So where do they start…preparing for this kind of work?
There is no clear-cut path or plan to follow…no real “schools” that train actors for this kind of filmmaking.
There are films worth watching…films with acting that succeeds at this.
The films of Mike Leigh, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Christopher Guest, come to mind. Viewing these films is helpful for actors insofar as they get to see someone else succeed. But. Working actors need process and practice. How does understanding what’s so great about Javier Bardem in BIUTIFUL (2010) translate into behavior on set? Mere mimicry will not suffice.
First, there must be trust. Trust between the actors themselves, and their director. Complete physical and emotional safety is a must, and there must be plenty of room to fail. As well, a willingness to try new things, to become…to stay…uncomfortable with each other builds trust.
If trust exists, it will manifest itself in an ongoing conversation between actors and director…an imaginative back and forth about the characters and story that never stops. “Action!” and “Cut!” aren’t spoken anymore. Instead, there are just tiny moments unfolding between people. Truth is revealed.
Trust and talk is important, yes. But there is something else at work here…something more deeply human.
Most people are pretty good at advice-giving, problem solving, offering our two cents at the drop of a hat. “We’re either talking or waiting to talk,” as the saying goes. But the actors in TAKEN IN must step away from this framework, and open themselves to their scene partner.
Good acting is listening.
And in the words of actor Alan Alda, “Real listening is a willingness to let the other person change you.”
What a discovery! Dig deep enough into the process of making a film like TAKEN IN, and you find the film’s theme buried deep.