December 2, 2013

Takeaways from THR's Inaugural Breakthrough Performers Panel

THR Breathrough PerformancesIt's always a treat when the greatest directors in the industry, from Scorsese to Jarmusch, offer up their wisdom and insight about filmmaking to independent filmmakers. However, another great pool of knowledge comes from the ones great directors direct -- the actors. For The Hollywood Reporter's sixth panel they bring together six of the years' most exciting actors for their Breakthrough Performers Panel, in which they share how they grew as artists, as well as what directors can do to help them rise to the occasion.

Though some of these names might not bring a recognizable face to mind, surely their films will. The panel is composed of Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips), Adèle Exarchopoulos (Blue Is the Warmest Color), Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha), Kathryn Hahn (Afternoon Delight), David Oyelowo (Lee Daniels' The Butler)and Olivia Wilde (Drinking Buddies).

As THR points out, these actors come from all walks of life, levels of experience, as well as paths toward acting. Somalia-born Abdi escaped the civil war in Mogadishu to eventually end up in Minneapolis where he auditioned for his first role. Exarchopoulos began taking improv classes as a child. Oyelowo and Hahn studied drama (London Academy and Yale School of Drama respectively), while Gerwig and Wilde started working on the lower rungs of the film ladder. So, their experiences vary and offer a wide range of perspectives to draw from.

Check out the discussion below:

Here are a couple of takeaways from the discussion:

A director/actor partnership is based on trust

One of the things that the panel kept coming back to that really struck me is how much a director must trust actors and vice versa. Oyelowo convinced Lee Daniels to let him play his character as he ages from 17 to 68, instead of bringing in other actors to play the younger/older roles. For Exarchopoulos and Wilde, a script was either unavailable or loosely followed (Exarchopoulos has said that after reading the script for Blue is the Warmest Color, the director Abdellatif Kechiche told her to forget it). Not having a script means asking for a lot of courage from an actor, because they must rely on their ability to improvise in such a way that fits what the director wants.

Acting without makeup

Both Daniels and Kechiche were adamant about not using makeup on certain characters in their films. Oyelowo explains how he prepared himself to play vastly different ages within a small amount of time. When he would play his character at a young age, he would get 10 hours of sleep and drink a lot of water to make him look more youthful. When he would play his character at an older age, he would get 4 hours of sleep. When he needed to look heavier, he'd consume a lot of salty foods and water, making him look "puffy".

"Black and white is the actor's best friend."

Gerwig talks about working in black and white for Francis Ha, a suggestion made by director Noah Baumbach. She jokes that as an actor, black and white makes it look as though everything you're doing is important. On a more serious note, she explains that shooting in black and white immediately takes the aesthetic outside of the realm of reality. She says that it "responds to a clownishness that you can't get away with in color film."

For more THR roundtables and panels, check them out here.

What do you think about the discussion? What lessons have actors taught you that made you a better filmmaker? Let us know in the comments!

Link: THR Panel: 6 Breakthrough Performers on Difficult Directors and Working Without a Script (Video) -- The Hollywood Reporter

Your Comment

9 Comments

I wish you wouldn't post stuff like this. I miss the old nofilmschool that was way more technical.

December 3, 2013 at 2:00AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Scott

You cant be serious? If its not your kind of post move on, I want to keep writing, but if you truly feel this way whats the point.

December 3, 2013 at 2:04AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Carlos

No but I would say that NFS has morphed into Indiewire, cut and paste jobs from other sources that have nothing to do with the spirit of "by filmmakers for filmmakers".
If you are going to do a story on breakout actors may I suggest you make up your own annual list of actors from the hundreds of Indies this year that do not get any exposure and interview them. THR reporter? These are very "safe" conversations set up neatly by the publicist and THR. You are trafficking in the mainstream and it's just boring.

December 3, 2013 at 2:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dan

Cut and paste jobs? Are you telling me I didn't have to watch an hour-long video to share my takeaways? Jeez -- I could've just posted the video and spent some time writing on my new script about a guy from the counterculture taking on the boring mainstream...or is it about a guy from the mainstream taking on a guy from the counterculture taking on the boring mainstream? Either way -- it's boring.

I learned a lot from the discussion, by the way.

December 3, 2013 at 4:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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V Renée
Nights & Weekends Editor
Writer/Director

dont take it to heart, thats eoshd in disguise... quite transparent actually... he does it to PB, DVXUser, VL, etc... a troll with a blog.

December 3, 2013 at 4:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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jojo

Worse it's a cut and embed job. This is a filmmaker resource site, so my valid suggestion that seems to be lost is make your own list of 100 up and coming actors based on performances from the last years festival circuit, talent that has been lost in this regurgitated publicist driven drivel and post it. It promotes them and lets filmmakers in on talent who are working tables at a Brooklyn or West Hollywood diner. Trust me your actors are way more important than a camera that shoots 1000Fps.
@jojo I never troll and I certainly don't blog.

December 3, 2013 at 6:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dan

Your suggestion wasn't lost and it definitely is valid. Calling the work we do "cut and paste jobs", however, is completely invalid.

Does this train of thought go for the other THR panels...the cinematographers and directors roundtables? Or any posts about mainstream filmmakers? Or mainstream cameras? Or mainstream NLEs? Or mainstream screenwriting techniques? Or mainstream distribution platforms? Or mainstream aesthetic theories? Or mainstream interpretations of history?

December 3, 2013 at 3:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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V Renée
Nights & Weekends Editor
Writer/Director

Ummm i don't know how this is impeding on what they usually post...

"I wish you wouldn't post stuff like this." So you don't 'want' more content??? ... I don't get it...

December 3, 2013 at 2:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Xiong

Hey I like this post and I appreciate getting they takeaways without having to watch the video.
Thanks V.

December 3, 2013 at 5:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Stu Mannion