Working With Actors

Working with actors is an art — bottom line. Actors are artists, film is a creative medium, and everyone has an opinion. There are some definite rights and wrongs when working with talent — some things are universal, whereas other things become evident over time. Let’s look at some of those things:

Universal truths:

  • Actors are human beings. Actors are living, breathing homo sapiens that spring from the same dirt that we all do.
  • Actors have feelings, fears, insecurities, opinions, and experience emotions that everyone else experiences.
  • Actors are employees of a production company (on SAG productions).
  • Actors should not be mistreated, abused, neglected, or ignored.
  • Actors are artists.

When accepting these truths, a director, producer, writer, and anyone else that interacts with talent can do so with a mutual respect for another person, another living soul. All to often the stories that make the tabloids are those that portray actors as narcissist, arrogant, angry, or any combination of unflattering adjectives. That stilted — although potentially honest — insight puts everyone on guard. Add to that the stories from other film sets, inside gossip, or your own insecurities, and working with an actor becomes a chore from day one. The truth is, actors are actually pretty cool. They care. Actors are giving themselves to make something great. They may get paid — as we all do — but their performance is their calling card, so delivering an Oscar-winning performance is the number one goal. They don’t want to do anything that will hurt their opportunity by sabotaging yours. Actors who agree to be a part of your show probably do it because they believe in your vision; therefore, embrace their individuality and let them be a part of the film’s success. The diva? Sure, you run across the diva from time to time, but even the diva has positive qualities.

Things that become self-evident over time:

  • Not all actors care as much as you’d like them too.
  • Some actors can have self-inflated egos.
  • Some actors do it just for the cash.
  • Actors may lose sight of the end goal.
  • Actors can be spoiled.

These truths are not universal, and you should by no means assume that all actors fall into one, or any, of these points. This list is not exhaustive. If this list is true of an actor, it is so in various degrees, from actor to actor. No one list fits all actors.

Understanding the complexity of actors is an important foundation when working with talent. Professionalism should be the cornerstone of any working relationship. Learn to respect the actor’s insight — not succumb to the talent’s request, necessarily — but appreciate the professional advice and glean from the council. Ultimately, the vision lies with the director, but learning to work with other creatives is an essential part of any successful production.