Dealing with difficult leading ladies

Anyone had a hard experience?

In my last short film the leading lady I had ended up being a train wreck (she got her car stolen, it got wrecked, she became homeless, couldn't get down to the shoot, went to rehab). My DP ended up finding this actress that he and his ex girlfriend had worked with off some actors worksheet. I had no idea who she was. But she did look good so I was okay with the choice.

She was pretty friendly right off the bat. I don't really like people who are overly friendly when I first meet them. That usually means that the person is hiding this ambition and their other side. But she was good actress and on that day she was easy to work with.

But after that she got weird. She wanted to meet up and rehearse. She said she wanted to meet up at starbucks. I thought that was weird as the short was shot at my house, we could have rehearsed at the location. But I just said to meet up a study hall in the library. Once there she sat a chair away from me. I didn't really think anything of it. But she had started to change from the first day. The acting part was fine. But in between she started to show her true self a little : a super serious ambitious high maintenance actress.

The next day she then did a very under handed thing. My DP called telling that she had spoken to him and that while she was fine with the kissing scene on the first day, she didn't want to do the sex scene or make out. Now I don't know if it was because of her boyfriend, because she wasn't attracted to, because was attracted to me and didn't want to let go on screen (she is a decent kisser haha), that fact that she is still a young actress with not a lot of experience (21 and her first credit on IMDB). But this altered what I was going for. I think it still turned out quite well. But this isn't what I wanted. I didn't appreciate what she did at all.

There was one instance where she was talking to the DP and asked him a question that I felt should have came my way (I wrote the whole thing, I was directing it, I came up with the shot list, I was controlling the camera, etc, etc). And I had to make it clear that what she was doing was disrespectful.

On set was something else. I don't mind an actress who is hard to work with as long as she is at least funny and open. She was hard to work with, not funny, and unopened. If I wasn't in such a poor spot I would have not choose her at all.

I guess the obvious thing to do here is not work with her. I have to really screen my leading ladies more. I seem to do better picking my supporting actresses.
 
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sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
(21 and her first credit on IMDB).

How many IDMB credits do you have / how many short films have you done?

I've had plenty commit and then not do the project at all.
I haven't had anyone commit to something and then back out on specifics but still be part of the project.

Then again I haven't written any scripts to get 21 year old girls to make out or simulate sex with me. :lol:

Mind if I ask how much you were paying her?
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
I think it was a relevant question, because I wouldn't expect an actress to take your work as seriously if you haven't done many films.

I know that few take my work seriously :)
Yes I did have one other question at the end of my post.

"Mind if I ask how much you were paying her?"

None of this is snark on my part. It's my attempt to understand the struggle with actors.

Actually I spent two months now looking for an actress willing to do a topless scene and I've finally had to just admit defeat and change my ending. It's sad but the show must go on.
 
It is not a relevant question because...

1) It is my art.
2) She has no credits. She is lucky to get work. It was a great part for her and it came out of nowhere.
3) She read the script and continued on.

And I do mind telling you what I paid her. You are not privy to that info.

Basically you are projecting your issues into you me.
 
Sometimes you just need to improvise.
An actor or actress going diva or communicating with her friend DOP instead of you (the director) is often just insecure. At the same time they feel or know you have little other options, giving them a sense of control.
Too bad most people act like this on a subconscious level.
In your case she either committed without proper reading and thinking AND she was nervous about the onscreen intimacy: although it's not the real thing, it is still intimate and she probablt felt vulnerable. The fact that she wanted to rehearse in a public space also shows she was nervous and perhaps even intimidated about it.
Also the fact that she stepped in last minute made the threshold higher for her: the both of you were actually strangers. Even with experienced pros that can also be a reason for tension and insecurity with it comes to very intimate scenes.

The real question is: how did the short turn out?
Because in the end it is about the endresult.
You learn from it and remember not to cast her again for such leading parts (or never ever again).

I once had an actress having a sort of breakdown on set: she was just too exhausted from work (the filming had not started yet and because of the Dutch weather the shoot was moved from weekend to the middle of the week). My DOP's wife who came along for fun and to help with the meals and drinks stepped in to save the day. We had a crew and cast of 10 people and it was no option to tell them to go home and pick a new date, because nobody got paid.

(PS.
Let's skip the level comparing and just exchange ideas and experiences. Sean asked because you mentioned she only had no IMBD credit. He was just curious.)
 
