Saturday, March 06, 2021

Tell Your Actors

Video games came out of the software industry, which is probably where we get our secretiveness. I'm not really sure why we need to keep secret what we're working on. No one in the movie or tv industries signs an NDA. If there is a specific secret, like what Darth Vader said to Luke on that platform, then people make an effort to restrict the number of people who actually know it. "Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead." But generally no. 

Why? Because most people don't care about unfinished stuff. And most people don't want to read spoilers. TV critics might have early access to WandaVision, but no one wants to read an article explaining what's going on until after the episodes air, so people don't publist those articles. 

Somewhere someone with access to a script might say something on a forum somewhere. It's not going to affect ratings.

The sole place I can see where it makes sense is if you're making a game about a politically hot topic. You might not want Twitter mobs seizing on early drafts, which might still have rough edges or not quite say what you meant to say; or claiming that your game is about something it's not when your game can't speak for itself. 

But here's the thing. Actors are professionals. Why would we trust a 22 year old bro in QA, but not trust a veteran actor who's been the star of multiple AAA games? (Elias is the voice of Adam Jensen in the Deus Ex franchise, among others. He also played the irrepressible, utterly irresponsible Johnny Fenris in our game Contrast. He's terrific.)

I assume it's because some people think actors don't have a need to know. They're just emotion monkeys. You poke them in the right spots and they say the words with the right emotions. 

Obviously, it is insulting to actors, and takes some of the fun out of it. I also think it prevents them from having the confidence to give a surprising read in a scene. Maybe the writer or director does not know everything about the character. Some actors are famous for saying "my character wouldn't do that." Often they are right. Often they have thought through the character they are going to inhabit better than the writer has. 

The writer is prejudiced; we need the plot to go a certain way. Actors are in the moment. They feel their way from one emotion to another. If there's no human connection between moments, they will spot the chasm we writers have glossed over.

There's a story about Jane Fonda on the set of Klute. The director thought she should get upset. So he had the other actor yell at her. And as the character Brie, she went dead calm. What?

Well, explained Fonda, when someone is yelling at Brie, it's not nice but it's not stressful. She knows exactly where she stands. She's not waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The writer and director did not anticipate that. But it was humanly truthful. And more revelatory than her getting upset would have been. It's the way a character acts differently than your average person would act that defines a character.

I want our actors to know who they're playing so they can give me that kind of humanly truthful performance. So I tell them what the story is, and who they're playing, and what the world is like. Not every last detail. But enough to shape their character.

We've never had a leak to the press.

Actors will keep you honest, if you let them. 

Why not tell them who they're playing? 

No comments:

Post a Comment