Have just been reading what’s available online on advice on how to act in front of camera and am amazed at what sheer dross there is! I can only presume drama schools don’t want you to know these since you’d never know how easy quality acting really is and so you wouldn’t bother wasting an awful lot of money and time going off pretending to be an elephant and so on!
This is based on 25 years of directing actors, including 3 feature films, the TV series The Bill and probably the most relevant to actors trying to find their feet in front of camera, setting up The Actors One-stop Shop including the shot-from-scratch arm which in just a few hours makes actors look like they’ve got full screen credits under their elbows.
Here’s my top eleven tips then (it was going to be 5 but I kept on thinking of more things!):
- What’s good acting and bad acting?
A lot of actors feel if they practice one technique or another, and if it’s well away from what they are naturally, or the last role they played, or they’re doing it in an accent they’ve never done before it’s good acting. Bollocks. It’s very simple: If it’s interesting it’s good acting, if it’s boring it’s bad acting. Think about it, the viewer doesn’t care how clever you’ve been, they go to the piccies to enjoy themselves and if all you can do is make them look at their watches it’s bad acting.
- Don’t feel the director will tell you all the motions you have to do.
Move around as you feel you naturally want to do, a director may demonstrate the sort of thing he/she’d like but it’s up to you to make it work for you – everyone does things in different ways, try and do it like the director and it’ll look awkward and unnatural.
- Don’t listen to all that drama school bullshit about how you can’t move around in front of camera.
You can – if it gets OTT the director will let you know. The crew are there to capture your performance so they’ll adapt what they have to do to do that rather than the other way around.
- If you want to get a script to feel natural take it outside.
Doing run throughs whilst walking along a street will really work.
- Use your body gain energy in performance.
Often filming is very slow. Particularly with dark scene shooting, and action shooting it can take a long time to set things up. Naturally then you’ve almost gone to sleep by the time the shoot takes place. A good solution is to jump up and down, do press-ups just before the shot to switch yourself back on. Don’t feel shy about it the rest of the cast and crew will thank you for being able to nail the shot the director wants in just a take or two rather than 20! It makes you look very confident which means the director will feel confident in you.
- Don’t just rush into motion which the director calls action.
Count to four first, take a deep breath and prepare yourself. Like wise at the end don’t just switch off at the final line.
- If you’re a bit smaller than your co-actor then don’t look to their eyes but instead look to their chin (or lower)
That way when it’s it’s cut together you won’t appear that much shorter than them!
- When the camera’s on you don’t feel rooted to the spot if by accident the other actors masks you.
With your periphery vision you can tell if the camera can see you or not just gently move so the camera can see you again. Don’t at the end of the shot just have a go at the other actor or ask for markers to be put down – both of these options will compromise your performance.
- Don’t rehearse to buggery.
If you over rehearse the lines with someone or a friend in excess you’ll compromise your flexibility so when you get on set you won’t be able to adapt to what your real co-star is doing.
- Don’t act only when you’re saying your lines.
Listen to your co-star and react to what they’re saying.
- Don’t look at the script and analyse it expecting it to tell you what the character is.
You’re the actor, decide what you want the character to be and adapt the script (in how you say lines, not changing the lines).