oren says. He casts every person, a lot of New York actors. And he knows an actor is right for his project because something in the interaction makes him feel good.
One encouraging example of Oren noticing a New York based actor is Jeremy Strong who went from Oren’s waiter to getting a role as a returning soldier in THE MESSENGER, years later.
Even as an extra on set, you’re not just background, what you do is very important, Oren says. Sometimes you feel like furniture but as a director he sees everyone as an actor and when a background actor doesn’t listen or follow direction it’s like someone moved the furniture.
Every role makes an impact on set and every moment counts in this profession – that’s what I learned from living, listening, and interacting with Oren Moverman. It’s a subtle yet powerful message that can help all actors exist in the moment and increase their chances of getting noticed.
[To learn more about Oren Moverman’s style, check out THE MESSENGER in theatres nationwide starting November 20th as well as his past screenplays: I’m Not There, Married Life, and Jesus’ Son. Currently, Oren has two new films in production.]