Written by Jamison Haase, L.A. On-Camera Training Center
If you haven’t noticed… Los Angeles is a film and television town. Hell, that’s why the city was made. But many actors have a problem — most trained heavily as theater actors, and thus received extremely limited experience (if any) working in film prior to coming to Los Angeles. Then, once arriving here, can’t figure out why they’re not booking jobs like they used to in theatre.
You must understand the difference between these mediums, because If you don’t, chances are the only feedback you’ll hear is, “Good, thanks… Next!”
However – if you understand the differences between the two, then you can make CRUCIAL adjustments to your performance and truly shine in your film and television auditions. And that’s how you book.
Differences between Theater and Film/TV
Firstly, and most obviously, there is a huge difference with regards to an actor’s distance to his or her audience. In theater, the audience could literally be hundreds of feet away, and those audience members still need to hear, see, and understand everything that is occurring on stage. But ask yourself, how far away do you sit from your television? Or your computer, when streaming a movie? And a camera can get even closer – think of an extreme close-up – and you’ve come across the first major difference between stage and screen: INTIMACY. You must make one essential adjustment with regards to this fact — your performance on screen MUST be simple, quiet, honest, and subtle. The camera reads thoughts, and will catch any moment that isn’t pure honesty; honesty and subtlety that wouldn’t work in a theater setting, as those moments would simply be lost. Precisely as you’d lose an audience (and a casting director) performing on-camera if you give a theater performance.
In theater, the audience receives information through dialogue. If an actor doesn’t say “I’m feeling/thinking this,” then how would the audience, hundreds of feet away, know that information? Most audience members can’t see that the character’s expression or thought, so that information needs to be stated in order for the audience to know what’s happening. However, in film and television, the story is told with pictures. The actor doesn’t need to tell you what they are thinking or feeling, you can see it on the screen. If you think the thoughts, and experience the emotions of the character, then you don’t need you to state (or telegraph) those thoughts or emotions, we can see them.
This heading refers not to your emotional performance, but your technical performance. While performing in film and television, you have to keep in mind camera placement, where your marks are, the blocking you received only minutes ago, etc — and all of it is imperative. If you slip with regard to just one of those components in a take, the entire cast and crew has to reset and start all over again – because of YOUR mistake. If you don’t exactly hit your spotlight on stage, it’s no big deal, you take a slight step to your right — the audience forgives you, and everyone moves on. Not so on camera. Time is money, and you need to be a professional with the kind of reputation people want to work with, not known as an actor who burns time and money.
Who writes the vast majority of the stage directions in theater? Typically, the Stage Manager. What kind of information you they give you? Usually, it’s information about what the set looked like, or that Character A walked stage right at this moment, etc. But who writes the stage directions in film and television? The screenwriter. They’ll give you some description of the character, and the location, but most often those stage directions tell you what a character is thinking and feeling. The stage directions are a guide telling exactly what the writer, director and producer need from you to tell the story properly. You don’t need to follow them exactly, but every choice that you make MUST be within the writer’s intention, or else you’ll be working against the script and story. And actors working against the script and story do not get (or keep) the job.
Jamison Haase opened L.A On-Camera Training Center in 2007. At LAOTC Jamison and the rest of the staff teach a simple, hands-on approach at acting for the camera developed by working actors directors and producers, geared specifically towards the audition. Would like more information about classes? Find several ways to connect with us, including our newsletters here: http://about.me/laoncamera.