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"An Actor's Mind is Like a Computer: Just Press the Right Buttons," Advises Tereza Nvotová

"An Actor's Mind is Like a Computer: Just Press the Right Buttons," Advises Tereza Nvotová

Alongside a workshop where they practiced working with actors and actresses, students of the CME Content Academy attended an intensive lecture by director Tereza Nvotová, who explained how to approach actors. "The instructions we give to actors must be as simple as possible. Over-psychologizing is a beginner's mistake," Nvotová advised the students.

Preparation is Key

The Slovak director emphasized the importance of thorough preparation, which includes consultations with other crew members and studying the script. "If the preparation is not done, then questions that would normally be resolved in preparation are dealt with on set. On set, we only fine-tune," explained Nvotová.

Clear and Concise Instructions

According to her, working with an actor is a very demanding discipline. It is important to speak to the actor clearly and concisely and give instructions they can understand. "Do not describe the result in terms of 'be happy,' but rather the path to that result, such as 'entertain me,'" she added. The actor must always know why they are performing a particular action; otherwise, they will not perform it convincingly. "Imagine the actor's mind as a computer where you need to press the right buttons. If you press them, you win."

Proper Casting Process

The director also advised on how to conduct castings correctly. The main rule is that auditions should not take place at the creator's home. "Even if you don't have money, it's not professional. There's always the option to do it at school or somewhere else. Actors may not feel comfortable going to someone's home," she warned.

For casting, it is advisable to choose scenes that lead somewhere and where a change in the situation occurs. "Choose scenes where they have something to act," she added.

Character Analysis and Dramatic Arc

Tereza Nvotová's seven-hour workshop also focused on character analysis, their motivations, and defining the dramatic arc of films. She used her films "Filth" and "The Night Siren" as examples, which the students were asked to watch beforehand.

Successes and Additional Tips

Nvotová recently gained attention with her success at the Series Mania festival, where she, along with screenwriter Miro Šifra and producer Tomáš Hrubý, presented a miniseries about the murdered journalist Ján Kuciak. The jury awarded the trio the prize for the best project presentation. Both Šifra and Hrubý also teach at the CME Content Academy.

Additional Tips for Directors:

  1. Memory: A person cannot experience the entire life of a character, but they can use their own experiences.
  2. Imagination: An actor must believe they are in a specific situation. Everything we imagine is to some extent true.
  3. Observation: Pay attention to the details and behaviors of people around you.
  4. Presence: Be in the moment, listen to the other person.

Improvisation is a great technique, helping the actor to draw from within themselves. The actor's handbook should be as concise as possible, and instructions should be simple. Imagine the actor's mind as a computer, where the right buttons need to be pressed: do not show the result (be happy), but the path to that result (entertain me).

How to Approach a Script:

  1. Read it once through: Without analyzing.
  2. Write down your impressions: What comes to mind while reading.
  3. Read the script again out loud: Possibly with friends.

Additional Casting Tips:

  1. Do not choose extreme scenes: Situations that lead somewhere and where there is a change.
  2. Do not conduct casting at home: It is not professional.
  3. Observe the actor: How they respond to instructions, how well they fit the role.
  4. Take notes: During rehearsals, praise the actors and pay attention to their intuition.

The director must be the one communicating with the actor, while technical matters can be handled by other crew members. Preparation is everything, and even if there is chaos on set, there must be a magical circle of understanding between the director and the actors.

-Matěj Škop