Today I would like to talk about the craft of screen acting. Screen Acting is a wonderful way to make a living. There are many actors who train via acting schools who teach many different techniques. However, so many of them do not effectively train actors for the screen. Screen Acting Techniques tend to get short shrift. I believe there is a primary reason for this oversight.
Once one becomes a film maker and an actor becomes a Screen Actor, the realisation arises that movies are the primary creative domain of the Director and the Editor. Literally, the Director and the Editor make the film.
However, many other departments contribute to the building blocks of the film. Makeup, Production Design, the Cinematographer, the Gaffer and the Sound Recordist to mention a few, contribute to the Director’s vision and the material that the Editor has to make a film a reality. One can learn all about these areas on the wonderful 4 Month Film Production Course.
One of the most important contributors is the Screen Actor. The audience only relates to the Screen Actors. They are emotionally moved by their attachment to the actor or so they feel. In reality, the Screen Actor is only one contributor. However, if their contribution is below par, the film will flop. Bad screen acting and poorly prepared actors will destroy a film production, no matter how good the script, the Director, the Editor and all the other contributors are. That is why Casting is such an important directing skill.
Screen Actors can act without effective screen direction from the inexperienced director. However, the film will suffer from this neglect. Films that do well critically generally have an effective Director and Screen Actor relationship. The Director focuses and pushes the actors to their absolute best as an actor.
They help the actor soar to an award winning performance. For a director to do this, they need to understand the craft of screen acting intimately. They need to know and recognise brilliant performances and be able to push to the limit what they need from the screen actor. In the end, the final edited screen performance is created from numerous different shots and from different takes, filmed at different times.
The Screen Actor depends on the Director to guage their performance and to tell the story as effectively as they can. A great editor with a director’s vision will elevate the performance higher in the editing room. They can only do this if they have choice from all the coverage shot during the shoot.
It is paramount that the screen actor and the director learn Screen Acting. That is why I have created the Screen Acting Course with Dominic McDonald. I always look long and hard for our instructors and Dominic is one of the best. I have included his bio at the end of the post.
Here are some of the basic Screen Acting Skills that one should learn.
- Look at the very best actors on the screen. They never blink. Michael Caine wrote a whole chapter on this one Screen Acting Skill in his wonderful book back in the ’80s . Do not blink in the Close Up. This will dramatically improve screen presence.
- You only need to be on when the camera is rolling. Do everything to save your energy for when the camera is rolling. On professional film sets, there is a reason for Actor Trailers and Stand-ins. These elements save the energy of the actor so that they are totally on when the camera is shooting. If you find a film shoot is poorly organised and your energy is being drained away on set, insist on the director and the producer using stand-ins and that you are away from the set when shots are being set up.
- As a Screen Actor, do not waste all your energy on the wide shot. Wide Shots are usually shot first and tend to take the longest as blocking and other issues are ironed out. Some actors give it their all in earlier takes and find that they have nothing left for the all important close ups. Keep your main intensity for you Close ups .They are in 80% of the finished film.
These are just three of the many screen acting techniques that one can learn. By learning these and many other techniques and by practicing them on the Screen Acting Course, you will improve dramatically your skills.
Till next time
Colm O’Murchu – Owner and Director of the Independent Film Centre