A Bad Studio Day - When Things Go Wrong

Occasionally it happens that so many things go wrong on one day that there is no hope of achieving the day's shooting schedule. It's usually caused by ill health but sometimes by bad weather. Bad weather can often be planned for but ill health is nearly always unexpected. Sometimes so many people are sick or injured that scripts have to be re-written and schedules re-organised. This is a nightmare for the production manager, line producer and first assistant. But it can also put pressure on actors.

Re-arranged Schedules
For the actor who has to suddenly cope with new scenes being unexpectedly scheduled there may also be unexpected stress. Scenes which to this point have only been half learnt because they were scheduled for future days may now have to be pulled forward and shot immediately. But what makes this so hard for the actor?

Often the main stress generator is in fact fear of the unknown. All the preparations the actor usually practices are suddenly removed and the sense of understanding and the element of control they generate no longer exist. Confidence is replaced by a great sense of insecurity. The pressure being placed on the actor to deliver a performance at short notice generates a fear that he/she will let the team down. Inexperienced actors often fear that -

  • They wont be able to learn the lines quickly enough
  • They will 'dry' constantly
  • They will get confused, panic and look unprofessional
  • They will be judged by others

Without the experience which demonstrates otherwise, these fears are not unreasonable. However, other actors may in fact be looking forward to the challenges of the day with a sense of adventure. For many people the complete rearrangement of the schedule brings a great sense of freedom for it absolves them of any responsibility.

They look forward to a day in which whatever they can achieve will contribute to helping resurrect something from the ashes of a disaster entirely instigated by fate. Directors and First Assistants along with the Art Department are all addressing the day with an attitude of "OK! We will do what we can!" Actors should do the same.

In fact actors who view a day of unexpected challenges with an open enthusiasm create for themselves a wonderful learning opportunity in which they may suddenly flourish discovering a raft of new skills they were not actually aware they had.

Things To Be Learnt
Such a day can ultimately increase an actor's confidence. The actor might discover

  • That lines can be learnt quicker than they previously thought
  • That even under duress they can actually really listen.
  • That by really listening and assessing responses it is possible to match performance levels and pick up scenes half way through with great success
  • That in fact trusting a good choice of "need" will make the acting job easier.
  • Because there is no time to prepare an actor might use the same "need" over and over and discover that simple choices are incredibly versatile and strong.

In fact having to work under conditions which force a breaking of old habits may reveal a plethora of new skills and allow a blossoming of understanding and process. This is the sort of adventure which should not be missed.

Ill Health
The actor who is too sick to work also often feels the stress generated by the sense of responsibility that they are letting the whole production team down. However this is also unnecessary stress. Everyone feels great sympathy for an actor who is sick and no reasonable person begrudges the actor time off, no matter what difficulties result. Schedules can be juggled. Maybe the lines can be given to another character (as may well happen in serial/series television) or perhaps pick-up days will be arranged. This is the task of the production team. For the actor who is sick the main responsibility is to get better.

No one can be responsible for the unexpected. The only option for everyone is to relax, assess, identify problems and make the next choice ... not a bad description of the acting process itself.

November 2001

Copyright © The Rehearsal Room 2001. All rights Reserved.



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