Monologues 4 Me

As a director I am never happier than when I’m working with people on camera. These people may be from a creative or corporate backgrounds, but surprisingly (as we are all human beings) the questions asked, and the solutions I give, are pretty much the same.

One question I get asked frequently by actors is “Can you give me a monologue?” It’s difficult to say yes, and here’s the reason why.

You – Are you a Brand?

Kelloggs is a brand, Apple, Jaguar and Sony also. But what about you? Tom Cruise has a brand…he has a specific genre of film he works in, a specific (and evolving) look he works with, and if the rumours are true, the rider in his contract stipulates he will film one running scene in every movie.

So, what about you Mr, Mrs or Miss Actor?

Have you given thought to the types of film, theatre or TV projects you want to work on…and why? Do you have skills that you’d like to develop to work towards those particular goals? Or do you see yourself as a more flexible ‘jobbing actor’? BTW for me, the term a ‘jobbing actor’ is a complement and not a pejorative as some people chose to see it. What could possibly be bad about an actor building a body of work by toiling consistently in a job they love? Ronnie Barker freely referred to himself as a ‘jobbing actor’ as do many other higher profile actors.

I digress, either way I am describing an actor, like you, who wishes to have some control over their career and the contents thereof.


Lets get back to that monologue.

Imagine, for this allegorical tale, that we are talking about clothes rather than a script for a showreel or something similar. I am the man in charge of selling you those clothes. I like my customers to be happy with their clothing choices, so they will tell other potential customers about me and my shop.

It’s a Wednesday, just after lunch, (I had a BLT by the way). I’m just wiping my hands when, while my back is turned, someone walks into my shop and stands behind a rack of clothes. Unseen by me, the person asks, in a nondescript voice, “Do you have anything I can wear?” 

I think you’ll agree it’s a difficult question to answer – I know nothing about the person. Even knowing how the person identifies only reduces the problem slightly. But let’s say the person is a woman, before I can offer any suggestions, even on a superficial level, I’d at least need to know more about: height, build, age, ethnicity, hair colour etc. All this just to offer an answer that I would base on a stereotype, having no idea of what the woman wants or needs.

This will generally lead to one of two outcomes:

  1. If I am an honest experienced shopkeeper (which I am), I will give you an honest answer. But given what we said above, it may not be an answer you want, or like.
  2. If I am a less than honest shopkeeper, I’ll sell you what will get me the most money regardless of what you want or need.

This tale is the same as asking someone else to chose scripts or monologues for your showreel.

It means that you’re unsure who you aspire to be as an actor. Worse, it puts your fate in someone else’s hands and makes you a passenger in your own career.

In such a fickle profession, do you really want to go there?

Actor know thyself!

As I teach in all of my courses, find out who you are as an actor. Define your ‘Brand’ and find out what you have to sell and work with the glorious gifts the Universe gave you. That way, questions about the roles you go for, the classes you take, how you dress, the style of your character shots (not headshots) AND what material you need on my showreel…Will all answer themselves simply by asking one simple question: Does this enhance or distract from what I want as an actor?

Winding up!

Acting on Camera is a hard but beautiful lifestyle. I will always spend time working with people to define their goals, and help in achieving them. BUT I do run a business, so treat this as a business investment and come prepared.

The people who enjoy the career of acting best, know where they fit into ‘the business’ and work to be the best in that area of the business. Spend some time, hard as it is, to think of yourself from a business perspective, regard yourself as a brand, take control and invest wisely.

I hope this short post will offer some proactive thoughts and those thoughts will move you closer to your creative goals.

Thank you for reading this far. Drop by again and keep in touch.

Written by Mark Alexander Todd

Writer/Director & Filmmaker at Pocket Pictures Ltd.

I don’t like the sound of my voice!

“Do I really sound like that?”.  I’ve heard it many times from people who step in front of a camera.

Filming corporate style interviews isn’t just about asking questions it’s mostly about making the person feel comfortable. If it’s the interviewees first time then patience can go a long way to making the experience much easier, and in many cases, fun.

