Paranoia: The Universal Given
We are often asked how do we as directors successfully maximize the performances of on-camera talent. While there are mired techniques we have developed over the years, there is a common denominator, a universal starting point in all performance coaching: acknowledging paranoia.
Delivering superior performance direction always starts with this visceral reality. Whether you are shooting a famous, seasoned national star or a lower level employee on a factory floor, everyone is universally, and understandably, worried about how he or she will be portrayed; how he or she will appear in the final video product. For the professional actor, this worry is especially acute. After all, their image is their stock-in-trade and it takes only one or two less-than-optimal performances to ruin a career. Taking direction is then a huge leap of faith in the relationship with the director and there is tremendous responsibility on the part of the director to deliver helpful and truthful coaching.
For non-professional talent, the starting point is not so dissimilar. For an executive in a corporation, a bad performance can have lasting career consequences. Often how that executive performs on camera can greatly impact viewer’s perception of the organization. Indeed, it can be argued that few C-Level executives given the current media environment can be effective without the ability to deliver competent performances in front of a camera. Even for lower level staff or employees whose performance might not have as great a potential for negative perceptual consequences for an organization, there is still that natural paranoia about how they will “come-off” on camera.
So, always verbally acknowledging this reality should become the universal starting point for a director on set when talking to your talent. This is the essential “step-one” in coaching performances: acknowledging to the talent the stress of the situation, the near universal reaction on-camera talent have to said situation and your understanding as a director of their feelings and concerns. By openly acknowledging to the talent your understanding of the production artifice and stress of their task, you can make a great leap forward in establishing that all-important trustful relationship with your talent. Allow them the time to absorb your acknowledgement and that you are their best advocate in delivering a stellar performance. It usually pays off of handsomely.
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