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Actor/Director Film Lab

Lesson 8 of 16

Dynamics of The Shoot

Robert Milazzo

Actor/Director Film Lab

Robert Milazzo

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Lesson Info

8. Dynamics of The Shoot


  Class Trailer
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1 Shot Sizes Duration:16:46
3 Camera Movement Duration:14:06
4 Actor Critique: Speed Duration:19:09
5 Actor Critique: Motion Duration:10:35
6 Actor Critique: Size Duration:14:49
7 Dynamics of Rehearsal Duration:11:53
8 Dynamics of The Shoot Duration:18:51

Lesson Info

Dynamics of The Shoot

Let's talk about the shooting because, you know, we have act one which we're talking about. I always think of things in terms of acts, maybe that's my act one active like three that's again, this is first attilio in plan of drama. In fact, one is preparation, you know, and maybe in complete preparation, I just again just to go back to preparation. There's no way the complete preparation there's just no way unless you're frankenstein and you rise off the table and you're finished work there's no way to complete preparation and why would you want to? Because what's the value you know, historically, there's there's a lot of versions of hamlet on film. Why do you? Why are these these salads re tossed? Because nothing has ever solved? Nothing is ever solved, so I don't think is an actor where's the filmmaker you have to solve anything and it's okay to say I'm not sure yet or I don't know and this is another thing we teach actors and filmmakers not to do and I think it's unfortunate never sa...

