How do actors deal with the challenge of changing behaviors on set?
I’ve never started an article out with the title in the first paragraph, but I want it to resonate with you because there are two parts to this equation.
This question can be interpreted in two different ways:
1) Actors are often challenged with having to change their behaviors on set in order to fit the role they are playing. It’s a process that we’ll explore below.
2) Being on set with your new “family” also has its challenges as there are so many dynamics, people’s behaviors may change.
The Process: How Actors Change
Oftentimes, scenes are shot out of sequence. If there’s an outdoor night scene in the middle of the script, the shooting schedule will be determined by the weather and the time. Let’s say it’s a scary scene in the middle of a thunderstorm that requires lots of shivering and screaming. During the earlier hours of the day, a different scene might call for something fun and romantic.
So just how does an actor flip from light and enjoyable to shrieking and frightened?
This can be a difficult task for some. There are strategies that you can use in order to make this transition easier:
Study the script thoroughly. This will help when filming out of sequence.
Sidenote: When it comes to filming out of sequence, there are pros and cons. On one hand, it can be difficult to keep track of the story line and where your character is at emotionally. On the other hand, it can be a great opportunity to explore your character in depth and really get into their headspace.
Develop a backstory for your character. By knowing your character inside and out, when it’s time to “flip”, you’ll already be a step ahead when figuring out how to react.
Sidenote: To develop a backstory, ask the writer or director (or just make it up yourself) questions about your character’s motivation and psychology. Once you have a sense of who the character is, you can begin to adjust your own behavior accordingly.
Oh boy. Bringing the cast and crew together is like a happy engagement where everyone is excited. Being on set is comparable to being married as you’re with these people for long hours, months at a time. But just like real life, once you’re “living” with someone, people get frustrated and behaviors change.
A perfect example is the film Don’t Worry Darling, directed by Olivia Wilde and starring Florence Pugh and singer / actor Harry Styles. I wasn’t on the set, so of course I don’t truly know the details, but word on the street is that Olivia and Harry started dating during filming which upset Florence Pugh. Talk about drama!
Imagine working on a show where everything is fine and then one little thing, such as a romance, makes it miserable to go work every day. How can you be expected to perform with people who frustrate you?
It’s important for you to remember that you’re a professional and must maintain a level of composure.
Sidenote: If you’re feeling frustrated, you should speak to the person who is causing the frustration and try to come to a resolution. It’s also important to be flexible and understanding. There may be times when another cast member does not meet your expectations, but it’s important to remember that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.
Here’s how I would handle a situation like above. Actors pretend for a living. I’d pretend everything is hunky-dory. Seriously, let’s say you’re on the operating table about to have brain surgery. Do you want to be worried that your surgeon had a bad night and now can’t perform surgery with a clear head? Be the surgeon and do your job right.
Actors have a lot of power to change behaviors on set — whether it’s as a character or as a person “in real life”. With your influence, you can help to create a more positive and productive environment.
Have you experienced any of the above? How’d you handle it? Leave your comments at DirectSubmit NYCastings.