Both acting for the stage and acting in front of the camera start from the same place: Process – listening and responding truthfully in the given circumstances. Whether it’s in front of a camera lens or a 500 seat theater, nothing will work if you’re not believable – the difference lies in the subtlety.

If an actor, on stage, shrugs her eyebrows half an inch, it is very likely that only the first few rows will see it. However this same move, on camera, speaks volumes. The camera does not need a hand gesture, head tilt or non-verbal vocalization to understand that you’re upset. If your internal life is engaged, then simply listening with that emotion will do the job. Why? Because the camera is more intimate than your most intimate conversation. It picks up the softest whisper, the faintest change of breath, the excited glint in an eye.

Specific, on camera acting classes with me, focus on the art of simplicity, not “adding”, and learning that stillness does not equate boring. Stillness can be beautiful. Stillness is not neutrality (unless of course, neutrality is your objective). It’s about the ability to tap into an abundance of emotion with an economy of expression. The beauty lies in the power this kind of duality creates. Look into an actors eyes – the eyes tell you everything. They’re the windows into a character’s thoughts. Often times an actor needs no other form of expression other than an engaged inner life and a present eye.

It sounds easier than it is, especially for us “animated” folks or for people who are used to keeping their emotions an arms length away. It’s a balancing act and it takes practice, and the only way to practice is to get yourself on camera as much as possible. Film yourself, have your friends film you, take an acting class that works with a camera! Once you start getting used to seeing yourself on film, you can begin to study the nuances that make acting on camera different from acting on stage – then you can begin to have fun – and when that happens, the real magic begins.

For more information about Brooke’s Portland Acting Classes, go to:

About The Author

After receiving a degree in Theater Performance from the University of Oregon, Brooke moved to Los Angeles where she was accepted into the training program of acclaimed sketch and improv company, the Groundlings. Eventually, Totman became a member of the Groundlings Sunday Company – writing and performing sketch comedy for a live audience on a weekly basis. During it’s 5th season, Brooke joined the television show MadTV, as a featured cast member.

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