In front of the camera; A brief and useful guide for a stage performer.
The vast majority of the actors we work with have stepped fresh off the stage and in front of our cameras and are usually startled at the difference we are expecting from them. It can be quite a leap and requires a completely different set of skills and acting techniques.
Being from a theatre acting background we pride ourselves on directing our actors through the transition and realising their true potential in front of the camera but in case you’re not as fortunate and you are placed in front of a director with little to no patience for such lessons here are a few handy tips to help you on the day;
Continuity; repetition is key
Don’t change your moves mid shoot, the editor will hate you!
The reality of acting for camera is repetition, repetition, repetition! In order to get all the shots needed you will be required to perform the same section or scene multiple times over; get your moves right and stick to them! If you scratch your nose while delivering a line on the first take you better remember to do the same for every take with the same hand, same finger, same place on the nose, same amount of milliseconds and place your hand back in the same place every damn time!
It’s in the eyes!
The camera picks up on everything, even the most subtle of eye movements, and the audience will be able to tell where you are looking. Keep your eyes trained and focused on certain points and avoid moving them round unnecessarily; there’s few things more off putting then an actor with wondering eyes! It may be a nervous trait for you but it just makes what your character is saying seem insincere and can pull focus on you all for the wrong reasons.
Know your space
Is it a close up, mid or a wide shot? Will you be seen if you lean a centimetre to the left?
Usually you will be told this before the camera starts rolling but if not, just ask! Don’t be afraid to ask where your limits are! In addition to this most directors like to do ‘over the shoulder shots’ where the camera may show the back of your head and shoulder focusing on the other actor, why am I mentioning this? Well this can feel extremely unnatural as in more cases then none you will be positioned in a different place and told to keep as still as possible, it is important to not let this put you off and stay in character while delivering your lines the same as you have been doing.
Don’t be selfish
When the camera is not on you but on your fellow actor, stay in character, give them something rich to act against, something to bounce off and they will return the favour. I hope you already do this on stage; stay in character and listen while your fellow actors are delivering their lines, but some actors break character when they know the camera is not on them, DON’T! Stay in character!
OK let me explain; always try, always do your best but don’t look like you're trying! There is no back row to project your performance to, so calm it down, subtlety is your friend. Rein it back! But reining it back doesn’t mean your volume, there may be a boom mic inches away from your face but you must still project, let the sound operator worry about noise levels. To sum up; less in the face and body, the same as usual in the volume of your voice.
Be prepared to be unprepared
Again; this isn’t the theatre where you would have months of rehearsals before opening night! This is the screen, there may be a minute blocking before the shoot, there may be no instruction at all and you’re just thrown in front of the camera (some directors like to see you get it wrong first so they have a clearer idea of how to tell you the correct way). Be prepared, be ready!
Now you are all ready for your first take! “Silence on set please! Lights, sound rolling, camera rolling, scene 1 take 1, pause for focus... and action...”
For any further questions or to book a showreel bespoke to you simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org