THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STAGE AND FILM ACTING, PART 2

The tone and mood of any particular stage performance can be affected by events ranging from politics to the weather to the local sports teams results to the stock market that day. Again, this can be all right, as long as it’s recognized by the actors, his fellow cast members, the director and so on.

Compare that to the film actor experience, where the shots are usually made completely out of sequence, in order to accommodate lighting needs, actor convenience, etc. A high premium is placed on the film actor’s exact duplication of his/her body position, voice inflection, etc., so that different parts from each “take” of the shot can be intercut. And there is no audience there responding to the actor’s effort.

This ability to duplicate is a reason why athletes and dancers often make excellent transitions to film actors. They are excellent as athletes because they can and do duplicate their body positions as well as their intent from moment to moment. This is a highly valuable skill, and really pays off when they’re performing on screen.

Therefore, overall, the stage actor conceives of a role to be delivered in one continuous moment, and the exact elements of that delivery may vary from performance to performance, but must remain integrated internally.

The screen actor must conceive of an overall embodiment, which must not vary, lest it drive directors, editors, sound recordists, and the like nuts–and they must be able to plug into this concept at a moment’s notice, and in any part of the script.

Now, why IS so much “value” placed on the film actor? The medium of film is VERY expensive to produce. Investors like to have SOMEthing of predictable value to assure that at least some of their money will come back. Actors are the most recognized individuals involved in making a film. And many actors build up a following–these are known as actors that can “open” a film (meaning, audiences will attend just to see that person perform).

Occasionally, a director may achieve that status (Alfred Hitchcock, George Lucas, and a handful of others), but the most commonly asked question by investors AND audiences is: who’s in it? So, an actor can have an economic value which can allow a film to get made, or permit it to succeed financially. My purpose in pointing out these variables is to assist you with realizing that when you’re auditioning for a stage role, you must be quite aware of the “through-line” of the character and prepare for that. However, when you’re auditioning for a film role, more than the continuity of performance is the overall “presence” or “beingness” that you’re presenting.

Though these skills have some relationship, one to the other, they have significant differences.

I hope the tips provided will enable you to be excellent, whether on stage or screen. Each is driven by the end result for which you’re going–the embodiment (making visible) of roles. That is the contribution of that most unique being–the ACTOR. It is the actor who brings alive the persona/character/role envisioned by the writer and interpreted by the director with his lighting, camera moves and editing.

Movie-goers seek to know why a person reacts the way he does, and what the consequences are of his choices. Actors, for theatre and film, are the most visible creative contributors. Their willingness to create roles from which we can be educated, entertained and enlightened is invaluable. I hope the comments above increase understanding of their unique form of work.

One Response to “THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STAGE AND FILM ACTING, PART 2”

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  1. Mary Billings says:

    Do you people have a facebook fan page? I looked for one on twitter but could not discover one, I would really like to become a fan!

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