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Lights! Camera! Acting!: The Art, Craft and Business of Film and Television Acting

Lights! Camera! Acting!: The Art, Craft and Business of Film and Television Acting

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Lights! Camera! Acting!: The Art, Craft and Business of Film and Television Acting

Lunghezza:
404 pagine
6 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Feb 12, 2016
ISBN:
9781483562735
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

The premise of this study is that film acting is one of the simplest crafts in the world, in the sense that the actor has only to appear natural and believable in front of the camera. On the other hand, this study will show that dealing with all the technical demands associated with the craft makes it one of the more complex crafts to master. This study hopes to help clear some of the bewilderment and ignorance of the new actor to the demands of the film and television media.
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Feb 12, 2016
ISBN:
9781483562735
Formato:
Libro

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  • The actor should note the tally light on the taking ("on air") camera and be aware that any microphone might be open even after recording has stopped will ensure the actor will be properly behaved on set. (See Taylor: 1994:86, 7).

  • By wallowing in self-pity, the actor is not serving the dynamic intention of the script; the actor should find a need to solve the character's problems.

Anteprima del libro

Lights! Camera! Acting! - Renier van Loggerenberg

e-book.

FILM AND TELEVISION ACTING:

Introduction

The Maasai tribe of Eastern Africa are arguably the most spectacularly photogenic people on the planet. Yet this tribe believes that if one films or photographs them, one steals a part of their souls that will be lost to them forever. I believe a similar situation exists for the film actor: a part of his/her psyche will be captured on celluloid or magnetic tape for the duration of the specific medium's life. In other parts of Africa the locals will dress up in either their Sunday-best for tourists, or rags for the media, both for a fee. This is not to be confused with the real despair that engulfs Africa, these are not the desperate ones, this is business. The film actor operates somewhere between these extremes, somewhere between giving up a part of his/her soul for the camera, and brazenly selling his/her photographic presence as a commodity. The premise of this study is that film acting is one of the simplest crafts in the world, in the sense that the actor has only to appear natural and believable in front of the camera. On the other hand, this study will show that dealing with all the technical demands associated with the craft makes it one of the more complex crafts to master. This study hopes to help clear some of the bewilderment and ignorance of the new actor to the demands of the film and television media.

Time and again it has been pointed out to me that many student actors do not have a comprehensive guide to help them in negotiating the obstacle course of modern film and television. Hence this study. A fairly ideal situation is surmised, whereby the actor will be intelligent, sensitive, persevering, talented and above all, lucky. The serious acting student or lecturer should find that although a lot of the information seems obvious, they may benefit from the more or less logical fashion of organisation. This study has been set out in the following order, covering the typical (if there is such a thing) actor in steps from finding the differences in acting between film and theatre, to dealing with critics after a film is shown.

Part of this book is given over to the thoughts and ideas of more knowledgeable and experienced people in various related disciplines than I am. I use their ideas, tips and tricks with respect and refer to the sources wherever possible.

Everybody acts

Barrault (in Corrigan: 2) is of the opinion that everybody plays. Even animals. He reminds us that the urge to play, which he equates with the urge to act, to pretend, is as old as mankind itself. The history of theatre closely follows mankind's inventions and the development of our behaviour patterns. The fact that all children are natural actors and so few adults, mean that as we grow older, we lose the natural ability to perform. The actor is not the shaman anymore and society has distanced itself from our primeval instincts. In this century there are few places apart from the pulpit and the political arena where the human/actor can freely express him/herself, except perhaps on stage or screen. Tailor (13) differentiates between performers who are impersonators, copying behaviour and actors (who may also be impersonators) who deliver well-thought-out and put together performances. This difference between being and pretending, acting and resembling has been the basis of many acting theories and underlies this study. Some actors are cast and perform nothing more than themselves in different guises, while others actually resemble different humans in different roles. The practice will be examined in Chapter 2.

Writing about film generally falls into one of these broad categories:

Personality studies; either a) Sensationalist biographies that tend to blend truth, fiction and scandal or b) memoirs and biographies about studios, directors, and actors that try to inform the reader, and serious academic treatises on film, (Gianetti: 1995: 13-17) including c) the relationship between film and other arts and d) Chronological histories of so-called important films

Buckland (6) adds even more categories:

e) Technological histories emphasising pioneers,

f) Technique-studies (historically or critically and analytically),

This specific approach can often be sub-divided further in the two ways of approaching performance in film and television:

1) Film acting as a performance belonging only to the actor using his/her body, voice and imagination. This performance is then recorded by the camera.

