3 Reasons Every Filmmaker Needs to Take An Acting Class

It's been a while since I've been to an acting class and when I was in Vancouver visiting I dropped into my old haunt, at Shea Hampton's studio. Seeing my lovely friends definitely made me nostalgic to the days of being a thespian, it also made me realize many things from the new perspective of a writer/director.

As a filmmaker it is your responsibility to make sure cast and crew cooperate,  even if you have an amazing script/cinematographer/etc, your film can flounder if there is no teamwork.

Joss Whedon and really famous faces, on set.

1. Learning How to Work With Actors

There is a well known gap on film sets between the crew and the actors. Oftentimes I have found that resentment and tension can arise because of the misunderstanding between roles. Crew will complain about lazy actors and actors will complain about harsh directors.

This is why it is important for filmmakers to attend at least one acting class, to see how much heart and soul actors put into their craft. For filmmakers their craft is the camera, the shot, the story - for the actor, their craft is their emotional life and vulnerability. Two artists with two different tools, one with a camera, the other with their mind and body. 
Actors are actually cry-babies!
Attending an acting class allows you to witness how much work actors put, not only to memorizing their lines, but in getting to be vulnerable. On-set you're so busy prepping the lighting or directing the shot that you don't see how the actor spends their time getting emotionally prepped for a scene.

This is important especially if you're a technical director, it is important for you to go to a class to learn how to direct actors. The acting language can be the biggest barrier between an actor and their director. When the director tells the actor to "Look more sad" this will result in a lot of retakes.

An acting class will show you how actors respond best and how they actually aren't narcissists but sensitive artists that really want to please you!

2. Understanding Different Interpretations

Acting is interpreting the script, it is reading between the lines and responding to what happens in the scene. What makes an actor stand out is their interpretation of the story and character. A lot of the times this can be mistaken for bad acting.

Going to an acting class you can usually see numerous actors doing the same scene and how it changes from person to person. This is important to understand that each actor brings something of themselves to the character and some may be more suited than another. Their interpretation is what can make or break a role!
Seeing various takes from different actors on one scene can really open your eyes. Sometimes an actor will completely surprise you, whether it is with their looks/take on the character/speech!

Going to an acting class will keep your mind open to the possibilities a character and actor can offer, it will also make you realise that most actors aren't bad, their interpretation just didn't suit your vision. 

3. Auditions Are Terrifying

As I come from an acting background I understand the horrors and stress of auditions: the hours you spend pouring over a script or rehearsing with a friend, the money you spend to get an acting coach to assist, that shift you had to get covered at work... all to walk in a room for five minutes and be written off.

Having sat on both sides of the audition room I can identify with the terror of the actor as well as the exhaustion of the director/producer/casting director. Seeing numerous amounts of people a day butchering your script can put you on edge. But if you attend an acting class and see how passionate and for lack of a better word, desperate, actors are you would actually feel more empathy towards them.

After all, they spent hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on acting training/headshots/submissions, just so they could act in front of you for three minutes.

Lastly, you bridge the gap. 

Everyone on set wants to tell a compelling and authentic story, no one wants to be on a film that is ripped apart. Attending an acting class when you're a writer/director/crew member is an act of good faith, a helping hand to the other side of the camera. We all want to create something amazing and memorable, if you come to an acting class you could find your next muse or a fellow collaborator!

An example of great partnerships.
What makes a great filmmaker is not just their dolly shot or expensive equipment or groundbreaking script - it's their ability to lead a team to create a world where audiences can escape. Be a great and partner with your actors and crew! 

** disclaimer - this article is written in good faith that you meet actors who aren't narcissistic or you attend an acting class that is legitimate and not about becoming 'famous'

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