Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Film Acting vs Stage Acting: Eye Line, The Small Things and More

Learning to Act on Film Is Not Like Starting Over, but on Some Days It Might Seem that Way

This is the fourth and final segment in our series covering the first day of class with Mark Stolzenberg teaching how film acting is different than stage acting.

"All of the other rules of acting apply.  Having a character, motivation, objective, sense of place, using your imagination to create things, and making certain choices.  But certain choices you're going to make as a film actor are going to be different than as a stage actor.  Hitting your mark is crucial.

One of the reasons I love film work is all of the specifics.  You want me to not bang my head on the door?  I won't.  You want me to move my chin just a little bit out?  I can do that and keep my character even though it feels stupid.  That's a good attitude to have in film acting.  You're going to be required and asked to do really unnatural and stupid things.  Sometimes you have to do a scene when you're not even looking the person in the eye because of the camera angle.

Where Do You Look When Acting on Film?

Eye line is important.  Eye line is where you're looking in relationship to the lens. On stage, we lift and float things.  On camera, you want to shoot line drives toward you're eye line.  When you're at an audition, you want to put the person you're talking to right next to the lens, as close to the lens as possible.  You don't want to look into the lens, because then you break the reality of the movie.

Of course there's exceptions to everything I say. You would look into the lens if you were the spokesperson in a commercial.  If it's a soliloquy, there are rare occasions.  Ferris Bueller's Day Off, he talks into the camera.  If you're talking to another character, it would never be into the lens, but they want you as close to the lens as possible.

Just like on stage, you wouldn't necessarily look directly at the person the whole time you're talking to them.  Maybe one third to half of the time you look at them. Sometimes you do want to look at them for all of your lines.  It all depends on the feeling and intention of what you're doing.

There are a lot of strange things that you might have to do on camera.  For example, I had to fake running down a mountain in a scene for a movie because they needed a realistic close up shot.  It worked perfectly when it was all said and done.  I was able to give the same feeling, the same dramatic feeling, even though I wasn't doing the real thing, and that's acting.Otherwise, the shot wouldn't have worked."
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New classes are starting all the time.  Mark Stolzenberg also takes private students at all levels.  Visit our website at or see the information in the tabs above.  You can also call for more details. 

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