Landing the Role of Kate

A chronicle of my actventures

Acting in Film: Breaking It Down Part 2

As mentioned in part 1 of the series, I’m going to give chapter-by-chapter reviews of the acting books that Trisha gave me to read. I was going to skip ahead to the one about cold readings, but since I’m on audition hiatus at the moment, I’m continuing on with Michael Caine’s book.

So, here is part 2 of the Michael Caine’s Acting in Film: An Actor’s Take on Movie Making breaking it down* series. I’m covering chapter 2 today. Read about it after the cut.

Chapter 2: Preparation

The main message of this chapter is that you have to prepare for your role before arriving on set. His take away quote is:

You’re your first best audience long before anybody else hears you. So don’t be an easy audience. Keep asking for more.

He suggests to learn your lines alone and not with someone else reading the other part(s). This way you can learn it as dialogue and not cues. His main point is that when you’re speaking your lines in a performance, you’re speaking with the other character. This means that you have to listen to the other person and you have to know your lines inside out so that it becomes second nature to say them, as if you are thinking them up as you go.

He also suggests to say your lines outloud in the full voice and emotion that you intend to use while shooting. That way you can not only play around with how something sounds, but you also won’t scare yourself when you finally do say it out loud.

The part I enjoyed most from this chapter was the section on thought recognition. He sums it up with this line and example:

Thoughts don’t leap to the mouth automatically. We don’t interrupt at every occasion when a thought formulates itself; or, if we do, we don’t have many friends.


Other actor: I’ve got to get a bus to Clapham—I’m already late for my date.
You: You won’t get far. There’s a bus strike.

He explains that the word “bus” triggers your thought, but that you don’t interrupt the other actor even though you know what you’re going to say (meaning you’ve formulated that thought, not memorized the line). Caine doesn’t directly say this, but I think that in real life people’s expressions change once they’ve resolved what they’re going to say next in a conversation. They go from listening to the other person to waiting for her to quit talking so that they can talk. At least in an example like the one above.

Here’s a list of tips given throughout the chapter:

  • Learn all your lines before filming because you never know when you will have to do a scene, even if you already have the schedule, schedules change.
  • Take advantage of down time on set to practice. Don’t oversocialize (though some is necessary so you’re not that guy who talks to no one). Don’t work on other ventures, and if you are, perhaps you should be doing those ventures instead of acting.
  • Imagine the set and props at home and do your own blocking. Usually you’ll end up being pretty close to the actual set/props they’ve created.
  • When you practice gestures, keep them simple so you can reproduce them easily for continuity.
  • Create more than one approach to a line. Choose your favorite and go with that in the first take, but if the director doesn’t like it, you’ll already have back-ups ready to go.
  • Practice, practice, practice


*I’d like to mention that the phrase “breaking it down Vanity Fair style” may as well be a trademarked phrase coined by UnintendedChoice and themoonisdown over on LTT/LTR. I like to think that imitation is the highest form of flattery (plus I know they won’t care that I reused their phrase).


January 19, 2010 - Posted by | Acting in Film by Michael Caine, Observations | , , , , , , ,


  1. Good summary. Good tips if I ever plan on going into acting! I like the thoughts about how you already know what your going to say but you just wait for the other person to finish! Thats so true! I should work on listening the whole time instead of thinking what I want to say next! :-)

    Comment by Rachel B | January 19, 2010 | Reply

    • hehe, i thought the same thing.

      Comment by lorenagay | January 19, 2010 | Reply

  2. when i read this the other day i couldn’t think of anything relavent to add… but today i just want to suggest that you look in to getting a work permit for Vancouver. some info i read this morning leans toward discussions not baised in WA. that will stink for you. apparently after the Olympics the plans will be heavily underway. would you be able to do that?

    Comment by ambushed by twilight | January 20, 2010 | Reply

    • Not sure, maybe a Canadian will marry me? What is your source for this?

      Comment by lorenagay | January 20, 2010 | Reply

  3. don’t count on the Canadian thing happening… you’re kind of already “attached”, right? but i got the info – yeah, yeah “GOSSIP”, (i know, right?) but she’d actually been spot-on with all the past Twi-related filming details she’s posted before… if her past “correctness” says anything for her future accuracy. i just want you to be prepared… *wink*

    Comment by ambushed by twilight | January 21, 2010 | Reply

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