Watch acting behind the scenes
December 5, 2020 3:15 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to know more about how acting is done. I know absolutely nothing about it, and I'd love to watch a long documentary showing actors practice lines, shoot a scene, discuss retakes with directors, things like that. Google gives maaaany options but it's swamped with advice about how to be an actor or deep dives into special effects, neither of which I want. Instead I'd love to watch minutia about how actors plan a character, memorize lines, interact with each other & the camera. Any genre welcome!
posted by abecedarium radiolarium to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Making The Shining is not specifically about acting, but is a very close look at the filming of The Shining and so contains quite a few of the things you mention, shows Jack Nicholson psyching himself up to get into character, for example. It was filmed by Kubrick’s (adult!) daughter and is also just a great watch.
posted by penguin pie at 3:25 AM on December 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: In the 80s, Michael Caine did a hourlong show for the BBC in which he trained young actors in the techniques of screen acting in particular, and how it differs from stage acting. I found it very interesting:

Michael Caine on acting in film
posted by theatro at 5:47 AM on December 5, 2020 [8 favorites]

Best answer: It's specifically Shakespeare, but I once watched part of a class on how to perform Shakespeare. It was made in the early '80s, which means that a lot of the actors who are in it are super famous (Helen Mirren, Ian McKellen, Judy Dench, Patrick Stewart).

I watched it on Netflix a few years ago; not sure if it's still there.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:14 AM on December 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Inside the Actors studio is the classic of the genre. There's also a podcast called Off Camera with Sam Jones that is good also. Both interview based.
posted by stray at 6:24 AM on December 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You might enjoy the series Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton - the series has ended up looks like past episodes are online.
posted by leslies at 6:24 AM on December 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I came in to second Playing Shakespeare. It's amazing to watch the actors sitting around, laughing and talking and then switch in a moment to performing and then back again. One specific episode (with Patrick Stewart), two actors explain their specific decisions behind a particular performance of Shylock from Merchant of Venice, then take turns each doing to same speech so you can see how all the thought and decision making manifested in their individual performances. It's stuck with me, and I literally just half watched it over my partner's shoulder.
posted by theweasel at 6:45 AM on December 5, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Another Shakespeare-specific option is the movie Looking for Richard, a documentary directed by Al Pacino. It assumes that Pacino is trying to get a production of Richard III mounted, and ostensibly it's more about producing a play, and especially the weird particulars of producing Shakespeare. But there are several scenes where Pacino is sitting around with a gang of actors and they're discussing their respective characters in and their different scenes, interspersed with those same actors acting out those scenes (for example, a scene with Pacino and Winona Ryder discussing the scene with Richard III proposing to the widow Lady Anne at her husband's funeral, and how fucked up that is, is followed by a clip of them actually doing that scene).

You get insight into the various actors' mindsets when it comes to how they figure out what to do, as well as some backstory about their various impressions of Shakespeare overall (Kevin Kline famously confesses that the first time he ever went to a Shakespeare play, he went with a girlfriend, and they spent the whole first act making out and then left during intermission).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:00 AM on December 5, 2020 [8 favorites]

Best answer: "In The Heights: Chasing Broadway Dreams" (genre: musical)

Although primarily about the history of the show, you get to see a few glimpses of behind the scenes. It plays on PBS's Great Performances once in a while, and sometimes it shows up on YouTube.
posted by rakaidan at 9:19 AM on December 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Youtube playlist with all 9 Playing Shakespeare episodes.
posted by Homer42 at 10:04 AM on December 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Actor David Morrissey has a podcast called Who Am I This Time? where he interviews other actors about 'what happened before, during and after one significant role in their career'. Lots of interesting chat about preparing for roles, the casting process, learning lines, what types of direction and production processes they respond to best, etc.
posted by brushtailedphascogale at 1:44 AM on December 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: These are all great - thanks so much!
posted by abecedarium radiolarium at 6:35 AM on December 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: MasterClass has acting classes from Helen Mirren and Natalie Portman, and lots of directors and filmmakers (Ron Howard, Werner Herzog...)

The name is misleading, these are about 2 hours long and more of an introduction than a "masterclass" but it is good for that kind of behind-the-scenes stuff. And you can buy a month's membership and binge a bunch of them.
posted by mmoncur at 4:56 AM on December 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another AskMe just reminded me of this - Emma Thompson published her screenplay for Sense and Sensibility along with her personal production diary from when they made the film. The tone is more breezy and dishy (a lot of funny "Hugh Grant said the funniest thing today on set" stories), but there are also several moments where she talks about her efforts to get into the right frame of mind for a given scene. There are also several moments where she grumbles about how the actors' work is locking horns with the weird particulars of the production team (for example, stuff like having been preparing herself for one particular scene all night but the weather the next morning forced them to do another scene instead).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:49 AM on December 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

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