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Are you the One? — Choosing the Right Actor for your Film

Mar 18, 2016

It goes without saying that actors are a core piece of any film so it’s imperative we choose the right ones. In the past weeks, our students have been learning about the auditioning process and the four key points needed when picking the best actors: emotional range, authenticity, ability to take direction, and personality. Recently, our students were able to see those skills in action during a workshop where actors came in to audition for their next short film project, and with those points in mind, take part in choosing the right actors for the roles!

  1. Show emotional range
    Actors who can bring a character from the pages of the script to life and create a multi-dimensional being, have the ability to show a range of feelings and emotion. They’re able to reveal vulnerability and express the complexities of human nature. So make sure you’ve provided an opportunity for them to show this! Provide important or emotionally varied scenes from your script for them to use for their audition.
  2. Authenticity or believability
    Being able to paint on a smile or pull a nasty glare is important, but conveying an undeniable sensation of genuine ecstasy or hate – that’s the mark of an actor worth keeping. During their audition, do you feel convinced of the emotions, of the personality they’re playing? Some actors go to great extents to embody their characters – particularly ‘method actors’, actors who may even involve placing themselves in similar situations to their character with the aim to recall it for the role and convey the emotions more genuinely. Christian Bale and Heath Ledger, hailed for their convincing performances and extreme commitments, are two famous examples of method actors.
  3. How well can they take direction
    Actors are part of a bigger picture – a picture the director understands best. So occasionally they may need a few adjustments in their portrayal of a character to better suit a scene. Can they take on board constructive feedback and incorporate it into their performance? Or does suggestion for change seem to have no effect? Test this during the audition by giving feedback and explaining to them what you want, especially if their first portrayal wasn’t what you’ve envisioned! Actors won’t get it right all the time, but whether they’re willing to incorporate direction is what’s vital.
  1. Personality
    Remember, the filmmaking process will be long and you’ll be working with the actor for a while. Are they amiable, could you see yourself working with them for 3, 6, 12 months? This last point might not directly influence their performance but it’ll affect the filmmaking experience – lest your chosen actor is a demanding and difficult employee.

Choosing the right actor isn’t an easy feat, as Genevieve (both co-founder and tutor at Bus Stop Films) notes, “Each actor brings their own unique personality and essence to the role…we have to pick which one suits the character best.” So an informal, but fifth, final and implicit point is – know the character you’ve created inside and out, so that when you’re choosing the best actor, it’ll feel like you’re reuniting with an old friend.

Our students reflecting on the tips taught and the acting seen

Our students reflecting on the tips taught and the acting seen

 Having trouble creating a character? Check out this post where we’ve got you covered with tips on making an irresistibly, charming lead.

Written by Belinda Tang