The audition process was fun but grueling! We posted an audition on Starnow.com for 2 weeks and only two people applied…
I had a plan to run by when the actors came in. Henry assisted with reading lines so I could watch.
- Cold read.
- Stand up and act a scene out from their point of view.
- Same scene with a few directional tips from me.
This plan worked really well because by the third read they were more comfortable and open to influence.
We needed two characters – a super masculine ‘jock’ guy, and a flamboyant gay guy.
An actor going for the masculine ‘jock’ character (Brody) really struggled with it so I gave him encouragements and hypothetical scenarios so he could vibe it but he kept giggling due to his nerves and uncomfortability. I decided to mix up his character with a gay version and he did it better than the masculine, so we found our Jakim!
The other actor who was originally meant to be flamboyant was struggling with doing that too! Although because he had no memory of queerness to fall back on, I provided some good examples of flamboyant celebrities like Neil Patrick Harris or even a playful Harley Quinn. So instead I asked him to do masculine and he did it flawlessly, that’s when I found Brody.
One thing that surprised me was that a directing workshop earlier taught me that actors love to be challenged and pushed! But I felt this might not be the case for mine as they struggled so much with attempting these characters that were so opposite to their own natures. However I put their uncomfortability down to a lack of familiarity and nerves. (This doesn’t mean I didn’t push them during the shoot later when they were more comfortable, but more on that in the next blog).
We booked these two actors and everything was looking just fine, until the second actor that was to play Brody dropped out two days before the shoot due to work commitments.
The next two days were stressful but we found another actor!
It wasn’t the easiest process or the most ideal but I learnt plenty along the way (i.e. post the Starnow ad on facebook – post it everywhere and cast that net WIDE! And to be ready to mix up the character roles to different actors available).
I have very strong beliefs when it comes to my relationship with my actors and their relationship to my story. So I sat down with them and had a chat during our rehearsals.
I explained the things are most important to me which were:
- I want the character to become infused with the actor. So much that if I give a direction and they honestly think that their character wouldn’t do that, I want them to speak up and propose an alternative or explain why they wouldn’t do that and what they would possibly do instead. I wanted them to know their character so intimately that it becomes another version of them so their presence on screen would look completely natural. My actor was struggling with even talking like a gay guy, so I gave him homework and asked him to think of scenarios and how he would react being Jakim and to practice speaking like him.
- In saying all that above, I wanted to build a relationship with my actor where they felt comfortable with me and telling me if they ever weren’t comfortable in any given situation. I explained that during scenes where they wouldn’t be wearing much clothing that I would only have the bare minimum of film crew in the room and that no-one was judging them for looking ‘gay’ which was an identified insecurity. I explained that everyone on this set chose to work on this film, so seeing a homosexual character played out very well is what everyone is wanting for this film. Dekoven, L (2006) says that actors are like sponges so its extremely important that the director is always calm, relaxed and pleasant so the atmosphere mirrors these feelings so the actors are comfortable and can do their best work. Toxic environments are detestable to me and I simply will not tolerate it on my set, for the sake of the actors AND my crew.
- I assured them I would never disrespect their acting or artistic choices or do anything to make them feel insecure, but if i wanted a different type of action I would simply give them a different motivation because motivation influences behaviour. So nothing was ever ‘bad’, but some things could be ‘different’ just because I want the very best performance from them. Dekoven, L (2006) says “My plea might be the sequel: respect for actors! You must remember at all times the difficulty of the actors’ craft; the necessity of figuratively (and sometimes literally) stripping naked in the process of mining parts of themselves, which they must then expose and reassemble to recreate the behaviour of the character.”
During the rehearsal we worked through the script and talked about the overall motivations and the scene motivations of each character. For example, in the first scene Jakim finds that he has incidentally turned the situation awkward – so he tells Brody that he’s ‘just down the hall’.
Jakim’s life motivation is to independently make something out of himself. His overall motivation is to screw Brody to bring his online reputation up and because he loves a challenge, his scene motivation is to test the waters with some risky statements and gage Brody’s level of queerness, his line motivation was to tell Brody that he is welcome to his room any time.
This process of unpacking these motivations was repeated for every line in the script as what I had written had plenty of subtext. The subtext and motivation together drive action, so to get a good/real performance I really drove these home.
DeKoven, L. (2006). Changing Direction: A Practical Approach to Directing Actors in Film and Theatre : Foreword by Ang Lee. Burlington, US: Focal Press.