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...........
2) She has no credits. She is lucky to get work. It was a great part for her and it came out of nowhere.
...............

Take deep breath.
Anger leads to suffering :P

PS.

That is easier said than done: after the shoot was wrappd I was furious for a moment, although I knew that was not going to solve anything....
 
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It is not a relevant question because...

1) It is my art.
2) She has no credits. She is lucky to get work. It was a great part for her and it came out of nowhere.
3) She read the script and continued on.

And I do mind telling you what I paid her. You are not privy to that info.

Basically you are projecting your issues into you me.

I think Sfoster was being genuine and finding the root cause of the problem. That Sometimes pay determines their professional attitude...which I disagree with. If you find a solid actor, they come through on many levels both on the camera and off camera.

It's not entirely your art. They are performing it. Sounds like you don't need an actor, you need a puppet. lol.

She read the script and you are damn right. She shouldn't waste your time. If she commits, then she commits. But people are flaky.

But really, you have no one to blame but yourself. If you were in a tight spot and went forward unprepared, then you know you took the risk.
 
It is not a relevant question because...

1) It is my art.
2) She has no credits. She is lucky to get work. It was a great part for her and it came out of nowhere.
3) She read the script and continued on.

And I do mind telling you what I paid her. You are not privy to that info.

Basically you are projecting your issues into you me.

A bit snippy there bud. Or maybe snarky.

http://m.imdb.com/name/nm5306688/ anymore questions?

Obviously I am at a different level than you and tell different stories than you. Sex scenes are engaging because of what's under neath. The spirituality of them, two humans connecting, showing love, admiration and passion. Releasing into each other and healing.
What level pray tell is that?
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
It is not a relevant question because...

1) It is my art.
2) She has no credits. She is lucky to get work. It was a great part for her and it came out of nowhere.
3) She read the script and continued on.

And I do mind telling you what I paid her. You are not privy to that info.

Basically you are projecting your issues into you me.

A great part for her. I'm sure after being in your film she'll never want for work again. Now she is an established artist in a prestigious project that many industry professionals will see.

You have a real attitude problem. Doesn't seem like you want my help or conversation so I'll leave you to your own devices and go eat a doughnut.
 
Dealing with difficult leading ladies
She has no credits. She is lucky to get work. It was a great part for her and it came out of nowhere.

Unfortunately you've made the error here. The experience you've had isn't dealing with a difficult leading lady. The experience you were hoping for was to have a professional actress when you picked a clueless, flaky member of the audience who took you for an unpleasant ride.

While it may have been a great part if she was an actor, it's quite obvious (at least to me) she (or perhaps you both as a combination) isn't.

I guess the obvious thing to do here is not work with her.

You already figured it out. Chalk it up to experience and learn to spot the warning signs better.
 
In my last short film the leading lady I had ended up being a train wreck (she got her car stolen, it got wrecked, she became homeless, couldn't get down to the shoot, went to rehab).

Sucks, but it happens...


My DP ended up finding this actress that he and his ex girlfriend had worked with off some actors worksheet.
Cool! So they'd worked together before, presumably you trust your DP and that he is thinking about achieving your vision of the story -- as is his job.

She was pretty friendly right off the bat. I don't really like people who are overly friendly when I first meet them. That usually means that the person is hiding this ambition and their other side.
... :hmm: This sounds like a personal issue. You've got trust issues, yeah?

But after that she got weird. She wanted to meet up and rehearse.

But in between she started to show her true self a little : a super serious ambitious high maintenance actress.

So, she's (allegedly) light on experience, but serious about the craft? Sounds like a winner to me.

The next day she then did a very under handed thing. My DP called telling that she had spoken to him and that while she was fine with the kissing scene on the first day, she didn't want to do the sex scene or make out.
So.. like you said initially, you didn't know her at all -- that's a two-way street. She'd worked with your DP before, so there was some history there. Understandable she'd perhaps be more comfortable talking to him...


There was one instance where she was talking to the DP and asked him a question that I felt should have came my way (I wrote the whole thing, I was directing it, I came up with the shot list, I was controlling the camera, etc, etc). And I had to make it clear that what she was doing was disrespectful.
Again, she has history with the DP, so it's somewhat understandable. Understand the frustration, but it doesn't seem like the end of the world..


As for this:

It is not a relevant question because...
Yes, it is absolutely relevant. Especially if this was unpaid.

1) It is my art.
For her it may have just been a gig, not art.

