The assistant director is trying to set up the last of the medical exams for the insurance company (leading cast members are always insured). And I’m making believe I’m listening to everybody, a phony warm smile on my face,  just waiting for the minute hand to reach straight up (the start of the hour) so we can begin the reason for all of this: We’re here to make a movie.

Finally, I can’t wait any longer. It’s still three minutes of, but I glance over to the AD. Nervous, but with a voice filled with authority, he says, “Ladies and gentlemen” – or “Folks” or “Hey, gang” — can we take our seats?”  The tone the AD uses is important. If he sounds like Santa Claus chortling “Ho-ho-ho,”  the actors know that he’s afraid of them, and he’ll have a rough time later. If he sounds pompous and officious , they’ll surely screw him somewhere along the line.  The best are the British ADs. Out of years of English good manners, they go quietly from one actor to the other: “Mr Finney, we’re ready for you now.” “Miss Bergman, if you please.”

The actors gather round the table. I give my first direction to them. I tell them where to sit.

Sidney Lumet, “Making Movies”.

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Chief theatre critic for The Times. Twitter: CliveDavisUK Facebook: Instagram: clivephotos
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