On-Camera Acting Tips from an Award-Winning Film Editor

Emmy editor Jordan Goldman shares his best tips on how to avoid the cutting room floor.

I’ve had the pleasure of tuning into a recent webinar hosted by Beverly Hills Playhouse which provided actors and actresses with valuable information on navigate the film and TV world. Here are some mistakes to avoid as an actor (you want to be in the final reel, don’t you?)

Here’s the thing: Editors can’t re-film anything. They can only work with what has already been shot. So as an actor, you need to make sure you’re helping them do their job by doing yours! Here are his best tips he shared with us:

1. Hit your marks

Stand in the right place, every time. This way, the camera focuses on your face, and more importantly, your eyes. If the quality of the footage is not clear enough, you risk being cut from the episode or film.

2. Say the right words!

I struggle with this sometimes, too. I have a bad habit of paraphrasing instead of striving to be “word perfect”. Yes, there are liberties you can take as an actor and you can change a word or two, but at the end of the day, they’re the writers’ words and there’s a reason they wrote them a certain way. Keep in mind that writers are usually the showrunners, too. They’re in charge, so do your best to focus on the fundamentals and know your lines as written. Otherwise, you risk changing the story entirely, even though you didn’t mean to!

3. Be direct-able

Production teams have limited time to shoot what they need to shoot. They’ve gotta stick to a schedule, so if the director is requesting that you perform your scene with different intentions, be quiet, really listen to what they’re saying, re-focus and reset, and do it! Actors are usually the last to be hired for a production, and there are “tone meetings” held by directors, producers, and writers so that their vision of the story comes to life. Follow director notes with a good attitude so you can do your part in making the final product happen!

4. Convince the audience that you’re the person you’re supposed to be

Don’t ruin the illusion. You want to convince the audience that this story is REALLY happening at the exact same time. Serve the story, scene, and show style in an authentic way. REACT to your scene partner. Of course, this definitely requires work on your part as an actor, but that’s why you need to stay ready and train every single day.

5. Unless otherwise directed, don’t overlap audio

Try not to step on other actors’ lines because it makes it pretty hard for editors to put a scene together from different takes.

Other things to note:

  • Show the moment of decision during turning points in a scene. Show the wheels turning
  • What’s your expectation when you walk into a scene? Like I mentioned in a previous blog post, don’t play the end. Play each scene with the same innocence as if you were doing it for the very first time – as if your character was experiencing it for the first time.
  • Dead vs live eyes: Eye contact means you’re engaged. But it all depends on the scene and story. If you’re nervous in a scene for example, it might be a better choice to avoid eye contact with your scene partner
  • NEVER call cut. Only the director does that. If you stumble on a line, just start the line over or even the “emotional moment” over.
  • Film and TV actors can’t move too much for most scenes. What small changes in your face show that you’re reacting to a situation? If you find you’re still moving a lot, find an on-camera technique course that may help you.
  • Always keep your face visible

That’s it for now! Are you an actor? Do you have any on-camera tips to share? Comment below or hit me up on Instagram and Twitter and share it with me! We’re all in this together 🙂

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