Preperation is key!
Find out who the interviewee is

Corporate interviews need to look good. They are an advert for the company, and a lack of perceived confidence during the interview, can be interpreted as, an overall lack of confidence in the companies product or service. That’s bad…right?

But because no-one likes the way they look or sound on camera, the ideal interviewee, may not always be obvious to spot. Generally, there are three types of people who end up in front of my lens, to paraphrase an old saying these are:

  1. Those who wish to be famous
  2. Those who do not wish to be famous
  3. And those who have fame thrust upon them

All three have their own challenges, but with a little levity (and a little trickery) the job gets done and everyone is happy. So let’s dig into some fictitious examples and see what, and who, we’re dealing with:

Martin (1) is in sales and he’s not short of a bit of the old ‘confidence’. The issue here is getting him to answer the question, before we run out of SD cards.

Kylie (2) didn’t want to do the interview and she is so nervous, her in-depth knowledge is swept away on a tidal wave of fear. So, I’ll ‘switch off’ the camera and we can chat instead.

Finally, we have Nas (3). Nas didn’t want to be on camera, but as she knew more about the product than anyone else, she was press-ganged into being the spokes person. She will talk freely if I can find the right questions to ask.

Before I sit down to interview anyone I always have a friendly chat – off camera. Once I’ve had that ‘chat’ with the interviewee, I know who I’m dealing with. I always prepare questions and have them in my head – notepads and pens often put people off. So, now it’s time to move on to the filming.

Proven Interview Techniques

Here are some tried and tested techniques I use. If you bear these in mind, I guarantee you’ll not only get better interviews, but your interviewees will look confident, relaxed as well as sounding both knowledgeable and eloquent. To start I always tell people I don’t want to trip them up in anyway. This is important as most people think I’m some sort of Jeremy Paxman. So, I try to put them at ease by letting them know its important to me that they look and sound good.

So let’s start with the simplest example first…

…’Kylie’ is afraid of the camera, nothing I do will change that today. So, I ‘switch off’ the camera and the danger goes away.

In truth, I didn’t switch off the camera, but now more relaxed, Kylie is free to talk. I slowly begin to steer the conversation towards the theme of the interview, and we chat. After a couple of minutes I smile, confess to my subterfuge, while switching off the camera for real. Kylie leaves happily calling me a sneak – surprised with how simple and painless it all was.

Let's just chat?
The magic happens in the edit!

‘Martin’ – The key to getting a good interview with Martin is all in the edit.

Knowing how to ask him the right questions is important, but getting those questions answered concisely is entirely another. Martin’s confident answers will be good, but not brief. So, it will be up to me to cut the dialogue in the edit. Then I’ll need plenty of additional B-roll (other footage) to cover up my edits. Easier interview – harder edit.

Lastly, we have ‘Nas’. She’ll need some care during the interview AND in the edit. 

Adopting a more ‘chatty style’ of questions means Nas can talk more freely. When I find out the parts of her job/product that excite her, she’ll happily inform me of what I need to know, without any pressure. This makes the interview very organic and relaxed. I will (like Martin) need to spend some time in the edit, cherry-picking sound bites, but it will be worth it. 

I have worked with Mark and Pocket Pictures on several occasions now. I never have to worry about getting the right footage or dealing with reluctant interviewees. Mark has a gentle and relaxing way of getting people to be as relaxed and natural as possible and the results are always exceptional.

If you can help people to look and sound good, they will reward you with amazing interviews. I’ve had all levels of people chat with me as if they’ve know me all their lives, because they feel safe. And while that won’t make them feel any better about how weird the sound on screen, they will quietly be proud they stuck with it.

So, there you go, those are some of the things I’ve done to get the best interviews I can. Obviously, there is no magic bullet because every person is different, but to start with…You’ll definitely see and hear the benefit.

Thanks for reading this far and good luck with your future interviews.

Written by Mark Alexander Todd – Director/Writer and Filmmaker