Ok so you just saw the word “empathy” and the words “better actor” so you are probably thinking hmmm method acting, hmm empathizing with your given character so you can become the character errr no! that’s not why I am here. This article is not about improving the actor by acting skills, it’s about improving the actor by People skills. About empathizing with the crew!
Ever seen one of them movies where a guy wakes up in the morning to discover he’s now a woman and his girlfriend also wakes up to the reverse- They switch roles and at the end they respect each other more when they realize “it’s not easy walking in your shoes” ? well that’s what happened to me on set of ROOM 315….hey hey calm down I didn’t grow a pair of balls, I was a crew member behind the scenes (Production Coordinator A.K.A housegeh to the PM hehehehe) as opposed to being cast(actor) and it gave me the opportunity to see empathy in a different light in relation to my craft.
As an actor, when you empathize:
With the Set designer/artistic director/Set assistants/Gaffer: You will be more patient. Sometimes when an actor is sitting for long hours waiting for his scenes in the waiting room or in his car (Nigeria style) he may get impatient, angry and begin to grumble bitterly but putting yourself in the shoes of the guys who move lights and such you will calm down. I have never been to a film set in the Americas but on set of ROOM 315 we had to adjust the set a couple of times to achieve greatness-move chair, move table, light etc. one time Niyi even said ”the actual shoot doesn’t take time, this is what takes the time” and in my mind I said awwwwww….So when they ask you to wait for your scene from 8am to 4pm just be singing Solidstar “you say make I wait, I go wait.”
With the Production Manager: You will respect call time. On this set Patience Lawal- I pitied her o. strong woman she had the whole production on her neck, keeping tabs on everyone/department (I was there to assist of course). No PM likes to hear from the director “I’m ready to shoot, where are your artists?” Sometimes, even when you know all your scenes are night scenes and your call time is 8am, still keep to time. Why? Ok lemme gist you. So Niyi had planned that the first scene to be shot would be “Nina’s scene” but when he was ready, Nina was still getting her nails and make up done(no fault of hers or the makeup lady-these things take time) so niyi switched to Dr Stone who was on standby. Generally it’s good to always be on standby, show the PM some love.
With the director: You will work at being a one take actor. Of course no one is above mistakes but I cannot over emphasize how much love Directors have for one take actors and how much joy they bring. Mehn you should have seen Niyi’s teeth that day. You will also take instructions once-nobody likes to say the same thing twice.
With the D.O.P: AHHH NEVER EVER CROSS HIS CAMERA when the camera is on and he’s trying to frame! LOL Joseph Oladunjoye hmmm remain small he would have looked for rope to tie me up so I don’t cross his camera. According to him “its disrespectful to the camera and the person wielding it” so guys take note. Stay in one place when you are being framed. Another thing, always favour the camera. Play your nice side to the camera (I don’t know how to explain what I mean sha….but you get abi)
With the Producer: You would assist with publicity. I said assist because I am not sure it’s part of your contract but it’s a great way to show love. One of the greatest challenges of film makers in Nigeria is distribution-how do I get my content out there for people to see (as a content provider I know this for a fact). He has worked so hard and would love the world to experience the product. While on set we were constantly admonished to keep driving publicity for our project. Many projects failed because of that one repost or retweet or radio interview that was never granted. Trust me; it’s not good to be known as “that unsupportive actor”.
I must add that you don’t necessarily have to be a technical person or crew before you get to know these things, they are general code of conduct stuff you pick up as you grow in film. I thank Niyi Akinmolayan for the great opportunity to serve, learn and pass on knowledge.