Ty Laser is a high school star athlete who goes thru astronomical turmoil in order to reach his goal ofbecoming professional. – From “The Laser Effect” IMDb page.
I am an associate producer on “The Laser Effect”.
This shoot was a funeral scene. My usual role as a script supervisor was moot today, as it was decided the scripted dialog would not be used. Instead, it would be improvisational/extemporaneous/impromptu, guided by the original scripted content but using their own words, applying emotions expected of one giving a eulogy. Actors have to use their talent to bring out strong emotions. More on this in a moment.
Let’s Get to Work!
I performed activities from multiple crew disciplines: behind-the-scenes photography, camera positioning, camera framing assistance, lighting positioning, providing different kinds of lenses on request, and slating.
There were extras present in the pews besides regular cast members. The positioning of the actors/extras in the pews – positions in a row or even which row to sit in – was constantly rearranged to ensure all fit in the frame.
Bring on the Emotion
I observed firsthand how an actor prepares for an emotional scene. It is a very intense activity and takes extreme concentration to prepare. The actor has to reach deep within themselves to bring out the expected performance – including crying, breaking down, etc. And having to do it a second time for an additional take is even harder, because the actor is so spent emotionally. Definitely hard work!
I read some interesting articles on Backstage.com about actors’ playing emotions. This is quite revealing. Two examples below. I am certain every actor has their own way of getting ready for an emotional scene.
1 Way to Deliver a More Emotional Performance – Greg Apps, casting director
Casting director Greg Apps says people in real life people try to hide their emotions – say in the wake of tragedy – but we can see they are hurting inside. If an actor feels the emotion, the camera will see it. A director is looking for a character that grabs our attention, not an actor just performing. But an actor should not let their passion for the performance drive them to deliver a ton of emotion – there is more impact in hiding emotions. It makes for a more developed character.
3 Quick Tips for Playing Strong Emotions – Cathryn Hartt, acting coach
Acting coach Cathryn Hartt says that the willingness of an actor to lose control, despite being afraid to lose control, allows the actor to be more in control of the scene. In effect you are leaving your real life and entering the life and emotion of the character. In this way, the character’s words and actions are better expressed in the scene.
She has three important tips for playing strong emotions. Physicalize – Get into the exact physical state where you feel the emotion in your own life. Rant – Speak passionately about your character’s situation – what they feel strongly about. Scream – If you are playing an extremely angry or powerful villain, scream and immediately go into the dialog of the scene.
For more information, click on the links.
Behind the Scenes Photography
All photos are from the author’s collection.
There is always something for me to learn on-set. Today I learned how an actor prepares for an emotional scene. Nice to gain knowledge while enjoying what you do!
I will continue to document the “The Laser Effect” experience.
Please provide your thoughts and questions in the comments. I would really enjoy hearing from you. If you have a topic in mind you would like me to cover, please let me know.
Originally published July 6, 2018. Updated October 15, 2020 to adjust category assignments.