2) She has no credits. She is lucky to get work. It was a great part for her and it came out of nowhere.
Entirely your own opinion. Sounds to me like she was genuinely interested in doing a good job, and wants to improve her craft (rehearsing, etc) and yet something made her uncomfortable on set... aside from the looming sex-scene that is usually uncomfortable for ANYONE on set.

3) She read the script and continued on.
If she did in fact read the whole script, and had an issue with it, she should have indicated that earlier on, yes. Maybe she was initially fine with it, and became uncomfortable. Could be the way you approached it was overbearing/etc. That would also help explain why she reached out to the people she already knew to bring up the concern rather than you directly.



she is a decent kisser haha
... :hmm: ... Were you looking for an actress, or a porn star? ... or a girlfriend? Frankly, it's not entirely clear from your post, and you yourself sound somewhat unprofessional to me.
 
Sometimes you just need to improvise.
An actor or actress going diva or communicating with her friend DOP instead of you (the director) is often just insecure. At the same time they feel or know you have little other options, giving them a sense of control.
Too bad most people act like this on a subconscious level.
In your case she either committed without proper reading and thinking AND she was nervous about the onscreen intimacy: although it's not the real thing, it is still intimate and she probablt felt vulnerable. The fact that she wanted to rehearse in a public space also shows she was nervous and perhaps even intimidated about it.
Also the fact that she stepped in last minute made the threshold higher for her: the both of you were actually strangers. Even with experienced pros that can also be a reason for tension and insecurity with it comes to very intimate scenes.

The real question is: how did the short turn out?
Because in the end it is about the endresult.
You learn from it and remember not to cast her again for such leading parts (or never ever again).

I once had an actress having a sort of breakdown on set: she was just too exhausted from work (the filming had not started yet and because of the Dutch weather the shoot was moved from weekend to the middle of the week). My DOP's wife who came along for fun and to help with the meals and drinks stepped in to save the day. We had a crew and cast of 10 people and it was no option to tell them to go home and pick a new date, because nobody got paid.

(PS.
Let's skip the level comparing and just exchange ideas and experiences. Sean asked because you mentioned she only had no IMBD credit. He was just curious.)

Yeah I really didn't know who she was. That was a really tough situation. It made the shoot a lot tougher than it had to be.

I do believe it turned out good. We ended up suggesting sex. So I'll put it this way: instead of having a cool Sons of Anarchy type scene it went to a nice and sweet How I met your mother type scene. Both are cool and work. But I think for this short the Sons approach suited it better.

I guess the last time I will have to speak to anyone in the group is when I give them a link to the short.

Take deep breath.
Anger leads to suffering :P

PS.

That is easier said than done: after the shoot was wrappd I was furious for a moment, although I knew that was not going to solve anything....

I didn't mean to sound mad. She was a good actress and she did add her talent to the film She just was not a lot of fun to work with.

I think Sfoster was being genuine and finding the root cause of the problem. That Sometimes pay determines their professional attitude...which I disagree with. If you find a solid actor, they come through on many levels both on the camera and off camera.

It's not entirely your art. They are performing it. Sounds like you don't need an actor, you need a puppet. lol.

She read the script and you are damn right. She shouldn't waste your time. If she commits, then she commits. But people are flaky.

But really, you have no one to blame but yourself. If you were in a tight spot and went forward unprepared, then you know you took the risk.

I've worked on high paid, low paid, and no pay jobs as an actor. I act the same all the time. It is all about the work.

I give everyone on my set a decent bit of freedom. But more like how a crew chief on a NASCAR team or the head coach on a NFL team does. But in the end of the day film is a director's medium for a reason. When you are a director it's YOUR NAME on the line the most when you do a short film unless you have big name actors in it. You have to make sure that your vision is getting put across.

I had to do what I had to do. Time was running out. What I should have never done was cast the first lead actress. I knew in my gut that she could do something like this. But I only listened to my intellect and kept on going with her. She made me spent like $80 on her in one day.

Unfortunately you've made the error here. The experience you've had isn't dealing with a difficult leading lady. The experience you were hoping for was to have a professional actress when you picked a clueless, flaky member of the audience who took you for an unpleasant ride.

While it may have been a great part if she was an actor, it's quite obvious (at least to me) she (or perhaps you both as a combination) isn't.
She wasn't as experience ad the original lead for sure. The first actress had eight feature film credits and was 27. While she was a train wreck, she was funny, open, just a very cool person. Easy to hang around with. And she was very interesting. I wish it had worked out. I am happy with what I saw. But I think it would have been better with the first actress.

