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From Stage to Set

October 20, 2017

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From Stage to Set

October 20, 2017

For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Mia Passarella. I am an LA-based actor originally from Phoenix, Arizona. For those of you that do know me, hi! The vast majority of my education and professional experience in acting has been for the stage. It is only within the last couple of years that I have really been interested in also pursuing film. Coming from a theatre background, I’ve come to notice that there are certain habits and pre-conceived notions about acting that I bring with me onto a film set. Although the same principles of listening to your scene partner and connecting to the characters emotionality still apply, there are certain logistical differences between film and theatre that (quite frankly) were pretty jarring at first going into it.  So, if you are like me and you have been interested in making that transition from stage to screen, here are a few tips and personal observations that I have made in my own journey.   


1.KNOW THE SCRIPT. In theatre we have the luxury of a rehearsal process. Weeks of developing relationships, experimenting with characterizations, and finding a groove. Film doesn’t always have that luxury. The rehearsal process (if there even is one) is very different and sometimes you are lucky to just get a couple of read-through’s. So you have to do the work before hand. Film is a game played against the clock. Time is incredibly sensitive and every element has to be prepared, otherwise everything is thrown off balance. For us actors, that preparation is with the script. You need to come to set knowing that script backwards and forwards. Memorize your lines. Yes. That is obvious. But I am here to tell you that it is so easy to get into a mentality of “Oh, I can look at my lines in between takes” or “I’ll look at them in my down time” or “We’re only doing these 3 pages – I’ll just look at those and work on the rest tomorrow.” Don’t do that! Don’t give in to that temptation! Sure, in film you get multiple takes. If you mess up, you can try again. But if you mess up over and over again because you don’t know your lines…not only is that unprofessional, but it wastes everyone’s time. And like I mentioned earlier, time is a precious commodity. It’s like off book days when one or two people end up having to call line every other word. No one likes that guy. Don’t be that guy.  Also, film is shot out of order. You hardly ever get to perform the story linearly. You have to know the script well enough to jump right in wherever they ask you to. You have to know what is happening, who you’re talking to, and what happened prior to that moment.  So do the work guys. Know the script. It wasn’t until my first day on set that I realized just how unprepared I was. The first day of rehearsals for a play, I like to go in empty, ready to be filled and be informed by the process, my director, and my fellow actors. Day one of a film shoot you need to be ready to go. You show up empty and the director has nothing to work with.  


2.COME WITH CHOICES. Again, there is the possibility that you will have little to no rehearsals prior to showing up on set. There is no time to try different tactics or practice a

different physicality or do exercises with your scene partner. When you get there, you need to be ready to get started immediately. You neeeeeeeed to come to set with choices already made otherwise you’ll just be standing there uncertain and confused. This is part of your preparation. Make choices. Know who the character is and what you want to do with it.



3. BE MALIABLE. That being said, you cannot be so committed to your ideas to the point that you are unwilling to part with them. You have to be flexible on set and willing to take direction. I know a lot of this seems obvious - after all, taking direction is just a part of our job. Ultimately as actors we are vessels for a larger, cohesive vision. And yet, this is still something we all do.  Have you ever rehearsed a monologue over and over and over again until it becomes muscle memory and every time you perform it you automatically fall into that specific performance? Have you ever tried to change it up? It’s friggin hard! Your body goes on auto pilot and the longer you cling to it, the harder it is to break it. So, come to set with ideas. But know that it could very easily change. And be ok with that.


4.IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT YOU. I don’t know about you, but I get in my head a lot. Maybe doubting yourself is just the plight of being an artist. Or maybe not. Maybe it is just me. Either way, I have a bad habit of convincing myself that everything that goes wrong is my fault regardless of being on the stage or screen. During filming for Falling, every time Fernando called cut I would get horribly anxious and internally frustrated because I felt as though I messed up and that I was doing a bad job. Which I now know was not really the case.  I had a teacher once tell me that selfishness and self absorption can come in two forms. There’s arrogance and self gratification, but there’s also insecurity and self depreciation. In both scenarios I’m still consistently thinking about myself. My own philosophy on acting centers on the idea of selflessness. It is a giving act. We are there to serve others. To serve the story, serve the director, serve our scene partners, etc... We are not the only avenue used to tell the story and we certainly are not the most important thing happening on set (no matter how much we tell ourselves that we are). So when working, get away from yourself. Be in the moment. Do your best. And know that there is so much more happening around you and that everyone else is doing work that is just as important as you.


5.RELAX. I remember filming for Last Call, my first short film. I showed up to set and immediately freaked the f--- out. There was so much happening. So many people.

 And it became abundantly clear that I had no idea what I was doing. I just remember trying to keep myself together and before I knew it, it was over. Ultimately, I did myself a disservice by being so tense. Although I think the performance turned out ok, I can’t help but wonder how it would’ve turned out if I had just calmed down. Also, a memory that should have been really great and exciting is a jumble of anxiety and nerves. Do yourself a favor. Breathe. Relax. Stay in the moment. Have fun - acting is work, but it’s still fun! And trust yourself. After all, if you’ve done the work beforehand, you have nothing to worry about.  


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