Theatre vs Film Technique
Worst common assumption.
“You have to make your acting smaller for film.”
Audiences for live theater, and concerts, etc. are taking in the whole stage: Actors, sets, lighting, music, ambiance, energy, dialogue, and story all at once. This flooding of the senses over-rides sour notes, flubbed lines, over or under acting. Our brains put everything together to create a “true” image of what we are experiencing. Actors can get away with a little “acting” in theater, although the more intimate the theater the less this is true.
When filming, whether it be for film or television, never be afraid to ask the director, “What is my frame?” The answer is crucial to giving the right performance for the shot.
Actors must fully understand working within the frame to bring the proper values & energy to every shot for the scene. A scene that runs 1 minute on film may require 8 -20 different camera set-ups depending on the number of characters, establishing shots, mid-shots, two-shots, chest-shots, close-ups and coverage angles the director wants for the scene.
Each shot has a different frame and thus requires a different energy and adaption of the blocking, gestures and very specific eye-lines from the actor.
One of the easiest ways to assure your energy and acting is at the proper level is to use your theater training and experience. In a 2,000-seat theater with a 40’ proscenium actors must have the proper energy to project their voices, and create gestures, and blocking that will carry their performance to the last row of the balcony. If that production moves to a more intimate 1000 seat theater with a 30’ proscenium the actors adjust their energy, projection, gestures and blocking to fit the size of the stage and the theater. The same adjustments are made if they do the play in a 500, 299, or 50 seat black box theater. A small Black-box theater requires no projection, less and smaller gestures, and smaller and slower steps for the blocking. When moving between Proscenium, Thrust and Theater-in-the -Round, sight-lines, blocking and the strongest areas of the stage change. These changes must also be accounted for. Experienced theater actors make all these adjustments almost unconsciously based on their training and theater experience. For film they use these same theater skills to adapt to the demands of each camera set-up.
When filming, actors should treat their Frame, and the Camera Angle as the size and type of theater and adjust accordingly. This is one of the reasons most of our great actors have strong theater backgrounds and have no trouble moving between theatre, film and television.
Perhaps, this is why Directors, Producers & Casting Directors look at Training and Theater credits first when looking at a resume. And, why many Film and TV producers instruct casting directors to only bring the English and Australian actors for leading and major supporting roles
Actors from this class have been series regulars on over 100 TV shows, Starred in over 100 Feature Films, Appeared in over 100 Broadway Shows