Chapter 23 of 28 from Helen Mirren

Acting on a Film Set

Play

Helen gives you a unique look at what acting on a film set is actually like and shares the key to success when working to camera: concentration.

Topics include: Your First Day on Set • Always Be Aware of What's Going On • Go Deep Into Your Imagination • Learn the Intricacies of Working to Camera • Get to Know Your Crew • Always Be Willing to Do Another Take for Sound • Befriend Your Script Supervisor • Remember, We're All in the Same Boat • Don't Be Afraid of the Unexpected

Helen gives you a unique look at what acting on a film set is actually like and shares the key to success when working to camera: concentration.

Topics include: Your First Day on Set • Always Be Aware of What's Going On • Go Deep Into Your Imagination • Learn the Intricacies of Working to Camera • Get to Know Your Crew • Always Be Willing to Do Another Take for Sound • Befriend Your Script Supervisor • Remember, We're All in the Same Boat • Don't Be Afraid of the Unexpected

Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren Teaches Acting

In 28 lessons, the Oscar, Golden Globe, Tony, and Emmy winner teaches her process for acting on the stage and screen.

Learn More

Share

Find freedom in your roles

Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy, and Tony winner Helen Mirren is one of the greatest actresses of our time. In her first online class, she discusses the dualism that is core to her method: the necessity for mastering technique (craft) and then letting go so that your imagination can take over (art). Learn how to break down a script, research characters, and master techniques so you can transcend them to find freedom in every role.

Helen brings you behind the scenes to show you the secrets of her acting technique.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Helen will also critique select student work.

Reviews

4.7
Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

She is a unique, generous artist sharing a part of her life, ideas and deep thoughts about the acting profession. This MC has been a great experience.

Show up on time. Respect others and the craft

I am a screenwriter and filmmaker, and it is wonderful to learn about acting and actors from one of the great ones.

This is my first acting class. So surreal that it happened to be with one of the best artists ever. I couldn’t be more thankful.

Comments

R.G. R.

Wonderful overview for beginner and experienced ... It is where it happens and actors need to envelop themselves in it.

Michael O.

I have never witnessed such holistic philosophy in action on a set as I have just now. What revelations masterfully thought out and exquisitely delivered. It is a dance with every damn person on set. Wow!

ALICIA S.

I have to be told where the eyeline is situated if it's not directly talking to another actor. I trust the crew to do their work. The details I can see in the finished film, if I watch it. Reason, I just would like to be an amazing film actor. I know other actors do multiple titles, however, I would like to stay grounded and focused on every aspect of acting. Every actor has their own motivations and for me it's gaining work and keeping continued work. How to get more work... Pffft. Enjoyable class.

Louanne F.

Helen Mirren is such a joy! I just love her down to earth approach to showing us all the sides (literally) of what happens on set and then, just when you think it's just too much to think about to do a good performance, she brings us right back to the awareness that when the camera is on you, it's all about you and that moment. The more I learn about all the aspects of filmmaking, the more respect I have for everyone involved. It's a complicated art form, for sure, with collaboration at the heart of it all. No one is really more important than anyone else when it comes to getting it on film.

book E.

Well, I'm certainly gaining a respect for actors & actresses. There is so much more to acting than us movie goers imagine. What an enlightening course even though I'm taking it strictly as a writer for the purpose of character development. I would love to watch a movie being made, but fear I may never watch a movie the same again.

Kalia D.

That was really nice. It is nice to get to know all the collaborators and the surroundings on set. Again a great example of the five awarenesses at work. Essentially, you know and anticipate what everyone else is doing and adjust your own performance. I wonder whether it's always necessary to have an actor that is so skilled at cinematographic details. A more rudimentary approach to shooting is when the actor is just immersed into his own performance, repeats it several times, and the cameraman adjusts lighting and angles independently as he likes, like in a documentary. What I also find amazing is the ability to perform emotional dialogue towards a red cross next to the lens. So much of dialogue is interaction with and reaction to the other actor, it's incredible how people can split it into single takes. One can feel how Helen enjoys the set and interacting with everyone to paint a complete picture.

Rosalina L.

I love watching what's going on on set and will often hang around when I'm not needed in front of the camera. I sometimes find the green room boring as the set is where where everything is happening and there is so much to learn. Another great lesson from Helen.

A fellow student

Helen, at the beginning of this class you said when you were younger you were given the choice between acting and teaching. I'm so glad I got to see you bring both together in this wonderful experience.

Karmen B.

I feel in awe of Helen's expertise with having learned so many important aspects of the technical, the how to prepare yourself for a shoot, to knowing who does what on set and working harmoniously with your crew - not to mention the brilliant performances she gives. Well, yes, I am in awe. Thank you most kindly, Helen.

Alana S.

Great course. The best summary ...learn while on the set ("Lurk") and know the next scene's camera shot. 'Everyone there is in an apprenticeship'. Great practical advise and insight on the collaborative efforts of everyone!

Transcript

OK. Picture's on. Camera A set? Camera B set? OK. Lock it up, guys. Last looks if you need it. This is for picture. Looking at my mark. I have to stand on my mark. Yep. Now this is what happens just before you do a take. You're in your world, you're in your character, you're in your environment. Wherever that is. It might be ancient Rome, you know, it could be anywhere. But at this point, you have to cut all this stuff out of your world. You have to maintain your concentration, re-find your character, re-find your environment. And now maybe you're ready to work. And now we're ready to go. Action. And when the director calls action, you don't have to say action straight away. You don't have to start acting straight away. If you need a little more time just to pull yourself down from all this amazing distraction you've had to deal with just in preparing to come up before you come on the set, and then coming on the set. You know, a set is an incredibly distracting environment. And it's all about maintaining concentration. I'd like just for one second to show you the world that I'm living in that's apart. This little world is nice, but look at this other world that I'm living in. So you see, here's the camera crew that I'm looking at. There's my director who always insists on wearing a bright red hat so that he really stands out. Which is very annoying. Here's our beautiful sound operator, Yvette. I mean look what she's doing. It's extraordinary. So that's what I'm looking at. That's what's in my eye line. Just outside of my eye line is a whole other world. I have to just concentrate all of my thought. My mind, my imagination has to go into very often a little square, a little mark on the camera. So this is what I'm acting to. This is my eye line. This is where I have to pour all my emotion, all my thought, all my feeling. Into this read this little square by the side of the camera. The actor who's maybe giving me the off camera lines will be standing around about here, where at the moment my director is standing. But I don't look at him, I look at the little red dot. I just hear the lines coming from off camera. I want to step back a bit now and talk about what happens when you first walk on to the set. It's a new set-- maybe you're playing a medium-sized role, a small role, a larger role, whatever it is-- you walk onto this set full of strangers. Now maybe you've been on sets before, so you have an understanding of-- you certainly by now probably know who the AD is, because the AD has come to get you out of the makeup or out of your trailer. He said, they're ready for you on set. Now, I have a little trick I'm going to share with you. On my first day of shoot, I always go to the set early. I make sure that I'm ready in hair and makeup earlier than ...