Did Theater Prepare Me for Filmmaking?

These are incomplete lists.

Theater gave me…

-Familiarity with actors and acting.

-Understanding what a scene is.

-Comfort with collaboration.

-Comfort with chaos.

-Flexibility – Willingness to see what is actually THERE and let that inform the process, as opposed to insisting ONLY on the original vision.

-Focus – the experience of drilling down in rehearsal and tech is an excellent preparation for the kind of single-mindedness necessary in all aspects of filmmaking.

-Resourcefulness: what stuff you have isn’t as important as what you’re able to put in the audience’s mind.

-Diplomacy and Management – you must work with many extremely talented constituencies who take pride in their work. Some more sensitive than others. You MUST be a leader. You MUST be aware of when to push and when to pull and when to let people alone to be brilliant. You WON’T always get it right. Theater and film demand this equally.

Theater did NOT prepare me for…

-The uncertainties of producing: how do you plan a film when your locations aren’t locked? You plan it, and also work on the locations. This is one of the biggest differences – a lot of the elements that are fixed in theater (the space you’re performing in…) are variables in film that must be dealt with. All location shooting involves the coordinating of an invading army, and the diplomacy of experienced ambassadors. Not even touring quite prepares you for this kind of work.

-Thoroughly understanding the 2-dimensional nature of film. Watch more movies, on a big screen. Obsess over them. Watch more. In theater the medium is humans and spaces. We need light to shape and understand the medium. So too with sound. In film the medium is light itself, and sound itself. 

-A documentary approach: removing as many performative aspects as possible from a scene and finding ways for us to experience life rather than watch a performance. Admittedly, theater demands some of this too, but I had not yet aimed at it with much energy.

-Controlling the audience’s point of view with the camera.

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