1. Film Acting and Stage Acting
Almost every actor comes to film acting concerned that before she tackles the world of film and television acting, she must understand the difference between on-camera acting and stage acting. Unless this difference is clear, the actor fears she might go in the direction of a “theatrical” performance, and who wants that. And this concern can outweigh any concern regarding understanding the circumstances of the story or the character. Keeping it real is the battle cry, and that is always synonymous in most actors’ minds with keeping it small and keeping it safe. Oh well.
Now look at the Oscar winning performances of the past 20 years. How many of these characters were just nice, well-behaved folks who were played by actors keeping super still in front of the camera while speaking in calm, considerate voices, with no point of view, wanting very little for themselves or those around them? The answer is, you guessed it – NONE.
Instead we watched our beloved Oscar winners portray desperate prostitutes, dangerous gangsters, gay activists and troubled musicians. What they gave us in their superb film performances was the heart and soul of these characters, and sometimes heart and soul can be loud, aggressive, pensive, and even hysterically funny. And the size of the performance doesn’t matter one bit, as long as it comes from an authentic place. And that’s because what we consider overacting is not so much the SIZE of the performance, but its lack of authenticity.
Point is, film acting and stage acting are identical in that the creative impulse remains unchanged. And so does the quest for character, the moment to moment work, and the need for actors to possess something called an imagination. Yes, there are technical differences, but not anything to worry about. There are things like hitting marks and matching action, but the main difference between acting for the stage and acting for the camera is really just one of logistics. By logistics I mean that in the theater, you go out on stage and for the next two hours or so you do your job. And if you act well, or you act poorly, you’re done at the end of the play. You have to live with your performance as does the audience who has just seen it.
In film, there is a lot of waiting around and doing little snippets, sometimes miniscule snippets of your performance, snippets which will be edited into the final product – a feature film. So while the process of acting is largely the same, you are doing it with sometimes hours of waiting in between, and often out of sequence, meaning that you are not portraying events in the order in which they happen in the story. Also, there is something else in film, which is called “take two”. Meaning that if your director doesn’t like what you did for whatever reason, and it is often not your fault, you go again with your snippet of acting, until he is satisfied, which could mean in some cases, many, many takes.
A final word of advice: acting is acting, so spend your time learning to do it well, on or off camera, because the rest is just icing on the cake.