I reread Sidney Lumet’s “Making Movies,” for example, for the fifth time. This is a great book and I highly recommend it to any novice filmmaker. Some terminology is dated (and Fr. a lot technical materials dated), but there is no better way to learn than at the foot of the master who filmed Network, Serpico, 12 Angry Men, The Verdict, the original Murder in the Eastern Express, The Wiz …
I came across this passage:
“When an actor is photographed looking at someone outside the camera, he can obviously see the entire darkened studio past him. We call this the “eye line” of the actor. This can include both sides of the camera. Just before we leave, any well-trained advertisement will always say, “Please clear your eye line.” When William Holden makes love to Faye Dunaway, he doesn’t want to see the gentleman sipping coffee behind her. He doesn’t want to see anyone watching him except Faye, even if he has a lot of concentration. Since most crews don’t realize this, “Clear the Eye Line” becomes an endless refrain ”.
Even most of my readers weren’t even alive when William Holden died, it’s still relevant in the age of digital film cameras and LED lights. For example…
You may remember DP coming into his eyes, so Christian Bale lost his shit about three Terminators back. At the time, TAPA had strong opinions:
What’s this weird rule about an actor’s eyes? Why do they have as much attention as squirrels? Everyone else has to put up with distractions at work.
They are actors. Can’t they just to act as if there is no DP in front of them that regulates the light? They already ignore the camera, the sound guy and all that. How big is this business?
So, should you listen to the advice of one of the greatest directors of all time or an anonymous production assistant who I may or may not have been?
You should do your best to stay away from the eyes of the actors, just as they should stay away from you when you carry heavy devices through the doorway.1 Yes, they almost always have to ignore some crew and equipment, but don’t add unnecessary distractions.
On the other hand, OG TAPA emphasizes the right point:
Such explosive anger is unnecessary in any circumstances that do not involve the death of people. I mean, he didn’t in fact leads humanity in a war against machines. Calm down, dude.
No one should shout on the set, especially a dude who earns more money this week than you do all year. So while it’s not your fault if the leader is the emotional basket, you can at least try not to be the target of his anger.
How not to shout at Christian Bale or William Holden
First, be aware of the whole setup. At the simplest level you will never want to accidentally get on camera. You also don’t want to go into a stand or lamp.
These things are usually static, while the actor is likely to move during filming. Be careful during blocking or watch for backups during lighting when rehearsals are closed. If you know where they’re looking, you know where the hell they’re not standing.
Sometimes, however, you will not be able to make yourself completely invisible.
In a low-budget production, you may be asked to go to a Hollywood flag or something. Even in a big show you may be asked to hide in a corner to show the action behind the scenes.
In any case, if you can’t avoid being seen because of the demands of the scene, don’t look back at the actor. No matter if he is Marlon Brando, it is extremely difficult for anyone not to shift the focus when someone catches their eye.
Look down instead. Or look at the camera. Look at the ceiling. Look at literally everything but the actor.
In some situations, even this is impossible. For some reason you have to watch something for the actor or, worse, follow the example of the actors themselves.
At this point you will need to overcome the crippled social anxiety I assume you have, and actually talk to the actor as a person. “Hey, sorry, I don’t want to be distracted, but AD requires me to stand here and do [whatever]. I know it’s right in your eyes. Is there anything I can do to be less intrusive? ”
Hopefully, they will respond as a decent person and either prepare for a distraction or ask you to do something simple that will help them do their job.
Because when it comes to that, it’s what everyone on the set, from the software to the producer, from the actors to the stars, is trying to do: do their job. And hopefully not scream in the process.