Todd Bruno shares five acting tips with thespians, and he demonstrates a few of them for the sake of clarity, which is always enlightening and entertaining. Bruno is an actor who is quick to roll up his sleeves and contribute to the movie-making process in any way he can. He’s acted in, produced, written and/or directed over 50 stage plays and 20 low-budget indie films including the action sci-fi short Proximity, the horror thriller feature HazMat, and the short drama Stratagem. The South Florida native graduated from Vanderbilt University as well as The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater in New York. Subsequently, he paired up with filmmaker Ryan Connolly, the creator of the Film Riot, a how-to filmmaking YouTube channel and podcast covering all aspects of movie-making. 

Here are Bruno’s acting tips.

Know your lines

It’s common sense that actors need to memorize and indeed have a strong command of their lines before arriving on set. But unfortunately, there are performers who neglect to commit fully to the task. Not only does this interfere with the pace of the shoot, but it can be disrespectful to the writer whose lines are being delivered carelessly. In turn, Bruno urges actors to learn their lines with precision and if they wish to change any of the words, first speak with the director about it. Also, he suggests actors memorize their lines by rote—that is, without inflection. “That way, you leave yourself free to say them in any number of ways depending on how the scene plays out. It also makes it easier to make adjustments when the director wants something different,” he says.

Manage your time on set

As soon as one scene is shot, Bruno urges actors to immediately focus on preparing for their upcoming scene. Since many films are shot out of sequence, it can take time to fully grasp where the character needs to be in the following scene, both emotionally and within the storyline. Furthermore, the “hurry up and wait” aspect of shoots can throw actors off. At one point, performers are waiting hours for their turn in the spotlight, and just when they let their guard down, they’re being rushed on set for their closeup. “You should have already done your homework so you have specific choices you’ve made for where you are in relation to the other characters, what just happened before the scene starts, and what you’re there to do,” Bruno says. 

Fill every scene

Even though a scene might require a relatively unimportant action such as walking down a hallway or getting on a bus, it can make all the difference when actors “fill up the scene” with meaning and context. Make sure the character is actively thinking and responding to their environment as it pertains to where they just left, where they are currently, and in anticipation of where they will be arriving. “Each scene is in there for a reason. And it’s our job to fill every moment—even the ones that seem meaningless,” Bruno insists.

Take charge of your own continuity

Although the script supervisor is officially in charge of overseeing continuity issues on set, actors should concern themselves with continuity as it pertains to their own character. Bruno demonstrates just how important it is for performers to interact with their props and wardrobe in the exact same way at specific times in the script whether it be taking a puff on a cigarette, tasting a sip of tea, or fastening a seatbelt. Failing to do so renders an otherwise masterful performance useless. To avoid continuity issues, Bruno advises actors to write their actions into the script. He says, “The more we actors can be on top of our own continuity, the happier everyone will be, and the better the chance your best take will end up in the movie—rather than on the cutting-room floor because of some stupid continuity issue.” 

Take direction

It goes without saying that actors must be ready to make adjustments when directed to do so. But expect that some of the time it won’t be clear exactly what the director is asking. In these instances, don’t guess; rather, make sure to ask the director for clarification. And Bruno says when receiving direction such as “be more angry,” think beyond simply changing your character’s mood. “Change the circumstances in your head to a situation that would make you angry. Make yourself believe that situation is real, then play the situation. The anger should come naturally,” he says.

Overall, Bruno insists his goal as an actor is to give the director everything he needs during the shoot so that the editing process can proceed without a hitch—and ultimately the director can create the best film possible. “That’s the kind of attitude that makes people want to work with you again. And that means you’ve got to leave the ego at home and realize it’s not about you. It’s about the project.”