Lecture: Theater and Film (Listen and Read)

Error! Cannot load audio!
Please try again later :(
1 / 80
Lecture: Theater and Film
Press "Space" to Play/Pause
Press and to move between sentences.
In the early 20th century,
when we first started to watch films instead of going to the theatre,
it became obvious that this new medium required a new style of acting.
Especially so, when they added the sound.
It was D W Griffith who first started to examine what type of acting style would work best on screen,
and that ushered in a new acting medium
that was very different from the thousands of years of theatre performances that had preceded it.
So, today we're going to look at a few of these.
The first difference is the idea that you act big on stage and small on screen.
The principle behind this is that in the theatre, some of your audience might be 100 rows back,
so, to ensure they get as much out of your performance as the people in front,
you make flamboyant gestures, over-the-top facial expressions, and exaggerated movements.
Conversely, on screen, with the camera up close,
only minute changes in facial expression are necessary to portray the character.
Although that's a good rule of thumb, I take issue with it to a certain extent.
Why? well...
Many contemporary plays are performed in little, independent theatres,
not huge auditoriums.
So, even within the stage,
you have to adapt your style between big and small,
and in fact these so-called small performances,
which are intimate and introverted,
can be very believable.
However, mixing the two styles,
we also see larger-than-life actors on film, like Johnny Depp,
whose technique, while extroverted, does produce an effective performance.
In addition to gestures, you have to consider your voice.
On stage, you have to project to the audience.
While on film, the microphone is right there,
and you can focus on making your voice more believable.
That's not to say you can mumble in a film.
Yes, you have more leeway,
and the soundman and editors can remove all sorts of blips and breaths to make your voice fit the setting.
But there's only so much they can do.
I don't know how many times I've listened to the Heath Ledgers last line of Brokeback Mountain
before I finally had to turn on the subtitles to catch a word of what he was saying.
My point here, is that you still have to enunciate in film.
Now, some people will say of film you're not acting to an audience,
and you can understand why.
In the theatre, your job is to ensure that the audience enjoy your performance.
And to some extent, you can adapt your style according to their reactions.
But to say that you are not performing to an audience in film is not strictly true.
There will be all manner of people watching you when you're in front of the cameras -
sound men, cameramen, costumers,
make-up artists, and assorted hangers-on.
As a theatre actor, the temptation is to up your voice and to act to them - for them.
Which of course you cannot do.
In film, the situation is key.
You need to respond to the scene, not what's around you.
You might think that responding naturally to a situation, is easier than all this flamboyant, larger-than-life dancing around on stage that actors have to do.
But there are some problems you have to bear in mind.
Quite often, on film, each person in a scene is shot separately,
which means you often have to respond to a line not yet spoken.
And making your responses realistic is not easy.
Additionally, the film will not be shot in sequence.
On stage, the actor can grow into his role,
and over a number of hours, the character develops naturally.
Film actors can't do that.
They have to go straight into a scene,
which might be in the middle, the end or the beginning,
and be that person, in that situation, right away,
and, obviously, that requires a certain level of skill.
On the subject of character,
there is something to be said for film actors in that they do have slightly more freedom.
Theater is by its very nature repetitive, and, therefore familiar.
Audiences often go to see a show that they know.
And they'll want those characters to behave in a certain way.
So, they'll probably notice changes to the script, or to a character,
and although they might appreciate the variety, they are more likely to object.
In television and film, the material is fresh,
and that actor is likely to be the only person ever to play a certain character.
Words are changed all the time.
Actors can make mistakes or change things around if they want to.
If it makes the character seem believable, it's acceptable.
Another argument about the different styles of acting is the idea that you can get away with things more in one medium than the other.
You can't fake it on screen, as if you can on stage.
You only get one take on stage,
while with film you keep going until you make the director happy.
There's a minimal rehearsal time on screen as it's impossible to get together with the other actors and rehearse beforehand.
What I'm saying here is that the difference between the two mediums is minuscule and really not worth arguing.
Related links:
This lesson belongs to BestMyTest.com - a website to help you prepare for TOELF, IELTS and TOEIC exams.