y you don't know never say I don't you don't want to seem un confident, I just think that's incredibly healthy, I think lying is is transparent and the truth is strength. And if someone can accept your truth as a collaborator that's not on, you know, there's, an old expression, the people who matter don't mind and the people who mind don't matter. You know, I think the same is true with collaborators. If they're hung up on your lack of information, let them hang. You know your process is your on a different process, but again, it's tricky, because when you're making a film, you have the artists, you have the money of the technicians and it's, all one it's, all one apologies, active dynamics of the shoot let's talk about how films are shot and why films or shot in that in that way, then we're going to get inside the set, but I want to give you a longer view on the shoot itself. Looking at our note here, films have shot big too small. What does that mean? What's. Quite simple in in most every endeavor, cinematic production, side endeavor, things air shot, like sort of this almost inverse triangle, the thick, too small, even the simplest. But the simplest because I don't I don't want anything that gun I don't want anything to be simple even the scene organism and I would use this example of my screen writing streets and I use this example of my acting students one day is an actor you will open a script that your cast in and the scene all will say is sally enters the diner and orders a cup of coffee and that will be the whole scene, so every scene has the equal worth you know watch hudsucker proxy there's a great scene where tim robbins is finishing up a cup of coffee on dh that's, where he discovers a help wanted ad in the newspaper boys away. But simply if you look at if you look at that scene as written it's it's like this much of the page it's a magnificent scene and it's a relevancy in an important scene, every scene is treated with the tinkle worth and every scene or shot big too small so let's look at this they're artistic factors when I should have seen on an artistic level of continuity. So this is a big word in film continuity to keep things continue this andi it's not really for us I can show you any classic film any classic film you convention aiken sit through with you and point out what we would call dis continuity easy you know whether it's I lines or mismatches and their web sites and books dedicated to errors and film some people literally sit on the internet all day and just write lists of classic errors I mean, you guys were kind of laughing because you've read a lot in if it's fun you know if you watch the untouchables there's a scene I do one of these people I'm like I'm one of these people did make the's scene in the untouchables were costner's not customer is a sean connery's talking a costume? You know that scene that's the chicago way that's a good component when it cuts to him once his buttons buttoned there cut back to him his buttons on but big deal I mean if someone leaves the cinema thinking that the movie's felled anyway you know I'm saying and I always say that editors and you know, if they're there I felt, you know it's that's just fun stuff later all the greats make continuity error, but what of the artistic aspirations? They should be artistic aspirations, continuity so everyone knows the largest molecular unit of what we're going to achieve okay, so what's everyone actors crew filmmaker was going to a producer producer at once everyone knows the biggest, you know what? It's like it's like saying, hey, we're going to make this cake today you know we're gonna make this wedding cake I'm not going to show you just the top layer of the cake coming to show you the finish in a way I'm showing you the finnish prada so we're going to start with that so continuity so we know the flow of every practical aspect oh, rob has his sweater on throughout the scene. Why? Because we just did the whole scene okay lite is another factor in continuity the way we structure light and filming is if we film the it's easier to fake light and smaller spots. So what we're going to do is we're going to film the whole scene first and take advantage of the maximum predicament that life like lite offers us for those we've ever filmed on location you're always racing racing against light so you want to maximize light so the way to maximize light is you test it's going to say maxim ity that's gonna work you test it's, you get it at its apex and then you work down because by the time we get to the smallest unit of this scene, we just don't need that much light so biggest most light let's do it first energy you know I want energy tends this just in energy ten tends to wane as we go on during the day, so if I'm doing a scene that's a fighting scene with two actors you know I want to do the met will be called the master shot which is the complete action the complete scene I want to do the maximum first because that may require more movement more of everything so we doom or the beginning of the day cause everything whittles down everything will's down practical factors let's look at it from a producer real standpoint because this film makers out there newsflash every filmmaker produces that's why I use the word filmmaking you know, for those of you have ever done smaller projects, you're always cast that you this is a perpetual thing. You know when when wells made them, uh, system can the small film you made citizen kane they asked him, you know, can you describe your career? He said, yeah, my career was unfortunate. I started at the top and worked my way down and then he went on tv the interview went on to ask him how did you how were you able to break so many rules and and innovate? He said I had the confidence of ignorance so you know this idea that practical factors no one neither is nor should feel nor nor gains an advantage from being immune to them. I would definitely say filmmakers more than actors, but we have a skype upcoming with keith gordon the next moments or so and he's someone who's seen both sides of it, so it'll be curious to see because I know and I'm going to ask him about one particular actor who knew a lot about the camera that he worked with so we'll pick his brain practical factors financial see you can't see, but we have an incredible group of crew around here technicians and staff so what I'm going to do is I'm going to call them at the top of the day and as I need fewer them, I'm going to let them go home because they know this as a producer, I want to strategize how long people are on the set and if I'm shooting big too small, that means I need everyone here and as the day goes on, I need fewer people, you know? So on a practical level, we go big, too small so I can release you know what the guy who did that we can release that we don't need a steady cam anymore, we're just doing the close up so it's also about time and money management schedule is another big thing. The great example is ah on waterfront, it could've been a contender it was you, charley you know rod steiger and brando if you watch that scene carefully, it's shot to shot and single close ups on them when steiger rod steiger place charlie when he was doing his close ups brando wasn't even there because at four p m every day he used to go to his therapist that was written in his contract that he had to leave the set four p m every day so everyone's like you know I know that feeling so on steiger's close ups brenda wasn't even there so schedule so they couldn't they had to shoot brando before steiger so everything in terms of the the puzzle piecing of how we shoot things has to do its schedule, you know, full stop sanity thiss was the word that was arrived at with a colleague of mine yesterday in preparation or what's the one thing that this provides us in a way it's sanity I also want to say it's control controlling smaller elements controlling fewer elements the less moving parts, the better you know when you do a big concert sequence, you're going to film all the extras at the beginning you're not going to have the extras wait around and eat free food and get bored and call the regions and called you want to get the big stuff done first because as your energy wanes as all the factors get more artificial it's too sane and smart strategy it's controllable strategy this is make sense have any of you ever been actors on a movie set? Yeah yeah, and typically would you get early calls like typically big crowds stuff has done earlier in the day? Correct. Okay, dynamics of the shoot continuity. So this is a big word I have a mixed relationship to it because I think continuity is one of the rial craft elements that that involves the view and we were making light of the sean connery button up the tie thing because really people don't leave people leave really bad movies noticing the content you have ever left the movie thinking gosh, there was a lot of problems with continuity. Have you ever honestly have you ever left the movie thinking that it's rare I mean movies and also movies kind of a reform of, uh, memory loss the more as you watch movies, you kind of wipe away everything sean's build on each other, you know there's a great term ted talley