10 Lies You’re Told About Film Acting, Part 2

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Photo Source: William LaChasse

Being a film actor can be difficult when you’re constantly inundated with lies about the craft. Continuing from part one, here are five more falsehoods that are commonly passed off as solid advice for film actors.

6. The lie that you can “bring down” big acting class acting. “You just bring it down for film,” is the answer every misguided instructor gives. This is very false. I work with “trained” actors all the time. Bringing it down keeps us up late at night and takes months, if not years, of dedicated work (depending on how much damage has been done, and how cemented their bad habits are).

7. The lie that the director is there to help you act on set. Nope. He is there to field marshal the logistics of a shoot. He is there to supervise the story and photography. On the premium end, directors are there to capture their vision, but the reality is that nine times out of 10 they have nothing to say that will be of any real help to your performance. They may be inclined to hold your hand or praise you, if you still have such needs, but they will not like it. They are too busy for your needs or ego. Come to set with a polished performance ready to roll. If they have time (or the ability) to direct actors then that is just a bonus.

8. The lie that you get more freedom of movement in a wide shot. This is a bad idea. As an editor for many years, I can tell you that actors who think they can move around or ham it up in a wide are mistaken. They have never tried to match cut an over-the-top three-shot with a still and contained closeup. It is tricky and it usually costs you screen time. In order to make the cut the editor will likely have to go to a closeup of another character before cutting to you. Closeups and wide shots should match in every detail.

9. The lie that you should speak softly on camera. You should speak exactly in the way that you would so that the person in front of you can hear you correctly. This means no mumbling, proper diction, and volume. You will not need to go as far as you do in theater; only project as much as you would in an actual conversation. Do as you would in reality. Nobody talks the way they do on some television shows—nobody but Batman. Don’t put on a cool or deep or subtle voice. Most movie stars are clearly understood and they use their own voices and dialect unless the role makes that impossible.

10. The lie that you should never burn bridges. This nefarious lie will make you meek and leave you vulnerable to be taken advantage of in Hollywood. Never burn a bridge hastily, but when it is time to cut and run, don’t let this tired refrain make you impotent to dissolve toxic affiliations.

Are you upset? Do you disagree? If you find yourself at odds with any number of these points, be on alert. Ask yourself if where you are currently training has twisted your core concepts about film acting. It is natural to be upset when you learn you have been fed lies.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Ryan R. Williams
Ryan R. Williams has directed three award-winning feature films with appearances by Brad Pitt, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jodie Foster, Owen Wilson, Tracy Morgan, Kristen Bell, and Kevin Smith. Williams is currently directing pilots and episodes for network television and regularly casts members of “Screen Actors System,” his Los Angeles-based film acting school.
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