Friday, July 1, 2011

Movie Acting and Theatre Acting

What are the differences between acting for the camera and acting on stage? On stage an actor has to be big. On stage an actor looks small, so the actor has to reach the back of the theatre, to the last seat in the house to be heard. Visually their movements must be big. They must be 'on' for the entire time they are onstage. When they are speaking, they must cheat out towards the audience to be seen and heard. I have a little demonstration video that shows the differences.

Acting for the camera involves stillness. Every movement is magnified. In film, when 24 frames/second are used, any sudden movements can be jarring. An eye blink can send audience members into nausea. There is a narrow vocal range, compared to the stage, for film actors. The sound is edited into a narrow decibel range.

Onstage, you need to be loud. In film-no. 

Acting for film usually involves a bunch of takes of a particular scene. They are usually short, and your best acting bit will not likely be used. The reason for this is that there are so many variables affecting the shot, that it is likely how you look in a particular clip as opposed to your acting.

In stage acting, you need to know the whole play if you have a lead. Having a lead in film means a bunch of unconnected scenes. On stage you would have one chance that night. Your focus for two hours has to be very strong. You have to remember a lot of lines and deal with the mistakes that invariably occur during a performance. 

If you make a mistake or someone else does in filming, the director will just reshoot.

One thing that film and stage acting have in common, is that the actor usually has to 'face out' when delivering lines. In film the camera will acts as the audience, and the angle is shot from where the audience would be. On stage, the audience is the camera, and since they can't move, the actor has to cheat towards them when delivering lines.

In both medium, the audience wants to see the actor's face. They don't want to see the back of their heads because the back of people's heads are usually not very entertaining. 

There are obviously many more differences and similarities, but I thought it would be interesting to give a demonstration of a monologue by Shakespeare. One delivered for the stage and one delivered for film by the same actor. On film, stage acting looks very exaggerated. On stage, film acting looks very boring. But the techniques and art of stage acting is much easier to transfer to film than the other way around.  It is always easier to pull it back than to ramp it up. 

Film is the director's medium with the actor only one small part of the process. On stage the actor has a much bigger role to play. 

For the actor, film is a series of repetitive sequences of acting. For the actor, stage acting is a rush of excitement for two hours, buoyed by the instant gratification of audience response. There is no audience response in filming. The actor needs to wait months or even years to see themselves in front of an audience. 

On film your performance can be relived again and again. On stage, it is only a memory to those people that were there at that particular time.

Film acting

Theatre acting

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