Thursday, November 14, 2013

Acting for the Camera and My Path into Filmmaking

For the entire span of human history (minus the last 100 years or so) acting has been a live performance in front of large audiences. It requires projection of the voice, dancing around, singing, and whatever else the production calls for. Countless hours are spent rehearsing for just a few hours of performance at the end.

Any of us that signed up to be in our school plays understand how this works. Most of us try a couple shows to fill some time, try something new, or meet some new people. Fore some reason, perhaps it was because of my distaste for sports, I went hardcore with school plays. 12 productions over those 4 years in high school. That's not including the shows I did before hand and the summer-stock theater I worked at. In total, I entered college with over 45 productions of acting experience. Convinced I knew a substantial amount about acting, I auditioned for student films with confidence. I was accepted into a lot of roles so I thought I was doing great, but looking at those films now I realize the truth... HOLY CRAP I SUCKED.

Here's me senior year of high school... being super dramatic while caught up in the emotions of a song:

And here's me in a student film last year... still very dramatic. Granted I was playing a drunk character at the time, but I'm giving it a theater-quality energy which is unneeded when the camera (aka the audience) is only a few feet away. 

In class we recently watched a video where Michael Caine gave the low down on film acting. I remember watching this video last year when I found it posted on I remember being completely inspired by what he had to say. It really drew me in to the art of acting for film. It's incredibly harder then acting on stage because it focuses on the subtleties.  My favorite quote from everything he had to say:

"Theater acting is an operation with a scalpel, movie acting is an operation with a laser."

There's many other differences between the two also. There isn't a lot of rehearsal with film acting. You run the scene a few times and then you do it... the rest of the work comes from whatever talent you've already established. That's why I dub film acting: "AP Acting". Because it really is. It requires so much more (and yet, really, so much less) then acting in theater. It's hard to make that transition and it's probably going to take me several more years to really get the hang of it. 

The good news is that in the midst of all these discoveries, I found out I love making films too. Now, I find myself as the director of photography for a film. I've completely changed the side of the camera I'm on. It's new, but I love it. 

Moral of the story:
For anyone that has chosen to stay one side of the camera or the other, I urge you to try the other side of it. It's an incredibly new perspective and it will make you a better filmmaker or actor without a doubt. Now that I understand the technicalities of filmmaking, I better understand what is required when I put on a character in front of the camera. By going into filmmaking with a strong understanding of the actors perspective, I know how to get a quality performance out of an actor and I know what a captivating story requires. 

Michael Caine's video can be seen here. 

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