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The Secret To Great Film Acting

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The Secret To Great Film Acting

I believe the "secret" to film acting is telling the story as simply as possible. In the theater, a performance must carry to last row. In film, cameras and microphones are perilously close and capture even the smallest gesture and sound, but the "internals" for the actor are exactly the same as they would be for the stage, only their outward expression must be much subtler. Theater-trained actors, with limited or no on-camera experience, tend to reveal too much of their work externally. “Less is more” is never truer than when it comes to acting for film.

Two words I have been known to use when directing actors are "reportage" and "repose." Reportage, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is, "reporting the news, giving an account of observed events," (“report” defined as ‘an account spread by common talk’). Repose defined as, ‘to remain still or concealed.’

If I think an actor is being too broad and "theatrical," an adjustment I might give is, "Hide your ‘opinion’ and just ‘report’ your words as Brian Williams might on The Nightly News: Flatly, matter-of-factly, dispassionately." This doesn’t mean Brian Williams doesn’t feel extremely passionate about the story, but his job demands he deliver the information as dispassionately and opinion-less as possible, and keep his feelings to himself. The feelings become subtext. Common talk. Reportage.

At an audition, a director once said, “Just think you’re suspicious. Don’t show me you’re suspicious. Thinking it will be enough. I will still know you’re suspicious.”  He was basically saying, "Be more ‘poker-faced.’ " Many actors listen too animatedly by smirking, nodding, blinking, and raising and furrowing eyebrows. Don’t be afraid of "doing nothing." Stillness in frame can be very powerful – see Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty." Repose.

Todd Thaler is a casting director, acting teacher, and private on-camera audition coach. In addition to casting, he is currently teaching at NYU/Tisch, Brooklyn College, and the Atlantic Theater Acting School. His credits include: Luc Besson’s "The Professional," Todd Field’s "Little Children," Sidney Lumet’s "Running on Empty," Ed Harris' directorial debut "Pollock," Barbra Streisand’s "The Mirror Has Two Faces," John McNaughton’s "Mad Dog and Glory," Gavin O'Connor's "Tumbleweeds," John Turturro’s "Mac, Illuminata, Romance & Cigarettes" and "Fading Gigolo," James Mangold’s "Heavy" and "Cop Land," and Wayne Wang’s "Because of Winn-Dixie" and "Maid in Manhattan." For television, TBS’ "Are We There Yet?," ABC’s "Wonderland," and NBC’s "Ed," for which he was nominated for the Emmy Award.

Visit his website at toddthaler.com and follow him on Twitter @toddthaler.

Todd Thaler is a casting director, acting teacher, and private on-camera audition coach. In addition to casting, he is currently teaching at NYU/Tisch, Brooklyn College, and the Atlantic Theater Acting School. His credits include: Luc Besson’s "The Professional," Todd Field’s "Little Children," Sidney Lumet’s "Running on Empty," Ed Harris' directorial debut "Pollock," Barbra Streisand’s "The Mirror Has Two Faces," John McNaughton’s "Mad Dog and Glory," Gavin O'Connor's "Tumbleweeds," John Turturro’s "Mac, Illuminata, Romance & Cigarettes" and "Fading Gigolo," James Mangold’s "Heavy" and "Cop Land," and Wayne Wang’s "Because of Winn-Dixie" and "Maid in Manhattan." For television, TBS’ "Are We There Yet?," ABC’s "Wonderland," and NBC’s "Ed," for which he was nominated for the Emmy Award.

Visit his website at toddthaler.com and follow him on Twitter @toddthaler.

- See more at: http://www.backstage.com/advice-for-actors/backstage-experts/why-you-should-never-stop-playing-make-believe/#sthash.zB9kAyGL.dpuf

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