Secrets of Indie Filmmaking

Secrets of Indie Filmmaking: Reaction Shots

In recent instalments of Secrets of Indie Filmmaking, Ardent Partner and director Christopher Comrie has shared the importance of Sound and Cutaway Shots.
This week he continues with the value of Reaction Shots.

REACTION SHOTS.

It is often and very truly said that acting is reacting, or, acting is listening. I respect actors, and most actors do know their craft and understand this.

But:

If you have an actor who does not appear to be actually listening to the other actors, even when asked to, here’s a little trick I use sometimes.

Without telling the actors, I keep the camera running, and take the place of the actor I’m not having the problem with, so I can have a very intense and confusing conversation with the actor who was not listening to his fellow actor in the scene.

The actor in question is concerned that the director is giving everyone else a break so he can talk in private, and ends up being quite attentive. So, if I need him to be thinking hard in his reaction shots, I’ll give some bizarre direction such as, “I need you to dominate the other character in this scene, but like a single lily in a field, not like a rocket in a silo. You know?
You know the way a cat looks when it’s about to sneeze? Just like that, but with a hint of jazz. OK? Wait, better yet, I want you to start as steam, then turn to ice….”

and so on.

The footage of him trying to understand what the hell you are talking about will be fantastic.

That is to say; actual thoughtful, focused, active, listening.

That’s all for now! Until next time…

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