2) Performance as a result of the combination of all the technical and artistic apparatus and crafts-persons involved in production. The performance only occurs in the mind of the beholder when the product is screened.

g) Film in relationship to important social events.

h) Genre studies and

i) Film industry regulations such as laws and censorship.

Approach f) i.e. technique studies, forms the basic premise of this study. Some opinions and techniques from b) biographies, is covered, and c) relationship studies is touched on in the effect the different media will have on the actor’s skill. e) Technological histories are covered only for film acting theorists. But back to f) This hopes to be a practical study of approach to the film actor’s craft, to form as it were, a backbone to a possible school of study for film actors. I touch on the important semiological approach so in vogue in many universities, but with the following major pre-condition. Semiology is the study of the process after it has been completed - a pre-existing, completed performance is the heart of the study. For the actor it can be of little practical value in creating performance. After all, the actor can only be involved in acting and seldom has any control over the technicalities involved in the process.

This study has taken information from all types of sources, books, the Internet, cd-rom databases and the experience of me both in front of and behind the camera. It tries to overcome the Hollywood cult of personality and sources in greater or lesser ways all of the above-mentioned formats: While trying to be as informative as possible, it hopes to be of some academic value. But most of all, it hopes to introduce the actor to film, its vocabulary and its possibilities. It is about a practical approach to film acting. It is also an attempt to establish and develop a forum where the actor and crew can meet without prejudice and start talking objectively and accurately about the advancement of the art and craft of film acting.

The aim of this study is to provide the actor with a comprehensive, if condensed set of tools with which to tackle the specific requirements of the film industry. Because acting is doing, there can be no replacement for actually doing it that is getting the experience in front of the camera. There will therefore be points in this study where I will ask the actor to film him/herself and watch the performance, so as to become aware of his/her image on film and how his/her skills progress. Like Kazan (1978: 142) I believe that no amount of reading about the craft will make a better actor if it is not coupled with training - that is why this study tries to provide the backbone of a practical course in film and television acting which may provide the actor with enough experience to go out and be confident in front of the camera. The last chapter deals with possible training methods and ideas on how to structure a film acting course. Even though this study contains nearly a century of writings and musings by sages and others in the industry, it can never replace the first fumbling steps an actor will take when starting out and as such can only be a guide to a very practical art. Unfortunately the business pressures of time and finances are such that no actor can be expected to learn his/her craft entirely in front of the camera and at the expense of the professional producer. (Rubiga: 1996: Introduction) The accompanying book Language! Camera! Action! ISBN 9781617927355 and the chapter on set etiquette hope to be of use here.

To attempt to categorise and make a catalogue of a language describing the changing elements of the motion picture for examination purposes is likely to be incomplete and at best a tool to help understand what it is about. Yet this is exactly what this study, and in essence the extended accompanying book Language! Camera! Action! ISBN 9781617927355 sets out to do: to create a vocabulary, a guide for acting students, teachers and professionals to simplify the process of filming and communication on set or in the studio.

This chapter will deal with the film medium, definitions of film acting, semiotics, the relationship between acting media and a short history of film acting and film acting theory. It ends with a lament on current practical courses. This century's theorists are grouped together under the naturalists, Pudovkin, Stanislavski, Strasberg et al, and the anti-naturalists, Kuleshov, Brecht and Bresson. Chapter two is about the business side of the actor: that time of the actor's life described as a brief appearance between being unknown and becoming unavailable. (Schneider in Corrigan: 226). Getting agents, doing auditions and some information on the business side of show business can be found there. Chapter three deals with on-set customs and relationships, behaviour and filming and sound-recording techniques. Chapter four is the heart of this study and proposes different ways into helping the actor find his/her own system of preparation: The studying of the role. It covers the major film acting theories from a definition of the acting to some very recent thinking on the subject. This chapter also strives to establish a blueprint, a psycho-physical approach that any actor can follow to create a role on screen. This part of the study is concerned with the

a) Analytical (Studying carefully, understanding the text-meaning),

b) Interpretive (Expressing the above meaning through use of experience, observation and imagination),

c) Formalised (creating recognisable behaviour patterns),

d) Projectable (having the energy and clarity to communicate with the camera) and

e) Precisely repeatable (for the precision of multi-take shoots) elements of the camera-actor's training. (Compare Strasberg: 125 - 133)

Chapter five, finally, looks at ways of studying into film acting and contains a comprehensive dictionary of terms the actor might find on sets during his/her career.

