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Rachel Farha
by Rachel Farha
Apr 27, 2015
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Real Talent: Directing Non-Professional Actors

With the video content becoming a necessity to any successful modern marketing strategy, producers and directors alike are making a shift towards "real talent". 

As opposed to hiring professional actors (which can have a substantial impact on your budget), video professionals are opting to cast non-professional actors to enhance creative concepts. Strong directing can evoke great performances from non-professional actors. Often, these performances are revered as more authentic, heart felt acting on camera.

Along with enhancing the authenticity of your message, working with real talent can help you bolster your directing skills. For directors looking to hone their skills, working with non-pro actors can allow the flexibility to experiment with a variety of techniques in a forgiving environment. 

Here are a few things to take into consideration when incorporating real talent into your next video project:

Confidence

Make sure other members of the crew are supportive of your talent. Inexperienced and non-professional actors may be nervous upon arrival, so reinforcement from all members of the crew is important. Hair and makeup should remind them of how good they look, producers and directors should make an effort to engage them and help them feel comfortable on set.

Camaraderie

Take a friendly, but guiding position when directing non-professional talent. Staying close and offering suggestions may ease your actor's nerves and build a great rapport at the same time. 

Eliminate Distractions

Keep your talent focused on the camera lens. By keeping th e monitor away from your non-pro actors you eliminate a huge distraction. Clearing the set of unncessary crew during filming will help keep your real talent's attention directed at the camera. Another helpful tip that we've used over the years is slapping a smiley face over the camera lens - it can help your non-pro actors focus their attention towards the lens while eliminating the scare factor associated with the camera.

Warm Ups

Telling jokes, talking about shared interests and getting to know your actors warms them up for performing by adding to on stage confidence and subtly praticing by delivering "lines" on the marker.

Tricks and Takes

Hiding the little red light that signals recording is a great way to start rolling and capture a nice candid shot of your talent. This often creates a shot with little intricacies and authenticities that you might miss when cuing your talent. 

On that note, try to keep the takes to a minimum. Think of every take as losing a bit of the real feel that a first or second run through will embody. If you need to repeat takes, try moving on and then coming back to the scene. This will allow for natural muscle confusion and brain flexibility exercises that will improve the shot when you return.

Cut the Character Tips

Keep in mind, the non-professional actor will not be ready to "take on" a personality. This is something that we leave for professionals. Instead of creating a background or offering character tips, try simply asking your real talent to repeat after you, in their own voice. It's as simple as that and produces great results with less fuss.

When asking your talent to deliver a certain emotion in the message, ask them to remember a time or event when they felt that emotion. For example, if you are trying to deliver a positive message, ask your talent to remember a favorite birthday or an uplifting moment in their life. For a more emotional performance, ask the talent to think of person who is going through a hard time and then cue them to say their line. 

This brings natural emotion to the scene with realistic coaching. The idea is to use real, raw emotions to give the scene its authenticity. 

When you are finished working with your talent, try one last thing: Ask them to repeat the performance as they would have without your coaching. While you may feel that you already have your perfect shot, you never know what real talent can add to your video!