“In the Summers” Film: Reflections From Set

In the Summers film Heidi Marshall On-Set Acting Coach

I was sitting down to write an email to my community of actors when I got the news: IN THE SUMMERS film had won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic Competition at Sundance 2024.

I served as on-set acting coach for the lead actor on this film alongside my partner in art and life, Johnny Sanchez. My heart was brimming with tears. Pride. Joy.

What a journey it has been with this film. From premiering at Sundance, to winning the Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic Competition, to playing at Tribeca in the Narrative Spotlight, this beautiful story directed by Alessandra Lacorazza has taught me so much and has a special place in my heart. I’ll tell you what I took away from it all!


Heidi Marshall Acting Coach In the Summers film set


The Curveball for Our Lead Actor 


If you want to know how to act “naturally,” then act opposite a young kid actor! 


Nothing that a kid does or says will be the exact same in each take. They play! They prod you! They respond frankly to you! They are what adult actors aim for—being in the moment. I adore watching how young actors revitalize and bring to life adult actors in fresh ways.

In the summer of 2023, I was an on-set acting coach for the lead adult actor, and wow, we had an incredible learning experience working opposite kids! This film, IN THE SUMMERS, follows a father and his two daughters over five summers in a span of about 10 years. Story-wise, the daughters begin at ages 10 and 12, and then age into their 20s throughout the story.


I was coaching only for one of the adult actors, Grammy-winning René Perez, aka Residente from Calle 13. This film was René’s acting debut, and he is phenomenal. I never make an actor great. I just find the greatness in the actor. Then, I add some tools of craft, shape the performance alongside the actor, let it roll, and watch it unfurl on camera!

With René, I used all of my favorite personal tools to analyze script and character, craft an arc, build confidence, and reinforce instincts.


Now, here’s the curveball that René, a first-time actor, had to contend with: kid actors!


Rene Perez Residente In the Summers film


These kids are wonderful actors. Why? What makes them so wonderful? They know how to play and keep it fresh in each take! They kept René on his toes! (Alumni of my classes know how much I love to keep y’all on your toes!)


Here was the obstacle. These kids had so much energy. Until…they didn’t. 


When the hours get late, the day turns into night, then they are unsurprisingly exhausted. So you can begin to imagine how this played out when we had late night or overnight shoots!

One of my favorite memories from IN THE SUMMERS film is when we were shooting overnight outside a taco joint and the youngest kid was literally falling asleep in between takes. We were all doing everything we could to keep them alert and remember their lines. These kids were falling over into their sodas and tacos.


Now, here is where the real acting lesson for the ADULT ACTOR begins.


Our lead actor was a pro. When the camera rolled, he was so extremely attentive to his “kids” that they were essentially nudged to be alert. His focus on them was so direct and intentional. He was really helping them through some of the hardest hours. He was a brilliant scene partner.

Maybe you aren’t acting opposite a young actor, but you can take the lesson from them.


Here are some pro tips that adult actors can learn working with kid actors! (The kids won’t let you not do these things.)

  • Be present with your scene partner.
  • Throw your scene partner new ideas each take.
  • Have fun.
  • Let the scene roll, don’t try to control it.

These are all the qualities that I not only work with actors on set to master, but also in my on-camera classes and coaching! 😉


In the Summers film Sundance Heidi Marshall and Johnny Sanchez


Watching “In the Summers” Film at Sundance


At Sundance, our cast and crew sat watching with great feelings and anticipation for the film that we had spent six intense weeks filming in the blazing heat of southern New Mexico. Being on set in the thick of the work is often very different from watching the final result. That was true for this film too!


Films change so much from script to final edit.


Every script is “revised” in the edit. In fact, the structure and the character arcs can often change completely. And our film definitely evolved throughout the edit phase since production! This normal process of refining your film is something I describe in detail in Part 1 class so that actors fully understand what directors need from actors. (Hint: directors need actors who can roll with the changing circumstances throughout filming!)


  • Writing the film is the earliest phase.
  • Auditioning for the film is one phase.
  • Making the film is another phase.
  • Editing the film is the next phase.
  • Watching it in front of an audience is the final (shocking) phase.


When you are auditioning, it is only one fraction of the process of making the project. 


Auditioning isn’t even the most important phase! The phases are all crucial and completely interdependent on each other.

You can release yourself from pressure by acknowledging that auditioning is only one piece of the puzzle. Your audition is an offering to the team of how they might build their vision. It is never the final result, nor is it the one answer that will be set in stone.


Your ideas for your character in an audition are simply jumping-off points for the creative team. Why? Because it will all change.


Everything changes throughout the entire process. Everything. Script. Performances. Creative vision. Logistics. Vision. Aesthetics. All of it will change. Because making art is fluid.

This experience with IN THE SUMMERS film has been unforgettable. My wish, dear actors, is that you jump into your next project with hope, optimism, and an openness to the joyful fluidity of artmaking.



P.S. Actors…let’s bring this approach into your audition prep and approach to acting on film. I teach from decades of understanding what the end goal is for filmmakers. Actors have to get out of their own perfectionist ways to really be able to craft and intuitively deliver when they’re hired. I will open up this window for you so that you can create a pathway to being a nuanced and crafted actor on set. Check out my classes!


If you’re looking for inspiration before you commit to training with me, check out my free mini e-book: How to Lure Reps & Casting Directors to You!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *