I’ll bet most of you out there are actual human beings (taking into account the cats and aliens from other planets that also might be actors). And most people think that the easiest thing in the world is to just be yourself when the camera comes on. Wrong! I find that most people have the toughest problem not with techniques about backstories or breaking scenes down, but with just looking and feeling like an actual living, breathing human being once the camera is running. And, let’s face it, a good acting scene should never look like a good acting scene. It should look like a reality show that is so natural and real that we forget it is an acting scene.
Here are the top three tips I use in my classes to get students to feel and look like real human beings in a scene:
1. Start by relaxing and getting into your body by just “slobbing out.”
You need to get out of your head and into your body. It’s important to physically loosen your body and to unfreeze it so that natural life energy and subconscious reactions are set free to happen.
I always teach students a simple relaxation technique of breathing in through your nose on a count of four, holding for a count of seven, and breathing out through your mouth on a count of eight. Deep-breathing is the fastest way to balance and relax. The counting helps your brain to shut down so that you can be more in the moment instead of spinning past everything.
READ: How to Act On-Camera
Then, take a deep breath (raising your shoulders up) and, as you exhale, flop down into your body like you’re a bag of potatoes. Slob out so you aren’t holding your body in a stiff acting position. It should feel like you are not in front of a camera at all. You shall begin to feel the difference between being stiff and locked in your body (fake actor) and freeing your life energy and blood to flow through your veins as though you are real (natural human being). Allow this natural flow to continue as you slide into your character. Make sure you don’t stiffen up again right before you start the scene. Keep tiny movements going on (breathing, slightly shifting your weight, wiggling your toes, etc.) so that you don’t freeze up. Get the flow going and go!
2. Free yourself as though you are alone and no one is watching you.
Set yourself free. Do the things you would do if you were alone. Scratch. Get the hair out of your face. Set free natural nuances to happen so that you are working from a real “living human being” area. Allow yourself to feel ugly, imperfect, even boring. Everyone actually looks better in a relaxed mode, as your face and body get a beautiful, natural glow and flow. It will look like you are doing nothing, but tiny nuances will begin to happen that warm up the whole scene. The more you do this, the easier it gets to trust that all the good stuff happens in this zone.
3. Give yourself something to do.
Anything that is real looks amazing on camera. So really read the book; really listen to the other person; really try to get the piece of lint off of your clothes; really trace a heart in the water spilled on the table.
Use props and bits of business. Adjust your clothes. Really observe the other person in the scene. Feel the breeze on your face. Clean your fingernails. Touch someone with love. Stare so hard into their eyes that you make them tell you the truth.
Doing something also distracts you from feeling like you are acting. If you are busy doing you won’t be stuck thinking. Thus, you will get out of your head (which is making you fake and stiff) and you shall easily get lost in your body and the scene. You are in the moment and organic.
*This post was originally published on Dec. 15, 2015. It has since been updated.
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