"Are there classes just for film or TV acting? What is the difference between acting on stage and acting on camera?"
Let's answer the easy part first: Yes, there are classes for film acting all
over the world. In fact, look under a vine in the Brazilian Rain Forest and
you'll find a come-on ad for an expensive class in camera technique! In the
world of scams, film acting classes rate top ten. Be careful out there. Lots of
There are many acting classes which specialize in just about everything: mime,
improv, soap operas, commercials, martial arts, stage combat, auditioning,
sit-com, Shakespeare and yes, acting on camera. You name it, somewhere it is
being taught! Look on Internet audition sites like
Actingland.com. See message boards.
Speak to acting friends. Just don't plunk down a fortune until you have really
checked out the coach/school/class. Film acting rip-off stories fill every
acting message board.
In fact within the past hour I received an email announcement of a six week film
class, which meets for two hours once a week, here in New York for the mere
price of $550 with a promise of an audition upon finishing the course. That's a
lot of money for something you can more or less teach yourself. Probably.
Perhaps. (To be explored further.)
1. If you have any colleges near you, call and see if they have a theatre
department. Their curriculum will probably include a film course.
2. If your town has a community theatre group, talk to the artistic director,
who probably can steer you toward on-camera classes.
3. Somewhere, in some city near you, someone is interested in making movies.
Graduate schools in film making are excellent places to find would-be
directors/writers. And they are ALWAYS looking for actors. On-camera experience
is a great teacher, better than a dozen classes. And you just never know what
heights that newcomer directing the film will rise to!
4. There are also videos on film acting you can buy. Go on-line and see what
Amazon.com has to offer. Michael Caine has one out which received good critical
5. There are books about on-camera acting. Not quite the same as working
"on-camera" but some are excellent. Go browsing in a bookstore or on-line.
6. Having read these books, get a Camcorder and practice in front of it. Do
monologues, just talk and watch yourself talking. Do cold readings in front of
your video camera. Watch yourself carefully and critically. Teach yourself.
There is no better teacher in film work than you watching yourself on camera.
The best lessons I've ever had in camera work have come from watching tapes of
my own work. Ouch, even that tiny little glance was too deliberate! It smacked
of ACTING!!! Wow, that was interesting (didn't realize during the shoot that I
had done anything. But that slight turn of the head WORKED. Why? It was not
ACTED.) You and your camera are your best teachers. In Film.
MY BEST FILM TEACHER:
I was raised in a rural backwoods Southern hamlet which had one movie house that
played Westerns on Saturday afternoon for the kids and "real" stuff Saturday
night for the adults. Only we didn't call them movies. They were "picture
shows." (Pronounced "Pitchershows.") And week after week, month after month,
year after year, Saturday afternoons I sat in the dark, glued to the magic
screen of the picture show in the Crystal Movie House. For a dime.
It is my deepest belief that the Crystal Movie House in the rural South was my
"training school" for movie acting. That's 5,500 picture shows for the price of
one NYC film class!
7. With videos, your generation can watch a film over and over and over. First
the story--get that out of the way. THEN start watching for the acting. Just
watch and watch and watch until you finally start to SEE what the actors are
doing. Or mostly see what they are NOT doing.
8. Look at their face. Especially the eyes. The lead in "Cold Case" has superb
acting eyes. You don't have to like her, her eyes, or the show. Just watch her
eyes. They are about as good as the small screen gets. See what makes so many
actors' eyes look like they are acting. Then look at the real TV or film pros
whose eyes seem to live naturally, not live like an acting teacher told them to.
9. Listen to the voices. What happens at the end of a sentence? Hear the rhythm
of their delivery. All the CSI clones seem to have attended the same "pause"
class. But it's hard to beat Caruso for unique delivery. Watch and listen. You
are not there to judge whether you like someone. You are watching and listening
in order to learn how the pros act on camera.
10. Look to see if something looks "actory." Why did it look that way? Be sure
and watch the "great" older actors also, even though they are a different
generation and may act differently.
And watch TV. Rob Lowe or David Caruso are there whispering in your ear. Listen
to them. Contrast their vocal and facial performance with Gary Sinise although
Sinise is getting more whispery with each passing week. Look at the actors on
West Wing. What is the difference between their acting and those on the original
Law & Order?
Once you have mastered really watching actors on film, you are half way home in
learning how to act on film yourself. I am totally convinced that watching the
best actors -- I mean really watching, not criticizing, not judging, WATCHING,
is the way to learn film acting. Then bring out the Camcorder and practice what
you have learned. You will eventually discover your own eyes and voice and
So, to wind up "Can you take classes in on-camera acting?" Yes, of course. It
just depends on where you take them: in a $550 six-lesson class or watching a
video over and over or watching yourself in a graduate film. Or the Crystal
But first a HUGE SUGGESTION: Learn to act. Chad Gracia recently mentioned that a
current British heart throb did his initial acting on stage. So get basic
training first. Then use that training in all acting arenas. Remember that
abused phrase, "Get real"? That's acting! GETTING REAL. Movie, stage, TV or your
own living room.
And getting real may require a coach to tell you when you aren't "real." But I
am not convinced that a $550 six week course shared with several other actors is
the only answer to "Where can I take a class in film acting?"
"Actor Tips" is copyright 2006 by Chad Gracia and ActorTips.com, Inc. All rights reserved.
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