Casting director Gary Shaffer tells the actor to be a good actor and not to worry about the medium because it is just a matter of learning how to hit a mark and a bunch of technical thing (Crowley: 163). I agree with him up to a point in that it is important to be a good actor first and foremost, and yes, the actor who hits his/her mark every time will not do badly, but how does a young actor become proficient if he/she has just landed a role and the filming starts the next day? This study hopes to guide the actor through some of the pitfalls he or she will surely encounter. It might include quite a few of those technical things that might offend the acting for art's sake purist, but I would rather offend the few and give sound advice to the many, than please the few and see more highly talented actors starve or leave the industry for lack of knowledge or the lack of courage this can lead to.

I presume that the reader of this book will be au fait with some of the terms used in it. The comprehensive accompanying book Language! Camera! Action! ISBN 9781617927355 is specifically for the acting professional and not intended as a general guide for any other film or television professional. Excluded from it are specific related but not crucial terms such as 'in-betweener '(a person who draws the sketches between the main movements in an animated film) and other related terms which would turn this study into too a bulky dictionary. I have chosen to describe only those terms and professions which the actor might meet at the start of his/her career.

The accompanying book Language! Camera! Action! ISBN 9781617927355 describes terminology used in the film and television industry of today. It is part of the 'toolbox' with which this study hopes it can equip an actor to find work and keep on working in a demanding medium. Newer terms like inter-active video and cd, non-linear editing, morphing, etc have been included to a lesser extent since this study is concerned with the actor and the techniques of this craft and not necessarily with the complete craft of film-making. The film medium has specific requirements that must be taken into account when working in it. The actor must be so familiar with these requirements that he/she automatically takes them into account so that he/she can focus on giving a good performance. Concentrating on the technicalities instead of the performance will definitely detract from the performance.

Notes of explanation

I have used the generic terms actor, author, director, producer etc to describe members of both sexes, but have tried to steer clear of tedious and elaborate political correctness, as in the case of well-known fairy tale Snow Melanin-Impoverished and the Seven Vertically Challenged Individuals.

Film, television, the novel and theatre: the relationships

Film by its very nature is supremely physical. It is the visual expression of the director of the little black notes as Hitchcock put it, from the pages of the script to the screen. The sheer size of (especially) the projected image makes it carry emotional weight far greater than it actually does. Because an enormous head moves down to meet an enormous head and exchange a kiss, the audience assume that the moment witnessed on screen must inevitably have some sort of significance. (Compare Butler: 1991:11-54) Meryl Streep letting slip a ½ metre long tear at a distance of a few metres becomes overwhelming by the sheer physical presence of the close-up of her eye. Whether the tear is the result of years of training and immense talent or the swift application of a glycerine bottle or a whiff of menthol to irritate the eye is immaterial to a major part of the audience - they respond with empathy and tissues.

Kael: 1971(49) agrees that the sheer size and closeness of film and the vividness of the image, makes the audience re-act quite primitively and assume that the actor invented his/her lines. The fact that a film role tends to belong exclusively to one actor (except in re-makes which often differ completely in style) seems to support this response.

Luckinbill (Kalter: 1979: 113) says that it does not matter whether the moment has any meaning at all, because of the physical size of the projected image, it attains meaning by itself. O'Brien:1983 (30, 31) says that the audience judges, with enhanced emotional awareness, the kind of person in every movement and nuance of movement portrayed. She warns the actor not to let the slightest suggestion of unrelated thought, self-consciousness or fatigue influence what is filmed in any way. The audience will perceive any unrelated or unnecessary movement will have an impact completely out of relation to its size.

Some terms explained

Movie vs. Film

Dickinson: 1971(3-5) postulates the difference between a film and a movie. He describes a movie as a mass-entertainment, mass-released popular entertainment, totally under the producer's control. The movie is complete, and has a passive audience. Film, on the other hand, he describes as the personal statement of an author who is his/her own author, director and sometimes editor. The film stimulates the (usually) more sophisticated audience by its very nature of incompleteness. The most successful director/producer of our times Steven Spielberg agrees. He (in Taylor: 1992: 29) describes himself as a movie-maker. He wants primarily to entertain, not inform or educate.

For the purpose of this study it is important to note the differences, but the process for the actor to achieve a desired character is similar in both the film and the movie. The actor-director relationship in a film may be closer, but sometimes even the blockbuster director is an actor's director. This work will use both these terms to describe the filmed event.

