FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STAGE AND SCREEN ACTING
Stage Acting: In theatre, once the curtain goes up, the actor tends to dominate. A stage actor has more control over his or her performance than an actor in film. The requirements are different for stage acting and film acting.
1. It is essential that the stage actor be seen and heard clearly. The actor should have a flexible, trained voice and must be trained in vocal projection.
2. The playwright’s language is a major source of meaning in the theatre. To convey nuances of dialogue the stage actor must have variety and vocal expressiveness. Proper stress, phrasing, and breathing are necessary. The stage actor must be believable, even when reciting lines of dialogue that may be stylized.
3. A theatrical performance depends on the acting and the actors receive most of the credit for a production. This means that they are also assigned most of the blame when the production is boring.
4. On the stage good actors can play roles very different from their own ages-younger or older.
5. Since the stage actor’s entire body is always in view, the actor must be able to control it. Activities that one does every day (sitting, standing, walking, moving one’s hands) are performed differently on stage. Actors must know how to move in period costume and how to adjust their bodies to different characters. The actor must convey the inner life of the character through his or her body.
6. Acting in theatre is in real time; therefore the actor must pace performances and build scene by scene. Stage actors must create the “illusion of the first time” for every performance, sometimes for a long running play.
7. Actors must maintain an energy level from scene to scene and for the whole performance. The actor must correct mistakes because a scene cannot be replayed or cut. The actor needs stage technique.
B. Film Acting
1. The film actor needs very little stage technique. Essentially what a performer in movies needs is “expressiveness.” The actor must have a photogenic face. Too much technique can make a performer seem to be overacting.
2. Acting in film is almost totally dependent on the director’s approach to the screen play. The realistic director relies more on the abilities of the actors, filming more long shots. This technique keeps the actor’s entire body in the frame, and this camera distance corresponds to the proscenium arch of the theatre. The realist tends towards lengthy takes, in order to help the actors sustain performances without interruption. The formalistic director prefers to convey ideas and emotions through edited juxtapositions.
3. The film actor is not dependent on vocal flexibility. Many actors have succeeded with relatively inexpressive voices. Marilyn Monroe, Clint Eastwood, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, come to mind. Even the quality of a film actor’s voice can be controlled mechanically.
4. Most films are shot out of sequence, due to economic considerations. The actor may be required to perform a climactic scene before an earlier low-keyed scene. The film actor must have a high degree of concentration to be able to turn emotions on and off.
5. Film has Close-Up shots. Michael Caine in his book, ACTING IN FILM: AN ACTORS’ TAKE ON MOVIE MAKING, says: It (the close-up) can give an actor tremendous power, but that potential energy requires enormous concentration to be realized. The close-up camera won’t mysteriously transform a drab moment into something spectacular unless the actor has found something spectacular in the moment. In fact it will do just the opposite: the close-up camera will seek out the tiniest uncertainty and magnify it. “Drying” (forgetting your lines) can be covered up on stage. . . .. But the camera will betray the smallest unscheduled hesitation. If a member of the crew walks across my eye-line, off camera, when I’m doing a close-up, I immediately ask for a retake. I may not have thought my concentration lapsed—the director may assure me everything is fine—but the camera will have caught that minute flicker at the back of my eyes.
6. Michael Caine gives this advice to theatre actors entering the world of film for the first time:
Not only have you got to know your lines on day one, you will also have directed yourself to play them in a certain way, and all this accomplished without necessarily discussing the role with the director, without meeting the other people in the cast, without rehearsal on the set. The stage actor is used to slowly wading into the play’s reality. First a read-through with the assembled cast to acquaint him with the broad outline of the author’s intentions. Then the director’s view. Then maybe a free-for-all discussion. Gradually, book in hand, stage actors splash themselves with gentle doses of the play, scene by scene, starting with Act One, Scene One. Pity the poor stage actor who is about to be immersed, Baptist stylesx, in the movies. Plays are performed. Movies are made.