A reader writes David about watching the dailies to review his performance. Sometimes we get caught up in protecting our career that we forget about being a good actor and being professional.
As an actor, I’d like to see the daily takes so that if I don’t like the performance I could request a reshoot. Is that just outlandish? I’d like to protect my career and the work that’s put on film. How much is too much to ask for? Rick F., Portland Oregon
YES! That is outlandish. Unless you carry a tremendous amount of clout, asking for a reshoot because your performance was off will get you laughed right out of the room. By the time you have gained that level of clout you shouldn’t need to watch dailies to determine your level of performance. If, after watching dailies, the director and producers determine that the performance was bad enough to reshoot the scene, it may be scheduled without you. I cannot speak for every actor but I used to watch dailies to confirm my belief that I was in fact performing honestly in the scene, and as a young actor, I needed that boost to my confidence. What I quickly learned, though, was that it was unnecessary because I already knew the answer. An actor can tell if he is being honest and responding naturally to the stimulus in the scene at the very moment it is happening. If you are not performing well and are not aware of it on the day, you may be in the wrong business or at the very least had better get into the classroom and learn how to act. Additionally, if the director is unable to determine that your performance is off or your choices are not appropriate for the story being told while shooting each scene, reshoots are not going to go any better.
It is my humble opinion that actors should avoid watching dailies and simply go about the business of trusting yourself and performing honestly. One reason is because most of us possess a high level of vanity and tend to be overly critical of ourselves. I have seen actors judge their performance unfairly because of physical traits. It is not uncommon to hear an actor say “I looked fat, or short, or old.” What does that have to do with your performance? You are who you are and you look like you look and those wonderful idiosyncrasies we all have is what makes each one of us interesting. Another reason not to watch dailies is because a lot of actors are so in love with themselves that they will see something they like in their performance, that they were doing honestly, and then try to repeat it. This leads to a dishonest version of something that was perfect before you messed it up by including it unnaturally.
You protect your career by being a good actor and behaving like a professional. It is not uncommon to have a bad take. If this were to happen, I would always speak up by simply telling the director “I think I have a better take in me” or “That wasn’t my best take, do we have time for another?” Most of the time you will be given another take. If not, you need to let it go and move on. If you are worth your salt, one off moment won’t be noticed among your overall solid, honest performances.
One last thing: Remember that the only thing you can control is your performance on the day. Performances by other actors, lighting, focus, sound, editing, direction, script, and a myriad of other important elements are out of your hands. There is nothing you can do about it and it is one of the risks we each take by participating in this collaborative artistic endeavor. Keep in mind that if there are substantial problems in these areas, the film most likely will not be seen by more than a handful of people and their moms and you are not in any danger of looking bad. Additionally, you may be the shining element of the piece and stand out for all to see. You do your job well, on the day, and there is no downside.
– David H. Stevens
David H. Stevens has been a professional actor and producer for over 15 years and has a been a student for nearly 30. He has appeared in more than fifty films and television shows, produced countless short films, commercials and stage plays and has been the owner and operator of two production studios.
Most recently he started in Robert Redford’s The American West as Jesse James on AMC. He is currently the owner and operator of Stevens Brothers Media, a film and commercial production company based in Salt Lake City, UT and is also the co-owner of Dalton/Stevens Enterprises, a television and motion picture company specializing in the process of business and creative development.
Stevens attended college at Southern Utah University. While there he became a national power with the speech and debate team winning over 100 awards across the United States. Since then he has been seen working along such notable actors as Philip Seymore Hoffman, Adam Sandler, Glenn Close, Scott Glenn and Anthony Hopkins. He has also worked with Academy Award winning directors Paul Thomas Anderson and Cameron Crowe as well as the legendary producer James L. Brooks.
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Last modified: August 12, 2017