Acting in Film and Television: What You Need to Know

Acting in Film and TV
Learn what you need to know about being an actor and how to act in film and TV

Learn what you need to know about being an actor and how to act in film and TV

Film and television acting is different than working on commercials and in a theater. Film and television actors, however, come from all sorts of different backgrounds, and none of them followed the same route to success. For example, some actors start as models like Brooke Shields, some start as stand-up comedians like Kevin Hart; others begin their careers as musicians like Will Smith. Then there are classically trained actors that have studied Shakespeare, such as Patrick Stewart.

It is hard to predict if you will make it as a film and TV actor, but there are several things you can do to prepare to be one.

In this guide to becoming a film and television actor, you will learn the differences between theater acting and film and television acting. You will also learn what typically occurs in a movie and TV set, and what kind of work you may be able to find as a film and TV actor.

Finding a Job

Film and television acting careers can be very unpredictable. So what worked for one actor probably won’t work for another actor. For example, some actors may be struggling to land a movie role but are extremely popular on several TV shows and vice versa.

Although you may want to star in a leading role on The Walking Dead, as an actor, you must audition for roles on soap operas, sitcoms, or feature films. You never know what can boost your acting career. The secret to success is to keep working on your acting skills through actual work experience and acting classes. Keep looking for auditions, and focus on improving yourself as an actor.

 Movie and TV acting versus Theater acting

The theater is considered, in some circles, to be more prestigious than film and TV acting. But, working on a movie and TV show is more lucrative than any other production. A stage actor may have to work on their craft for years before he or she can be the lead in a hit Broadway play. But, acting on a TV show or film can launch your career overnight. Film and television shows can be broadcast over and over again throughout the world, appearing in a movie or TV show put your face in front of millions of people daily for several years. More people know the names of actors who appear in sitcoms and movies than they do their political representatives.

Besides increasing the chances of making more money, film and TV acting offers the opportunity to make more money than theater acting. One hit movie can allow for an actor to make more money in one film than a theater actor’s entire career.

Film and television acting occurs in segments and scenes. Unlike Theater where actors entire story from start to finish every night. As a film or TV actor, you may spend a full day shooting only a few scenes, and there’s a good chance an editor will remove that your worst take out of the final version. However, as a theater actor, nothing can hide lousy acting. As a film or television actor, looks are everything with talent being secondary to how you look.

It is important to note that not all actors in Theater can make the transition to film and television, and the same applies to TV actors trying to make it into Theater. Theater actors may find performing for a camera boring while; TV actors may find Theater acting far more demanding.

Another big difference is the amount of responsibility theater acting requires. For instance, as a theater actor, you must work night after night. However, the reaction actors get from the audience will let them know what works and what doesn’t, and they can tweak their performances accordingly.

Film and TV actors must perform for a camera; they don’t have the opportunity to see what works for audiences and what doesn’t. For instance, if you are acting in a comedy, you don’t know have any idea what is funny and what’s not until the film is released. Many sitcoms try to make this better by filming in front of a live studio audience. To compensate for the lack of an audience, film and TV actors often perform the same scene over and over again with several changes in acting, blocking, or attitude. Then the director will choose the best scene to use. Often, film and TV acting gives the actor the chance to experiment more freely with their acting.

How to improve your skills as a TV and film actor

Learn what you need to know about being an actor and how to act in film and TV
Learn what you need to know about being an actor and how to act in film and TV

Acting in film and television requires several sets of skills. Here several, every actor must master:

  1. Know how to work for the camera
  2. Act the same with every take
  3. Know how to act scenes when they are out of order

How to Act For the Camera

In film and TV acting, you don’t have a live audience giving you feedback. Instead, you have a camera, the director, and the camera operator, and a few extras from time to time, which means you need to use your imagination and pretend. To help you “play to the camera,” keep this in mind.

  1. Know where the cameras are all the time.
  2. Know what the camera is trying to capture – If the camera is capturing a closeup, concentrate on your eyebrows to convey emotions because the camera is going to capture everything.
  3. Know where the other actors and props are located – You never want to block the camera’s view of another actor.

To improve, watch TV shows or movies on video with the sound turned off. Without any dialogue to tell you what to do, you can guess what the actors are trying to say to everyone. Body and facial gestures can tell you more than you may think. By studying movies and TV shows, with the sound off, you can research how gestures can help or hurt an actor’s performance.

“The camera never lies,” means that acting in front of the camera captures every gesture, motion, glance, breath, and glance. In Theater, you can get away with shifting your glance. Unless you’re trying to go for a particular look that you want your character to portray, inappropriate movements and gestures, such as quickly moving your eyes, can destroy your acting performance in film and TV productions.

Videotape your self performing a monologue and look for an inconsistent action that detracts from your character. For instance, if you’re portraying a tough, confident business-person, don’t look down. Strong characters never look down.

Ask your acting coach or instructor to watch your videotape and comment on the type of character that he or she thinks you are trying to do.

Acting the Same with Every Take

Acting consistently with different takes is crucial to TV and Film acting. In the world of film and TV, you don’t just perform a scene once. You play the same scene over and over again, so the director can capture that scene from several different angles, and so that actors can try different variations on their acting. The director may choose to film the same scene many times.

To improve consistency with each take, you have to be aware of continuity each time you perform a scene on camera. From an actor’s point of view, the problem with shooting the same scene over and over again is that the actors never know which scenes will ultimately be used, so they need to be consistent.

Acting scenes out of order

Outside of maintaining continuity throughout several takes of the same scene, you also have to worry about continuity between different scenes. For financial reasons, film and TV shows are filmed out of order. Therefore, you shoot the final scene of the movie on your first day on set. If your character is supposed to be shy at the beginning of the film but more aggressive by the end, your actions must reflect those character choices. If you fail to act accordingly, your character will not make sense.

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