5 Ways To Get Your Acting Footage Back From Film Directors

Every actor has had this experience. The experience where you work really hard (and often overnight) for many many days (and usually for free, or for less than free, because they didn’t even supply biscuits) in the belief that they will, at the very least, give you a film at the end.

And if they don’t give you the film, maybe they’ll give you a few of the scenes. And if not the scenes, maybe a few of your takes. And if not your takes, maybe just ONE take. Or a SCREENSHOT! Anything? No?

Unfortunately, after shooting the films, many directors disappear. Where to? Nobody quite knows. Maybe to Paris. It’s a mystery.

Me filming a project (I moved to Nigeria the next day and haven't been heard from since)

The poor actors, unfortunately, look back over a five year period and where they should have amassed a giant heap of footage from 22 short films, instead end up with only one semi-broken DVD where most of the footage is out of focus and the lip-sync is unfortunately so far behind that it can in fact be found in the prequel.

SO WHAT TO DO? How to get the footage you need? Here are my five ideas.

1. Reverse Psychology.

At the BEGINNING of the project. Tell the director that you absolutely, positively, DO NOT ever want them to finish the film. Tell them you are acting in their project solely because you expect it to never be completed. Explain that, within a month or two of shooting, they should disappear and stop returning your emails.

This is using ‘The Opposite’ technique, made famous by Seinfeld. If you do the opposite of what you normally do, then you should get the opposite outcome.

2. Give The Director a Taste of Their Own Medicine – Deliver Your Performance Two Years Late.

When the director yells ‘Action!’, sit entirely still for two years. Do not say any of the lines. If they call ‘cut’ and ask what you’re doing, refuse to respond. If they continually ask you to act, tell them you are busy and will respond “in a month of two”.

3. Bring a Laptop and Memory Card To Back Up The Files

50% of the time, when an actor doesn’t get any of the material back, it’s because the director, completely accidentally of course, lost the material due to a freak and irreversible hard-drive failure.

Solve this on the day! Offer to back up the material yourself, on your own hard-drive, just in case.

This has two uses. Firstly, it means you have all of your work the day it is filmed.

Secondly, should the director need your back-up drive, you can ignore them for seven months.

4. Try to Lower The Director’s Enthusiasm During Production.

Most director’s think they’re Tarantino. You sit in Starbucks with them a few weeks before filming and they’re full of it — they’re wearing distinct, hip-but-edgy clothes (with sunglasses) and they’re using enthusiastic hand-gestures, yelling out words like “film festivals” and “new paradigm for indie features,” and then they shoot the movie.

And the movie blows. The camera work sucks and they forget to record sound.

Suddenly the budding-Tarantino is nowhere to be found. You’re stuck with a stressed and bearded hipster who’s thinking of taking his own life.

And that’s why he never finishes the edit and you never get your material – because the ego has been blown to smithereens and the only way to survive is to pretend the project never existed.

So you need to play things down from the very beginning. When the director talks about screening at a festival, offer to exhibit it at your Grandmother’s house instead. Gently ween them away from egotism, and they will feel less of a fall after their masterpiece fails.

And then maybe, just maybe, they may edit the thing after-all.

5. Tell Them You’re Related To The Exec Producer of ‘Breaking Bad’.

This is the opposite of number 4. Here you are giving them a goal to work towards. The director’s ego is CONVINCED that he/she is the greatest filmmaker of all time. They are sure that the only reason they haven’t made it yet is because the right people haven’t seen it.

So you find the name of the guy who runs a cool show and then you tell them you can “get it in front of them”. If you’re feeling confident, say “but only if it’s in the next three months before he starts working on a new show.”

This will hopefully kick your director into gear.

When the project is done and you safely have the material, you can get out of this by explaining that you were mistaken. That your relative was actually a producer on the 1929 Mannus Franken film ‘Breaking’, and that all of the cast and crew are now, unfortunately, dead.

Hope this helps!

Email Me: dj@danieljohnsonfilms.co.uk.

Tweet Me: @danieljohnsonuk

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