Training Your Friends Into Actors

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Avatar of Lane Carter
Lane Carter on May 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm

I’m a 15-year-old filmmaker. When making my movies, I mostly rely on my friends to act, and really only two of them are good actors. I am currently working on a drama short film. How do I train my friends how to act for a drama? I know acting is a skill that takes practice, but any tips that would help them seem more real would be greatly appreciated.

Avatar of Jared Charles Choate
Jared Charles Choate on May 27, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Make new friends who can act better. It sounds really mean, but that’s all I got. With that age, you have to be just kind of born with the ability to act. But other than that, just try your best to have them act how you would and really give examples of what you expect from them.

Avatar of Lane Carter
Lane Carter on May 28, 2012 at 12:50 am

Thanks for the advice. I realized after I posted this that there isn’t much you can do in this situation. I don’t think I’ll make knew friends who can act since there’s very few who can where I’m from. I think I’ll just work with what I have. Thanks anyways.

Avatar of Jared Charles Choate
Jared Charles Choate on May 28, 2012 at 11:33 am

I was mainly joking with the “make new friends” part :D Haha but yeah, other than that I really have no idea.

Avatar of Lane Carter
Lane Carter on May 28, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Oh okay. Well like I said, thanks anyways.

Avatar of Jared Charles Choate
Jared Charles Choate on May 28, 2012 at 9:27 pm


Avatar of Will Jenkins
Will Jenkins on June 5, 2012 at 1:26 am

Just getting people to help out with a shoot in the first place is difficult enough much less finding people with acting skills. You say you’ve got two friends who have some talent? You’re off to a good start! You seem to know what you want so I assume you don’t mind working on both sides of the camera yourself? If so that makes three. If your school has a drama department maybe you could try some recruitment. There you’ll find kids who are at least comfortable/brave enough to tryout for plays etc.

And for the moment you may want to avoid scripts that require large ensemble casts :)

Avatar of Lane Carter
Lane Carter on June 5, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Okay, thanks. I probably will be acting in my next short film. And I don’t have a large cast for this one anyway. I’ll probably just try and tell them what I can to get them in the right mind-set for acting. I think a big part of acting is just trying to think like the character you are playing would think.

Avatar of O'Ryan McEntire
O'Ryan McEntire on June 6, 2012 at 1:01 pm

I think if you use Sir Ian McKellen’s way of explaining how to be a good actor, you’ll end up with more talent than you’ll know what to do with.

I suggest you study this video:


Avatar of Lane Carter
Lane Carter on June 6, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Haha! That was great. I will make sure to study that harder than any schoolwork ever. ;)

Avatar of Caleb Davies
Caleb Davies on June 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm

I have the same exact problem most of the time when I shoot with friends, but most of the time I can resolve the issue by bringing about 10 extra SD cards and several extra battery packs. Editing is around 50% of the movie, so just make sure you get everything on camera! Also, sometimes getting the script to them several weeks/days in advance helps, too. Although most of the time we have to shoot impromptu anyway :P Anyway, have fun shooting, hope that helps!

Avatar of Phlume
Phlume on July 4, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Perhaps you do a craigslist post in your area, or a shout out on twitter/facebook that you are looking for actors to be in your movie. You’ll have to sort out the wheat from the chaff (prima donna’s no need apply) but I’m sure you can start to gather a decent pool of actors and then keep their information and add them to a roster to pull from in the future. you’re pretty young so if you do this for a while you can have a nice talent pool to draw from in a few years.

Just be certain to be organized, and know what you want because actors need direction. It seems to be a no brainer, but if you don’t direct them… they are just blabbing away on set and not delivering the content you need. Be vocal, use your voice and be firm but fair. If it isn’t going your way, let them know. It’s your movie!

Avatar of Lane Carter
Lane Carter on July 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I’ll be sure to try and make it better in the editing and to make sure I do DIRECT. I think that’s overlooked a lot when filmmakers first start out. A good director can probably make actors seem better than they actually are.

Avatar of Amy Jarvis
Amy Jarvis on July 27, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Ah yes, drama.

You might try working in partnership with your two friends. I just did that very thing while working on a 4 part skit for a summer camp. I carried the main essence of what needed to be created, but my actor friends were feeding me information the whole time. I think it’s important to work with people who invest energy into their thought life, and to surround yourself with people who share your values. Especially when you’re talking drama.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22

When I’ve directed, the hardest thing was sticking to my personal discernment. I tend to be want to use everyone’s “good ideas”. In the end, I think the project went really well, and turned out unexpectedly…. yet still expected. With more practice, I hope to be better able to anticipate the realistic possibilities on set. Expand my foresight. I have felt like a strange person most of my life, and the people around me usually don’t have my tastes in music, film, etc. But understanding how others think can overcome any negative feelings of being alone. Often, the misunderstood are meant to serve others with the visions they have been bestowed with.

“If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,” – Galatians 6:3-4

With amateur drama, less is more. Try not to force your actors, adapt to them. Remain firm in your core vision, and be willing to share what’s in you heart in detail. It’ll get better over time when you have more experience, more resources, and more money.

  • This reply was modified 1969 days ago by Avatar of Amy Jarvis Amy Jarvis.
Avatar of Lane Carter
Lane Carter on July 27, 2012 at 8:56 pm

I like the verses from the Bible. Great advice by the way. My main character and I had our first day of shooting today and it went pretty well. One thing I wish I had done was prepare the shots more, even if it was in my head. But they weren’t big scenes and I think it turned out fine anyway.

I think I should have someone else with me too even if I’m not sure what they are going to do. Sometimes I would have to set up the props and things then figure out what angle I wanted for the camera, which took a little long and I felt bad for my actor. But it’s nice to learn from my mistakes.

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