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How to Avoid Eyelines – The Anonymous Production Assistant

I read again Make movies by Sidney Lumet for, like, the fifth time. It’s a great book, and I highly recommend it to any aspiring filmmaker. Some of the terminology is dated (and e a lot of the technical stuff is dated), but there is no better way to learn than at the foot of the master who led Network, Serpico, 12 Angry Men, The judgment, the Original Murder on the Orient Express, The Wiz

God, this is a terrible movie.
Okay, maybe not The Wiz.

I encountered this passage:

“If the actor is photographed looking at someone outside the camera, he can of course look past him in the entire dark studio. We call this the actor’s ‘eyeline.’ It can involve two sides of the camera. Just before we roll, Every well-trained AD will always say, “Turn a blind eye, please.” , even though he has a high concentration.

Modern times

Even though most of my readers were not even alive when William Holden died, this is still true in the era of digital cinema cameras and LED lights. For instance…

You may remember, the DP climbed into his eyes why Christian Bale lost his shot about three The Terminator virum. The TAPA at the time has strong opinions:

What is this bizarre rule about actor actors? Why do they get the attention of red squirrels? All others have to endure distractions at work.

They are actors. Can’t just do it act as if there are no DP lights in front of them? They already ignore the camera and the sound guy and all that stuff. How big is a deal?

So, should you still take advice from one of the greatest directors of all time, or from an anonymous production assistant who may or may not be me?

You should absolutely do your best to stay outside of the actors as they stay out of your way when you carry heavy equipment through a door.1 Yes, they almost always have to ignore some crew and equipment, but do not add unnecessary distraction.

On the other hand, OG TAPA raises a valid point:

This kind of explosive anger is unnecessary in any circumstance that people do not die. I mean, he’s not actually leading humanity in a war against machines. Calm down, you.

No one should cry on the set, at least the guy who earns more money this week than you do all year. So, even if it is not your fault if the lead is an emotional basket, you can at least try to avoid being the target of his trouble.

How can one not get yelled at by Christian Bale or William Holden

First, be aware of the entire setup. On a very basic level, you never want to accidentally wrap it around the camera. You also do not want to go into a c-stand or a lamp.

These things tend to be static while the actor is moving during the shot. Be careful during blocking, or check the stand-ins during exposure when rehearsals are closed. If you know where to look, you know where in hell not to stand.

Sometimes, though, you can not make yourself completely invisible.

Somehow, this is not even the worst Fantastic Four movie.

On a low budget production you can ask Hollywood for a flag or something. Even on a big show, you may be asked to tap into a corner to turn off an action camera.

Either way, if you can not avoid being seen due to the demands of the scene, do not look back at the actor. No matter if he’s Marlon Brando, it’s extremely difficult for anyone not to focus when making contact.

Instead, look down. Or look at the camera. Look at the ceiling. See literally everything other than the actor.

In some situations this is not even possible. For some reason, you have to see something behind the actor, or worse, take your hint from the actor himself.

At this point, you need to overcome the ridiculous social fears that I assume you have, and actually talk to the actor like a human. “Hey, sorry, I do not want to be distracted, but the ADR needs me to stand up right away and do [whatever]. I know it’s right in your eyes. Is there anything I can do to be less obtrusive?

Hopefully they respond like a decent person and either prepare for the distraction, or ask you to do something simple that will help them do their job.

Because when it comes down to it, this is what everyone on the set, from PA to producer, from the background actors to the stars, is trying to do: get their work done. And hopefully not be shouted at in the process.

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