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Eyelines

Published : 16th June 2013

I hope it's OK if this seems a little self-promoting, but I hope you'll find it interesting. For 12 years I have been writing a book about, basically, the life and language of the set. It's just out: Movie Speak (http://moviespeak.ultimatemoviesite.com) and here's one of the entries, followed by an example:

“clearing the eyeline...”

Actors on camera often have a hard time when they notice anything or anyone besides fellow actors. This is understandable, as concentration is often the most important, and difficult to achieve, of the actor’s tools.

Clearing the area behind the person or point in an actor’s field of view is usually the A.D.’s responsibility, and should be done as discretely and as often as possible, not just when asked for, but as a matter of good manners. Not many actors ask for this courtesy, and it’s often perceived as primadonna-ism—but only by those who have never tried to perform in front of cameras, lights, crew, and passersby. If you're working with an actor who is ultra-sensitive to this problem, they'll let you know it.

http://www.tmz.com/2009/02/02/bale-went-ballistic

I would especially welcome feedback on the rest of the book from anyone who'd like to jump in.

Tony Bill
BARNSTORM FILMS
73 Market Street
Venice, CA 90291


I had an experience on a set with an actor who was having a tough time with his eyeline over several days. Someone in a very important position who needed to be where he was couldn't quite keep out of the eyeline. He was a somewhat large (and boisterous) chap and just kept getting caught in the way. things went from bad to worse and he had to be released and replaced with someone else who could keep a less invasive profile. It was suggested that the rest of the crew should have stood up for him and not him be the fall guy. It wasn't possible. The actor needed to expunge someone to get his mojo back, and the poor guy was tapped.

And when the producers have put up the project and money because of the names in the cast, not the crew, we know who is going to be pushed out!

Roberto Schaefer, asc


>> I hope it's OK if this seems a little self-promoting, but I hope you'll find it interesting. For 12 years I have >> been writing a book about, basically, the life and language of the set. ............

Actors on camera often have a hard time when they notice anything or anyone besides fellow actors. This is understandable, as concentration is often the most important, and difficult to achieve, of the actor’s tools.

TMZ has a story that says exactly that, Shane Hurlbut was checking some lighting and was wandering in and out of Bale's eyeline to Bryce Dallas
Howard while the camera was rolling.

Hal Smith
Engineer and Somewhat DP
Edmond, OK


If that is factually correct, Hurlbut was not being very smart.

When you get to the big time, one of the things you should know is just how difficult it is to deliver a believable performance, and how fragile the moment can be.

Walking in and out of the actors field of view while the camera is rolling is
a rookie mistake if you don't intend to stop the take for some serious problem.

If I were the producer, the second time it happened, I would have fired him.

Bob Kertesz
BlueScreen LLC
Hollywood, California


Even I know not to get in an actor's eyeline. And I learned the hard way.

I also learned from Don Johnson that you never move the star, you move the other actor. He began the lesson by grabbing his crotch and
stating "You can move this!"

If I recall correctly that was my last day on that particular show.

Art Adams | DP
San Jose | CA | USA


>> If I were the producer, the second time it happened, I would have fired him.

It is so hard to make useful observations without context, but I will say that part of my university experience included acting a principal role in a slightly autobiographical play directed by the playwright.

I had acted a bit in JR high and High school, but this show really clarified for me some of the great difficulties that actors have to contend with in order to become someone else and yet stick to the text.

I spent my formative gaffing years working VERY hard to stay out of eyelines of working actors and to avoid any sort of eye contact during a scene... hard enough for them to do the job in a vacuum, let alone in a room full of technicians.

I cannot judge the situation without having been there... but I certainly understand how it could have set Christian Bale off ... and it is so often the case that the energy that goes into the tantrum is out of proportion to, and often unrelated to the event that has triggered it. (this can be true in other sorts of relationships too)

Every set brings with it its own interpersonal dynamic issues.

Mark H. Weingartner
LA-based VFX DP/Supervisor


There was the posted comment from someone who says he'd taken similar abuse from the DP before that the camera and lighting dept's were ROFL throughout. I keep telling myself, don't be judgmental, but sometimes it's too late.

Tim Sassoon
SFD
Santa Monica, CA


A couple of years ago I shot EPK on a film that Christian Bale was in. Twice, just before rehearsing he spotted me in the wrong place and he discreetly signalled for me to move. It was just a look and a polite gesture. I always remembered that and admired him for it...

That said.

If there is a problem with someone on set, the way to deal with it is to take the person aside or to ask the first to have a word. The great irony is to hear Bale screaming about professionalism. Hope he issues a public apology to Shane Hurlbut.

If I were the producer, the second time it happened, I would have fired him.

Got to disagree with that. But the producer should have gotten to the bottom of the problem alright.

Richard Attenborough shot a film in Belfast last year and one of the actresses (who's been around a long time) had an outburst along similar lines. Attenborough took her aside and told her that he couldn't have this kind of behaviour. He said that if it happened again he would just have to find someone else to take over the role.

If only there were more people like that.

Ruairí O'Brien
DP
Ireland
www.ruairiobrien.com



 

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