Why Acting Should Be The Most Humble Position On Set

Actors can often get a bad rap on set and in the media for being entitled, spoilt divas. Some famous actors are notorious for such things and many directors will do whatever they can to avoid working with them.

After being both in front of and behind the camera I’ve come to learn the importance of practicing humility on set no matter what your role is, but especially as an actor.

On my film school, I made the mistake of writing a script with way too many characters, all of which needed to be on set at the same time, so as you could imagine it was a nightmare trying to create an appropriate schedule with my limited film school knowledge.

When the day came to shoot I had successfully organised everything with the help of a couple of other classmates. Two of my actors had previously pulled out a few days before so the only thing I was able to do was to find some more last minute, meaning I didn’t actually meet them until the shoot. Yes. Stressful.

One of them turned out to be perfect for the role even though I never met/auditioned her, but the other one was a different story. A classic diva who didn’t want to have anything to do with anyone else and made silly demands throughout the day. I certainly wasn’t recommending him to anyone else after that.

Another film I worked on, on that school had a similar actor who’s very first words after turning up to set was ‘What time do we wrap?’. During a few of the takes, he kept trying to ‘educate’ the camera operator on how to do their job and informed him of how to correctly use film lingo.

You may think this isn’t a huge deal, but the actor has one job, to give the best performance they can under the direction of the director. If they do anything other than this then it can hurt their reputation and make the shoot miserable.

Side note: every other outside actor on my set was friendly and respectful, taking my direction seriously despite me not having much experience in directing. My diva, on the other hand, was the least skilled actor out of all of them. Go figure.

On a film set, there’s usually some sort of hierarchy, above the line below the line, certain people are only allowed to talk to other certain people, etc. Actors generally have the freedom to talk to whoever they want.

Most of their time should be spent in preparation for their roles and conversing with the director, but sometimes there are opportunities for them to network and make friends with the crew. This isn’t necessary for them but if they want to they can.

Many actors have been known to abuse this opportunity and use it to treat everyone ‘below’ them like scum, but there are also many actors who do the opposite, and they are the ones who directors (and pretty much anyone else) will want to work with again in the future.

It can be human nature to go mad with power and when an actor has that platform it’s incredibly tempting to fall into that role, so it actually takes work and practice to stay humble if you’re ever up on a pedestal.

Simply letting the crew eat before you complimenting their work ethic or even smiling and nodding can go a long way. Actors create the atmosphere on set. Sets are already stressful environments so an actor behaving like a diva just adds a whole new level of tension.

When I was acting myself, I found it hard to stay humble and willing to serve when I was the one constantly being waited on, but I realized, as long as I take my one specific job seriously and with a teachable attitude, as well as simply being friendly to the rest of the crew, the atmosphere was always less tense.

If you’re an actor then I urge you to take the opportunities on set to be friendly and set a positive atmosphere. If you clearly have more experience than some of the crew (ie. on a student film) then be humble. Remember you were starting out once as well.

Stay humble. Have a good attitude. Remain teachable. Your fellow actors a film crew will love you for it.

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  • Jay Evans

    Editor

    Jay Evans has spent the last 8 years working as a film editor, 4 of which have been with The Initiative Production Company. In his spare time he enjoys music, comedy, experimental cooking and getting lost in the woods.

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