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Backstage Experts

How to Make the Most Interesting Cinematic Choices

How to Make the Most Interesting Cinematic Choices

Here’s one of the biggest problems most actors don’t even realize they have. They use a very thorough scene analysis process to make choices that reflect the way the scene is written. The problem is those are the choices the camera finds the least interesting, and here’s why:

  • They do nothing more than mirror what the scene is already doing, and so by their very nature, are flat and one dimensional.
  • They are the “right” choices, which actors make because they think that’s what we want. We don’t. We want actors who make “interesting” choices because those are the choices that “pop” on camera. The only filmmakers who want actors to make the “right” choices are student filmmakers and amateurs. Those filmmakers will never make actors look good.
  • They don’t command the camera’s attention and so they aren’t memorable. In auditions most actors all will be using the same scene analysis process to make the same “right” choices and so, at the end of the day, none of them will stand out. Actors who make “interesting” choices are the ones we can’t get out of our minds when we’re lying in bed at night trying to imagine our movie. And on set, it doesn’t even matter which actor’s character is supposed to be the focus of the scene. The camera will always seek out the actors making the most “interesting” choices and ignore the actors only making the “right” ones.

And here’s a simple three-step process for making the most interesting choices in auditions and on set.

1. Make two columns, Column A and Column B. Do your regular scene analysis process and take what you learn from that scene analysis process and put it into Column A. That’s the “right” way to play the scene.

2. Now, in Column B, list three other choices that are also plausible for the story and all different from each other, but not what you have in Column A.

3. Play the first choice in Column B and you’ll be a little interesting. Play the second choice in Column B and you’ll be very interesting. Play the third choice in Column B and you’ll be fascinating. And all three will be still plausible for the story.

Nobody else in the audition or on set will be creating choices that are nearly as cinematic, which is what “interesting” is. Truly cinematic.

John Swanbeck directed the existential film comedy “The Big Kahuna” starring Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito. He is currently scripting a new comedy with the original writer of Tim Burton’s “Frankenweenie.” His stage productions have appeared in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. His highly acclaimed e-book for actors “John Swanbeck's: How to Steal the Scene and End Up Playing the Lead” is available now on Amazon, and coming soon to iTunes. His company BlueSwanFilms is producing the animated series “The Daily Life of ‘Pants’ ” set in Los Angeles and the live comedy show The BlueSwanFilms Traveling Comedy Show. For more on John visit

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