What goes into creating a moment on camera? I would say EVERYTHING.
The scope of what you connect with, what stories you tell, what you open up to as an actor is
really an individual choice. I am constantly reminding my actors that you will only get out of the work what you put into it.
In my experience, there is much more to be played than actors allow. Sometimes they are
limited by playing what is on the page, but there is so much more to living in the moment than
the plot line.
When we see a character appear on screen, often times, there is no dialogue. It is film after all,
so we see and we feel what the actor is living through. We don’t need words to be expressive.
In order to capture an inner life, the actor needs to bring themselves to the moment. They may
not be doing anything, but their energy must be high, their focus must be clear and their
attention to detail must be alive.
In my Instinct classes, I begin with a lot of moment to moment work. Asking the actors to truly
be present and process what is going on with them. For me, that is a base level connection that must always be utilized while working. It looks so much better on camera than an actor who is sitting there waiting for a scene to begin.
The moment starts long before you say the first word. The moment encompasses
everything that may happen in the scene. But the moment also includes things that will never
be played, but they exist.
This is the internal work of a film actor. They fundamentally know how to open up to what is
available to them when the camera rolls. I encourage an actor to utilize everything that they are feeling in the moment. We are capable of feeling a million different things simultaneously. It
goes way beyond the content of a line.
There is also another life going on with the other person in the scene. Connecting to that
life gives you many options of where the work may go.
Of course we are informed deeply by the script. Living in the moment allows you to truly
hear what is being said in real time. That is what I aim to shoot. It isn’t just listening for a cue,
but how it is said... how it is heard...what does it hit in the context of what is going on in that
particular moment...what does it imply... what are the two people trying to say to one another.
In film we capture so much in such a short period of time. In the present moment the world
really opens up to you if you understand how to get there. Connect. Listen. In a moment there
are all the feelings of the actor, all the experiences of the character, all the takes, all the days on set. There is also the journey an artist has taken to arrive at that place. Their history, their
emotional life. There is the unknown, their creativity. There is the world we all live in and how it
My advice...worry less about getting the moment right. Engage instead and be prepared to be
informed. It is all there. All the time. As my mentor Sally Johnson use to say “There is never
nothing going on with you. Ever”
Best of Luck!