Let me tell you how to run

Two questions that might have surprising answers:    How would you describe the motion of your feet when you run?    Have you ever actually looked at your feet whilst running?

  I'm currently working on a commercial for VIbram FiveFingers shoes and these questions came up during filming yesterday. As a lifelong runner I have had a handful of informed guides watch and analyze the way my legs, ankles and feet interact with the ground when I run. I have studied different schools of thought regarding optimal impact techniques and as a result I am both aware of my feet and in control of what they do whilst running.

ImageFast forward to yesterday when I have an actress performing a relatively straightforward task: running. I set up the camera and give her a mark and she needs to run through hitting that mark half a dozen times. Easy enough. What I didn't anticipate was that describing to her the way I want her foot to move in that split second that her foot is in frame would be so difficult. The impact can bean arresting or a gripping impact. The stance adjusts the angle of the ankle and therefore the composition of that fleeting moment of impact. The follow-through can be active, with the front of the foot activating and pushing forward, or it can be passive, with the forward momentum of the body pulling the foot forward and the knee lifting the foot off the ground.

Variations in this complex set of variable fundamentally change the feel of the shot and I found myself unprepared to describe how the shots I was getting deviated from my goal. Re-shoots are a must, but looking through the shots back in the studio really made me think about the kinds of skills necessary to elicit a performance from actors. I'm just talking about running in my case, but it definitely gives me a new appreciation for directors who can transmit an idea in their head to a scene full of actors and make the magic happen. Props.