Sucks, but it happens...



Cool! So they'd worked together before, presumably you trust your DP and that he is thinking about achieving your vision of the story -- as is his job.
No not cool. You don't want your lead actress to have better rapport with the DP than the actor/writer/director. They can plot against you (and they did).


... :hmm: This sounds like a personal issue. You've got trust issues, yeah?
Nah dude. Never fully trust anyone. I know what I am capable of for goodness sakes LOL. Everyone wheres a mask. You have to look deeper than that.




So, she's (allegedly) light on experience, but serious about the craft? Sounds like a winner to me.
She did give a great performance. She just wasn't that fun to work with. Maybe I wasn't open enough, I don't know. It is weird when you are acting and directing. As an actor you really have to connect with your partner. As a director you have to understand your leading lady. But you have to abide by some laws of power to be a good leader. So when you act and direct you break some rules on both sides. I don't make anything of it so it's just a natural thing. But it is different than normal circumstances. Maybe I didn't appreciate that enough. Either way some actresses are just tough to work with.


So.. like you said initially, you didn't know her at all -- that's a two-way street. She'd worked with your DP before, so there was some history there. Understandable she'd perhaps be more comfortable talking to him...
Yeah, and that was a problem. That isn't how it should be on a film set.



Again, she has history with the DP, so it's somewhat understandable. Understand the frustration, but it doesn't seem like the end of the world..
I was patient. I didn't say anything until late on the last day. And it was short. And it isn't like her and the DP were great friends. The DP kept forgetting her name. But the fact that they knew each other was a disadvantage to me.


As for this:


Yes, it is absolutely relevant. Especially if this was unpaid.


For her it may have just been a gig, not art.
I will say that she treated it like art. She did the homework that I gave her.


Entirely your own opinion. Sounds to me like she was genuinely interested in doing a good job, and wants to improve her craft (rehearsing, etc) and yet something made her uncomfortable on set... aside from the looming sex-scene that is usually uncomfortable for ANYONE on set.
And she was and does. She just wasn't open enough as a person. She was nice when you first meet her. But not much was there after.


If she did in fact read the whole script, and had an issue with it, she should have indicated that earlier on, yes. Maybe she was initially fine with it, and became uncomfortable. Could be the way you approached it was overbearing/etc. That would also help explain why she reached out to the people she already knew to bring up the concern rather than you directly.
Here is what happened with that. She read the script. We talked about it. She did the first scene. She then brought it up in a really friendly and light way. I explained it (not a full on sex scene, but making out that would turn into the beginning of sex. Then cut to post sex and the rest of the scene). She was okay. Then when we met for the shoot she brought up again and I said the same thing. She was showing more of her true self to me (distant and not always smiling). But she seemed okay. Then the weak power play came in.




... :hmm: ... Were you looking for an actress, or a porn star? ... or a girlfriend? Frankly, it's not entirely clear from your post, and you yourself sound somewhat unprofessional to me.
T'Was a joke. Joseph Gordon Levitt said the something about Zooey Deschanel in the commentary track for 500 days of Summer. No sense in denying that while it's not really fun to kiss on screen because of how many people are watching you, it's actually kinda interesting. But I don't mix worth and personal life. I am all about the truth.
 
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Nah dude. Never fully trust anyone. I know what I am capable of for goodness sakes LOL. Everyone wheres a mask. You have to look deeper than that.

If this your worldview, the world will indeed show it to you.
Just like when you're in love the world looks wonderful and when you're grumpy the world is an aweful place.

I certainly don't see it like that.
On set we all have a common goal, but other people might have a different route in mind. Not because they are evil and sneaky, but because of their own experiences, expectations, fears and desires.
As a director you need to stay on course, while wheighing the merit of all suggestions and opinions.
Trust is very important to be able to both communicate and stay in control.
Actually, I think the fact that cast and crew listen to you is more about trust than power. They should trust you have the overview and complete picture in mind. And it's the style, concept and complete picture you use to measure their input with.

But the fact that they knew each other was a disadvantage to me.
..............

No, it was not. If they didn't know each other you'd have no cast. ;)
 
I get what I want on set as a director through the force of my personality combined with a clarity of vision and an understanding of each of the actors' motivations. Not their character-led motivation, rather what they want to personally achieve.

