Chapter 23 of 28 from Helen Mirren

Acting on a Film Set


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



Class Info


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 ...

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.


Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren Teaches Acting