I must admit, writing a piece entitled ‘actor’ makes me feel rather strange. Can I really call myself that, in such a bold way? Maybe not, but for the purposes of this article, I will be confident in declaring “I am an actor!”. In this instance, a film actor (or ‘tress if you’re going to be picky).
Acting for film or in front of a camera is very different to acting on stage. This summer I got the chance to be a part of Camera Test, a series of short films produced by new theatre company, Cut Chorus, exploring the way different movie styles affects the way we perceive relationships and romance. Rather than an active, living audience from which to bounce off, you have the harsh, black eye of a lens, surrounded by camera and tech crew, sound booms in your face, and occasionally a man holding a reflector 6 inches away from your nose. Needless to say, it is rather distracting. But any more than that one audience member who insists on coughing throughout your learned-backwards monologue? Perhaps not.
Another major difference I noticed when preparing to act on film was the fact that I received my script 1 week before the shooting date. With stage, I’ve been used to several months of line-learning, character analysis, and in-depth exercises to truly inhabit the new persona. I had seven days to learn my 2 1/2 pages and establish a fairly believable part who would be the one and only focus of the camera for several minutes of highly edited footage. Not only this, but I met my onscreen ‘best friend’ just an hour before shooting, so we had only three rehearsals to determine our friendship before the director shouted “action!”. Somehow, probably because we both knew our lines and our own emotions, we were able to pull off a wholly dynamic and natural interaction after just a couple of takes.
Acting for screen relies upon consistency – when on stage, some actors warm up to their parts. Although this isn’t the ideal in any way, it does mean that by the interval they are fully engaged and settled into their roles. When shooting a film, you must be able to deliver a line with the same energy and intent, even if you’re re-shooting it for the 15th time, 2 hours into the shoot. Replaying scenes in this way does mean that you can experiment with different emotions, intensities, and styles, allowing the actor a lot more freedom with the script (so long as you have a flexible author).
Although I think the stage will always be my first love in terms of acting, the screen does provide the rare privilege of being able to watch yourself back, observe your abilities or flaws, but also see what the audience sees. Rather than observing a standing ovation, or hoping that set looks better from the stalls, you can see the finished product, understand how that stool you thought looked silly actually makes the scene, and fully appreciate the technicality of film. There are pros and cons to everything, but in everything enjoy it to its fullest.