I learned this on my first short where an actress refused to say the lines on set. She said the lines in rehearsal, had the script for a month, we had a read-through and in addition, her acting CV was interesting. What was worse was she refused to come up with a better option. It was just 'I don't feel like saying this.' My responses e.g. 'what would your character say?' were met with 'I don't know.'

As a director, I've seen some diva-ish behaviour but ultimately, they've come around and what's more, they want to do more with me. Helps that I have a couple of high profile film fests behind me etc... but that's just more of a 'genuine' confidence thing.

I don't know how you get it done but that's just how I do it. Oh, and I listen to other, more experienced people.
 
If this your worldview, the world will indeed show it to you.
Just like when you're in love the world looks wonderful and when you're grumpy the world is an aweful place.

I certainly don't see it like that.
On set we all have a common goal, but other people might have a different route in mind. Not because they are evil and sneaky, but because of their own experiences, expectations, fears and desires.
As a director you need to stay on course, while wheighing the merit of all suggestions and opinions.
Trust is very important to be able to both communicate and stay in control.
Actually, I think the fact that cast and crew listen to you is more about trust than power. They should trust you have the overview and complete picture in mind. And it's the style, concept and complete picture you use to measure their input with.
That's how life is man. Not judging it to be good or bad. But that is how it is. The sooner you see it that way, the better you can protect yourself.

It's a mixture of trust and power. The trust is from the fact that I wrote, I am directing it, I am acting in it, everyone started with me. That I have watched the movie in my head like a million times and know exactly what I want. The power is from how I carry myself and react (and not react) to certain games.

I am pretty good with actors.



No, it was not. If they didn't know each other you'd have no cast. ;)
Might have been better off...

I get what I want on set as a director through the force of my personality combined with a clarity of vision and an understanding of each of the actors' motivations. Not their character-led motivation, rather what they want to personally achieve.

I learned this on my first short where an actress refused to say the lines on set. She said the lines in rehearsal, had the script for a month, we had a read-through and in addition, her acting CV was interesting. What was worse was she refused to come up with a better option. It was just 'I don't feel like saying this.' My responses e.g. 'what would your character say?' were met with 'I don't know.'

As a director, I've seen some diva-ish behaviour but ultimately, they've come around and what's more, they want to do more with me. Helps that I have a couple of high profile film fests behind me etc... but that's just more of a 'genuine' confidence thing.

I don't know how you get it done but that's just how I do it. Oh, and I listen to other, more experienced people.

This is how I am on set:
I use my natural charisma to lead me on set. I joke around, tell stories. And I don't talk unless I have to. I am collaborative and I will listen to ideas. But I am serious and I will show that side of me when need be. I don't play games. I am about the work. That's my racing/sports background. There are only a few times where I have to actually show a different side though. You have to keep people on their toes so that they really don't know who you are. My size also just commands respect (six foot tall black man)

Example: I had a neighbor playing music during a scene. I ran up to this dude and started yelling at him after I went up nicely and he just shut the door on me. Up until that point the only person I had yelled at was the DP (on the phone weeks ago) I hadn't raised my voice at all. That changed the tone a little bit. I was still able to joke around and stuff. But people saw that I can be nice, but I can be tough when I need to be. And when I grew tired of the DP's passive aggressive games (I was doing the right thing at first with just letting him whine and talk and not letting it affect me. But it was time to say something). Once I called him out in front of everyone and after that the way he changed the way he was acting for sure.

Life is one big power struggle whether you want to agree to it or not. Being a director is tough because you have to be brutal, cut throat, a little hardcore. But nice, democratic, and etc. It's all about balance.
 
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I had a female musician refuse to do anything I told her for the music video so I let my assistants take charge of the whole thing and sat back and laughed as it went to shit.

In future i pick actors/actresses who aren't dicks or divas, the best way to avoid these problems is thorough casting and having pre-meet ups drinks of coffee etc this way you get to know them.
 
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You have to keep people on their toes so that they really don't know who you are. My size also just commands respect (six foot tall black man).........

................And when I grew tired of the DP's passive aggressive games............

Sounds like you are playing games yourself.
But it sounds like it fits your view and it has sort of worked for you.
We're all free to see the world as we want to see it, (as long as you don't cause harm deliberately*) and free to disagree :)

I never (dis)respected anyone based on how tall or old (s)he is.

PS.
6 foot is just below average height in The Netherlands :P

(*This is just my opinion, but certain worldviews are harmful, because violence and suppression are core ingredients, like nazism or stalinism)
 
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