There are many important aspects in the acting performance behind a film or a TV screen that have nothing to do with artistic performance. These points mark a big difference between professional actors with amateurs and they’re crucial for the efficiency in the shooting. Efficiency=time=money. In brief, experienced actors can be “cheaper” than non-experienced ones cause they now better how to deal with the shooting “inconveniences”, therefore perform longer time, make less mistakes and have a much better rate of successful takes.
Regardless of the artistic talent, a “screen” actor needs to be able to get focused in multiple things added to the performing so, real strength of mind is required. On this post I will try to list some of those aspects the better I can and make some suggestions about how to cope better with that really hard job.
“Technical” movements: Dividing the mind
Because of the light position, the microphone position and of course because the camera position it is very common you have to readapt your movements in the performance according to those artificial elements just to facilitate the technical process. Professional actors are used to receive many orders or restrictions about the way they have to move (technically) at the very same time they are getting instructions about their artistic performance. An outstanding performance where half of the head is cut off from the screen because the actor went 20 centimeters further than he should go is useless.
My Advice: The better you know the screenplay and the way you are going to move the easier and naturally you’ll be able to change it on the go.
Rehearse the scene and connect your lines and even other actor lines with your movements and then you’ll be able to adapt them to the technical requirements smoothly. If you study the scripts in the last moment or roughly the new instructions will be distractions and you probably be confused and blunder in front of everyone spoiling many takes.
Repeating lines again and again: Buddhist patience
If you have prepared your lines and performance properly you may “only” need to repeat about three-four times the same take… being optimistic. However, there are always technical issues that can make those repetitions increase so you have to be prepared to repeat many, many times when problems come, and they use to come.
There are also different takes of the same scene from different angles, specially in dialogs and face to face so with other actors, you can find yourself repeating the same line more times than you can count.
My advice: You need to be patient as a monk priest, spend your energy wisely. I suggest not to start with too much passion the first take because it is very likely to have issues… be aware of when the shooting is going smooth and in which shots you are important and you want to give that 100% performance, it’s useless to break your throat crying if only your shoulder is on the screen, isn’t it?
Keeping the position between takes: Zazen
After being repeating lines and getting focused in many scenic and non scenic issues, when “finally”! the shot is done, it’s very easy to get relaxed and change the body position or move around… but unfortunately for actors you may not. If next shot has continuity with the last one, that actor body position and lights position over the actor sure they need to remain the same. Also, if you are interacting with another actor you both need to keep the stance by all means. This is really a Zazen trial at times.
My advice: It’s crucial to keep the focus in the screenplay and what you are going to perform next. The more focused you are in the doing your job, the more you forget about the discomfort, also the chances of finishing the job faster will get increased.
Forgiving other’s mistakes
Real shooting is very often like sailing a storm of problems, and things can get really ugly… but remember directors, technical and production staff are very aware of all you do, so try to be positive to help the boat to reach port. If you lose your patience or focus cause other actors or technical problems, you’ll give a poor impression as professional and your performance will lose too.
My Advice: Be aware a shooting as an extremely hard long marathon and be mentally prepare to endure. Reliability in actors is a quality even more precious than acting performance. We can afford to change a camera man or a sound technician even a Director of Photography in half of a project, but changing an actor would be a disaster.
Acting for the screen is also hard because you can find yourself performing “alone” in a cold environment lacking of a nice scenario or other characters to support you… and for worse, surrounded by “alien” elements and people that have nothing to do with the story… even working with just a sad “chroma” green screen behind where the nice landscape will be added later. They are also long stops and constant disruptions in the performance so keeping the focus is very difficult. This is one reason cause many awesome theater actors give up in performing for the screen. But on the other hand, once is there it’s there forever like an eternal artwork…
My Advice: This is another reason why I recommend actors to do self-rehearsals. Practicing scenes alone will help you to develop your imagination, you won’t need other actors and cool scenarios to motivate you what also means you won’t get distracted if they fail. Rehearsal in public places will make you able to get focus in your performance, overcome shyness and ignore distractions.
The more projects you participate in the better you learn to deal with the work issues, develop a strong multitasked mind and enjoying the performance part.
Actors who perform in drama soaps get amazing “technical” performance levels cause deal with these situations every day. But if you can’t get a role on those or other payed roles, just try to join as many short films as you can. Also working in the technical areas and even creating your own video projects will help you to understand how to perform better.
Good acting and screen efficient acting are not the same, and accomplish both is an extremely difficult task only with effort you can achieve.