The art of communication is a key factor for any actor.
The art of communication in life can also be game-changing.
Think about it. A question is asked — or let’s say, texted: “Are you okay?” The texted answer is, “No. I hurt.”
Oh my gosh. What does this mean? Your head hurts, your throat hurts, your…what hurts?
If you could hear their voice or see their eyes, you might know that their heart hurts, and this relationship is on its way to a point of no return.
In life, your choice of how to communicate is your choice, and I wish you luck with that in this age of technology.
However, as an actor, it is your responsibility to the writer, to the director, to your fellow actors, to your audience, and to yourself, to communicate the feelings, the motives, the needs of the character you are blessed to be playing.
It’s Only Acting
The terms “over-acting” and “under-acting” are sometimes applied to acting onstage for a live audience.
Really, though, there is no such thing as “over” or “under.” There is only acting. And a moment performed by an actor may be too big or too small if it is not based in the validity of that moment in the play.
Over-acting often comes when an actor is playing to the gallery of the theater, not when he/she is involved with the other actors on the stage. Under-acting is usually just an empty moment of imitation rather than being in the reality of the moment on stage.
In film, those terms are replaced with “truth,” “the reality of the moment,” or just plain “lousy acting.”
If you do not know why your character is here (motive), what he/she wants in this moment (objective), what your defined relationship is to the other character/characters, and your familiarity or unfamiliarity is with this place (location), your dialogue will ring false. We will not believe you.
We may not, as an audience, be able to say why, so we just term it “a bad performance/actor.”
Believe me, the camera will catch the tiniest intention (or lack thereof) unless the editor was able to save the performance.
Which sadly, can be done. It is the editor’s job to give the director and producer a finished film as close to what was intended as possible. And if your performance is not there in the final cut, unfortunately, you may not be in it either. (Or you may be heard and not seen much — over the shoulder shots…lots of them, with close-ups on the other actor.)
I will get into character-building another time.
In the meantime, be aware of not only how you communicate, but how others do so. What is their body language? Do they look you in the eye or look away to answer a question? What does that mean? Are they lying, or are they afraid of showing the truth?
Acting = Setting Yourself Free
The truth makes us all more vulnerable, thus the masks we apply to keep from being vulnerable.
But we pay money to see vulnerability on the screen, so it is necessary to know how to be so if you wish to pursue acting.
Personally, I think it makes your life fuller and richer, more compassionate, more able to be happy and find joy in the small things.
Something else I’ll touch on another time is one of my pet peeves: “expected reactions.”
For now, become acutely aware of how you (and others around you) react to things: bad news, a bee sting, tripping over a curb in public, getting on an elevator filled with people — absolutely everything.
Will you likely find any unusual or unexpected reactions? You bet. And if you’re in character, that reaction could be gold.
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