Film, theatre and television

Film vs. theatre

The right person, in fact any person, filmed in the right way, and edited together will seem to portray a character on film. This is the view of O'Brien:1983 (34). In theatre the actor must be audible and lucid up to the last row in the auditorium. Film does not demand this. People off the street (call them amateurs for argument’s sake) have made it far more often than they should have in any other career. The dedicated theatre actor will struggle against the very filmic perceptions to portray varied and different characters, because by its nature, film will exploit the physical attributes, voice, stance, and way of moving and emotional attributes the actor might possess inherently, and may portray as false any acquired technique so lauded in the theatre. Ionesco is of the opinion that the theatre has appeal to the auditory sense as much as to the visual. He states (in Corrigan: 20, 21), and I disagree with him, that the cinema is only a series of pictures, but the stage is a moving structure of scenic images. I would argue that, by its very nature, cinema is this moving structure, as we can see in the codes of film.

Chaikin states that the most serious difference for the actor is that in theatre those who attend and those who perform are all present. (In Corrigan: 150) The actor is advised to re-think his/her relationship with the audience, albeit a removed one: If the actor visualises a casting agent, or a critic that may advance his/her career, or even him/herself in the audience, it may reflect seriously on the way a role is performed. Chaikin (ibid.) asks the actor to consider the person to whom the performance is dedicated.

What makes the screen such a good place to work on, is the fact that the actor does not need to worry about being visible, according to Waterston (Kalter:1979: 157) The focus and communication of what will be seen on film is not his/her concern. He says that although stage and film work differ in a myriad ways, the fundamentals stay the same, stating that the actor has to get into the character, to understand him/her, to find the meaning of everything he/she says or does and to try to make it all matter a lot.

Film also has a specific shot, called P.O.V. (Point of view) which allows the audience to subjectively see what the character is watching. By inference, the viewer becomes the actor in this situation. This shot is seldom used because it is such a powerful device and because of its inherent shock value (refer to the subtle and powerful use in scenes between Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins as well as the green-tinged night-vision device worn by the killer in Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs) This is something not possible on the theatrical stage where the audience can at most only identify with the character seen. (See van Zyl: 48)

Ironically the point of view shot, the very shot that shows what the actor is seeing, feeling, re-acting to, the sensation created by the camera of being inside the character is the shot that the actor has absolutely no control over at all.

The most telling difference between the media lies in the way the audience self-projects or psychically participates. Smiley: 1987 (365) postulates that a person watches a projected movie, but witnesses a live play. Like a poem, plays are intensive in that it communicates a view of human experience, and like a novel, films are expansive, in the sense that it stimulates the viewer to fantasize an imagined world. Smiley: 1987(381) says that basically film provides more empathy and theatre more immediacy.

Theatre as basis of a good performance on film

Stone (18-21) states that there is no fundamental difference as to where the actor is sourced emotionally when working on film as opposed to television or stage, there is a definite difference in delivery between staged and filmed work. The technical demands are obviously distinct. The stage, although seriously naturalised by the influence of Stanislavski demands a slightly bigger than life performance and therefore requires more effort on the part of the actor. This, without losing realism and believability. A good actor can adapt to the demands of the different media without changing his/her approach, according to Stone. Engelbrecht (in Robinson 1994: 2) states that the actor's basic technique gets honed on the stage. For this technique to grow, the actor needs to get onto the stage again. Film and television work is immediate (my translation) she states. For these media the actor must have mastered the basic acting techniques. She says film-movements are very shallow because it is for the camera. This is the reason many actors fall back into what they know, that which comes easier. She warns against these habits becoming mannerisms.

Rip Torn (in Kalter: 1979: 47, 8) says there is a definite difference in approach to stage and film acting. He states that during the Golden age of film-making, one of the reasons that made it golden was that all the supporting actors were star stage actors and tremendously valuable in every scene(47). He describes the good film actors as actors whose faces are eloquent. On stage, he says, the energy lies in the body, in the way it moves. Some film actors could not move between chairs without bumping one over, but their faces can speak. He speaks of a totality of energy on stage. Olivier (1982:99), on the other hand, says that the two crafts of stage-and film-acting, once looked upon as two entirely different crafts are in fact on separated by subtle differences in approach. He says the subtle differences are to be learned over many years and differ according to the character of the actor. He talks of .the same ingredients but in different proportions. Jack Nicholson says that some of the scenes in A Few Good Men required such intensity that doing the same scenes every night for the run of a play would be impossible. (Berk: 1993: 14) Considering he received $4 000 000 for two weeks of such work, not a bad career-choice (for him.)

St. John Marner describes the difference in approach as follows: He says that in the theatre the actor projects and in

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