How to Be “Yourself” on Camera

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

“Act Natural.”

I say this all the time on set and people have no darned idea what I’m talking about.

It’s a bit of a misnomer really. The whole idea that anyone can truly be authentically themselves on camera. It’s such an unusual thing for most of us since it’s not really a daily activity. But that’s why you have people like us! We’re used to cameras and we’re used to coaching people on how to be that ever impossible thing: “natural.”

yourself-on-camera

 

Here’s a few ways you can capture your real self and have an awesome shoot:

1. Don’t bring your friends, family and colleagues to the set. I know it may seem like the right idea to bring people to set who you really get along with and know you well, but the thing is, they are going to distract you. And unless you have the will of Iron Man, they are likely going to make you feel really, really awkward too. We don’t want awkward. Awkward on camera is … not good. Your director should be your best friend on set, doing everything in their power to bring out the best in your personality, relax your nerves and generally boost your confidence. Your friends aren’t nearly as interested in making you feel good about yourself as they are about gawking at the big lights and heavy gear. I promise. So, unless you really, really are comfortable with someone, and by really comfortable I mean: You would be TOTALLY OK if they saw you naked – then just don’t let them join you on set.

2. Insist on getting a coffee or beer with your director before your shoot. This is something I try to do with each and every client I have. Why? Because it’s important to me to establish a relationship with my subject, but more importantly, it’s critical that my subjects feel comfortable asking me questions and revealing their potential concerns. This is the key way in which we can deflect possible problems on set. Here’s a perfect example: I recently met with a client at a brewery and talked about science fiction books all night. We didn’t even talk about the shoot until the last 20 minutes of our 2 hour hang out session. Why? Because the next day, she was comfortable telling me that she didn’t want to do a few things that we had planned to do before during her upcoming shoot. This honesty allowed us to make changes before the shoot and avoid potentially expensive problems later. This is better for everyone: director and subject.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for a breather. When you’re trying to get through a shoot, you may just want to push through it and get the lines out. The trouble is, you’re never, ever going to come off fresh and au natural when you’re forcing yourself to get the lines out. If you are having a tough time, your director should know it. But if they are missing it, be sure to simply say: “you know, I think a quick walk would really help me right now.” Now, when you walk away, don’t start in on trying to remember talking points or getting all self-critical. Instead, think about something else entirely! Listen to your favorite music. Check the news. Whatever you have to do to reset your brain.

4. Pamper yourself a little before the shoot. Wear your favorite outfit. Get a massage. Get your hair done. Get your makeup done. Little things like that can relax you and take the pressure off your visual appearance so you can instead focus on getting your personality across.

5. Watch music videos. Specifically, acoustic ones. I have long said that really good musicians are also incredible actors. Why? Because they know how to bring a connectivity to their audience through simple things: their eyes, the movement of their head and even their body position. Acoustic sessions often capture this the best. I had this experience recently when we shot a one take music video with Preston Gunderson for his new single and I was blown away by his ability to take direction on connecting with the camera. Try to tell me you don’t secretly love those dream boat eye moments!

The note here isn’t that you should pick up a guitar and start swooning. It’s really to see how they are using their body to talk to you as well as their words. If you can find natural movements in your own body language, you’ll have a beautiful result.

Post by Elizabeth Giorgi. Elizabeth Giorgi is the Founder and CEO of Mighteor. Her directorial work has been featured on the New York Times, Huffington Post, Forbes, Wired, Gizmodo and National Public Radio. Prior to starting Mighteor, Giorgi worked won an Emmy for her work on Science of Watchmen, a documentary short about the real science behind superhero powers. You can follow her on Twitter: @lizgiorgi.