who wrote silence of the lambs eroded with jonathan demme you know, and speaking of silence of the lambs later we're going to be skyping with casey lemons, who is an actress and sounds the labs and if you remember she played jodie foster's like her friend she had like a friend on dh she confided in I think it was a roommate of that the characters women so ted ted tally called there's certain things in movies he called refrigerator questions refrigerate and jonathan demme used to use this term refrigerated questions and ted would say what's a refrigerator question he said it's a moment in the movie we all have them that you don't realize it didn't make any sense so you're home opening your refrigerator after the movie how did that guy get out of so there it's like those velvets we all have them and I love the term then he called them refrigerated questions because they're always hoped holes and logic you know, movies air kind of they build the unique logic system the suspension of disbelief continuity so continuity things don't rise and fall and continuity but there it is to me there are different variations of continuity something we call visual continuity visual continuity is literally this sean connery example of buttoned up button down you know, glass half glassful cut back to rob glass has lemonade in it you know that's and frankly I don't think it's any one human being responsibility on the set tio suss out or source or reflect or track continuity now it is to a certain extent every dip they're different departments were in charge of continuity on different levels on the set so when you're in your costume and you're ready to go, one of the last things that happens is someone from the costume department comes over and they take what I love this because this hasn't changed a while like a polaroid on bits of what you're wearing. So if they have to go back and we shoot that or they need a visual marker, they just dry it off. And, you know, it's funny, it's, funny and fascinating. Like it's, the costume folks will have these big carabiners full of of pola rights so they can quickly reference owed no in that scene. Ilya had the red shoes, the red shoes so let's, swap it out. So continuity is important. I'm not dismissing continuity because it can look awful. We get that and it could stop a scene special. But so we have visual continue. Special continuity is, you know, it's fascinating. You know, object relationships. If this is one of the hardest things a filmmaker, I think goes, we were talking earlier in the course and we'll talk about it later. This idea of creating the illusion of space it's one of the biggest challenges we have filmmakers here, I'm sure we have filmmakers watching at home. I have a scary project for any young filmmaker, and here it is. Take a camera and go into an open field and shoot a scene and that's the whole project, I think, why is that so scary it's terrifying to young filmmakers? It's terrifying because as human beings we rely on geography in ways we can't even begin to now if this room was empty right now and just the people we're here standing as they are seen as they are it would completely disorient you because we root ourselves to geography think of entering a subway train with no seats is there any sort of more thoughtful well dressed and why do I stand there? We think more about this stuff versus that's my seat that's my favorite seat spatial continuity tze spatial relationships buoy the film art sergio leone used to do so well and good the bad, the ugly one of the reasons that they only with such a crass persons those films aaron wide open spaces he used to buoy the action to geography and terry terry terrence mounted in badlands there's a scene about two thirds of the way through badlands where where sissies basic and martin sheen of throwing like we used to call them dirt bombs little rocks with dirt on there and what's beautiful about that is it's a wide open space there's no chairs there's no trees that's challenging for continuity spatial continent but again continuity typically has a support system around it the last one dynamics of the shoot to me this is the big one we call emotional continuity and this is really where actors come into play jack nicholson when he won an oscar I think it was for as good as it gets said hey thanked his editor, the only actor I've ever heard thinking editor for an award and it was a really interesting thing. He also said later on the only person on a film set that the actor needs to be friends with is the editor you know so much of what we create whether it's film science from filmmaking acting performances is modulated by the editing so the good news there is what that's a tip of the hat to is this idea of emotional continuity it's it's interesting? I find this to be the most fascinating dynamic of shooting creating emotional continuity I could work with an actor in and said and I typically do this when I work with an actor what sound let's say in my mind the producer or let's say in my ear the petitions is you can only do five takes of everything here's how I'll strategize it I'll do it four takes or three takes and then the last take her last two takes I will say something to the actor that's exactly the opposite and I've done this with actors also you know what in this last take do the exact opposite he wasn't crying, crying she wasn't mad let her let go because a lot of this idea of continuity is created what we call emotional continent to me this is the most important dynamic of shooting and the creation of work in the performance creating continent because this happens a lot toe actors actors get hung out to dry in this way unless the filmmaker's very clear with the actor actors will do takes a certain way and then a filmmaker will say do it completely different and you throw an actor out of his or orbit but that's when the dialogue comes in and that's when the one word that really I could sit up here for hours and days and just tell you one word which really defines the course and the craft in the takeaway it's the one thing that actors and directors both need in equal amounts and we'll talk about it with our guests it's trust it's the one word that both besides we're talking about one way streets and two way streets and being in your own lane trust trust how our relationship to that word trust in the dinette whether it's the dynamics of the shoot with the dynamics of rehearsal or any other kind of debt dynamism giving notes to an actor trust emotional continuity is the goal the process is not amenable to the goal actors and directors especially actors aren't privy to the process I mean I don't know how many of you have acted you guys were actors have you ever showed up to think oh my god that's that's, not what I thought it would be, you know I was talking with I did a class once with bill hater, the actor comedian said, and he said to me when he went to the premiere of tropic thunder, he said he and did he turned to danny mcbride after the movie, and they both said, can you believe we're in this movie? Can you believe that? And bill said, we're in, but the modern, blazing saddles like they were like the movie kind of elevated their experience, a colleague who works or creative live. You and I were talking about birdman, um, and we talk about ed norton and I thought it was great and funny, and he said, yeah, this colleague, I think, knows and indirectly, he said. Ed said it was one of the few movies he ever saw that the movie elevated everything like the finished work, took all the molecules and elevated it up. You know what I'm saying, man, being overly political about it, but that's, the strange thing about it isn't you know, this idea of trust and how we work with one another

Class Description

The relationship between the filmmaker, the actor, and the camera is an integral part of every production, but is rarely discussed. In Actor/Director Film Lab, Robert Milazzo explores cinematographic craft and collaboration and its relationship to acting and performance.

In this beginner-friendly class, both filmmakers and actors learn new ways to work together to bring their best work to life. Filmmakers develop new skills for effectively communicating and collaborating with performers. Actors learn how cameras capture performance and how to adjust their work to suit a production’s technical realities.

Actor/Director Film Lab equips those who work on both sides on the camera with insights that improve their working/artistic relationships, while strengthening the quality of their professional film work.

Special Guests:

  • David Morse, Actor 
  • Kasi Lemmons, Writer/Director/Actor 
  • Keith Gordon, Writer/Director


Philip John

I thoroughly enjoyed and became a better craftsman by watching and partaking in this workshop. Congrats Rob you're inspiring and down to earth made this experience a real pleasure. Cheers Mate Phil from Sydney Australia

Carlos Sandoval

I´ve seen a couple of lessons so far, and this is really a great class. Robert know his subject. Just by listening to him talk about Cassavetes and other fascinating filmmakers that rarely get mentioned nowdays, I get on track. The best.

Laura Latimer

Great Class - Thank you!