Tuesday, February 2, 2010
It Takes Talent to Make a Video
First of all, it depends what kind of talent you need. “Talent” is a word used in the video biz to refer to actors. They are definitely needed if you need people to memorize dialogue and get it right the first time, and for three continuous takes. You also need actors if you need a particular accent, or there is some very dramatic scene that needs emotion.
About emotion. I prefer actors that were trained in the Meisner school. That is later than the method approach. It provides the director with a performance that is what is referred to as “honest” versus “manneristic” where someone “acts out” what they think they should look like on the screen or stage.
Here is an example. I took an acting class from someone who was trained in the Meisner technique. I was part of a skit where a guy was distressed and sad because someone in his family had died. I walked up to him and gently put my hand on his shoulder. I did not go up and throw my arms around him, or say, “poor you.” After the skit we had the normal critique and boy was I blasted by the other students of the class. They said, no one acts like that when someone dies. The teacher said, “I know Trudy, and that is exactly what she would have done in that circumstance.” If you would start licking their face like a dog and that is what you usually would do, that would be honest on your part. Essentially, there is no right way to respond to the other person in a scene —as long as you respond like you would if that were you. Now there is a lot more to Meisner, such as creating an imaginary circumstance and as a director you set the bar at a certain level to create the right valence, but basically, watch out for people that over act. More about the subtleties in another blog.
Now, here is when you do not need “talent”. If you are shooting a research facility with scientists doing experiments or you are shooting a grocery store with every day customers, you can get by with much cheaper “talent”. I have now probably alienated most of my acting friends that will not get jobs because of what I tell, but they are needed for the word that implies “talent”. If you just need people to walk through a scene or do something they would normally do, you can just hire your friends or neighbors, or better yet—go to a temp agency and hire anyone that you think fits the demographics you need. Hire a few extra people in case somebody walks in that looks so weird they are distracting.
So, to sum up, there are two kinds of talent. Use each kind wisely and you will get a great looking production at a reasonable fee.