Move the Camera, Not the Actor

Art Adams explains why it may be a better idea to move the equipment rather than moving the actor.

On a recent shoot a discussion arose as to whether it was better to move an actor or to move the camera to maintain a composition. The actor kept settling into a position that obscured an over-the-shoulder angle, and there are some who would simply ask the actor to not do that.

That never works.

Every time I’ve asked an actor to do something slightly different–everything from holding their glass a little lower so it doesn’t obscure their face in a dinner scene to shifting a sword a little bit to the right during a sword fight–it has never, ever worked. The bottom line is that actors act first and hit marks second.

What I’ve noticed is that most actors who miss their marks miss them consistently, by the same distance and direction every single time. It’s almost as if they have a “mark offset” built in to their brains.

Actors will say that they will try their best to hit their marks whenever you ask them to, but during the take they’ll be so busy “in the moment” that they’ll just keep missing them. If you remind them then eventually their performance suffers because they’re spending more time worrying about hitting their marks than they are acting.

The solution is twofold: move the mark, and/or move the camera.

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