Monday, 30 July 2007

Favour the audience with your face

And this week’s Words of Wisdom are Favour the audience with your face. Whether you are performing in theatre, film or television, your body language and, most importantly, your facial language express at least as much as the words you are saying. In fact this is true in non-visual media as well – radio, voice-overs, recording a song – you should use body language in all of these, because after all, you can hear a smile on the telephone, can’t you – but that is by the way.

So if your facial expressions are very important and the audience want to read your face, because that’s the part of you they look at the most, then you must make sure they can see it as well as possible.

Cheat the angles so that your eyeline is closer to the camera or the audience than it would be purely geometrically. In close up you will normally be directed to hold a certain position but don’t always assume this is going to be done for you.

Know whether you are left- or right-faced. You can check this by looking in a mirror or at a photograph and drawing imaginary lines across your lips and through your eyes. If this opens out on the left side of your face then you are left-faced and you will tend to shoot better from the left.

NEVER put your hands to your face or to your hair unless there is a compelling reason in the script to do so.

Study your facial expressions in a mirror as you say a line to yourself with different inflections. Notice how subtle facial language can be and now false it looks if it is overplayed and doesn’t come from the inside.

Be prepared, both for the stage and the screen, to be directed into unnatural positions relative to other actors. Invariably, one of the reasons for this is so that your facial expressions will be more evident to the audience. For example, you might be at the other character’s shoulder and looking in a parallel direction to them. That may feel very strange but it will look good. Favour the audience with your face.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Be professional (know your lines and be on time)

And so to this week’s Words of Wisdom. And they are a lot of words, but they all come under the same umbrella and that is Be professional. Meaning: know your lines, be on time, don’t knock over the furniture, don’t bitch (you only hurt yourself by adopting a negative frame of mind), remember people’s names (keep a notebook of people you meet or work with), don’t drink alcohol until you’ve finished for the day, don’t change any stage business without the director’s OK, don’t complain unnecessarily, say thank you, keep an appointments diary, always carry a pen and something to read, don’t believe your own publicity, listen to advice, always be learning. And the most important of these is ‘be on time’ – and that includes for your acting class. Be professional.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007


And so the Words of Wisdom this week are simply: Share. Work with your fellow actors, not against them. If you make them look good then your performance will be all the more convincing. Competing with other actors for the audience’s attention is self-defeating. Treat everyone in the cast with respect, whether their part be large or small. You’re part of a team and everyone should pull together. If you’re working on a big movie the team can be enormous, and there should be no division between cast and crew. And finally, the most important entity to share with is the audience. Always have a corner of your mind working on how best to share what is happening with them. Without the audience there is no show.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Keep fit

And the WOW factor – the Words of Wisdom? Very simple: Keep Fit. Acting can be very tiring. It can involve early starts, long days, late evenings, emotionally and physically exhausting performances. The fitter you are the more equipped you will be to cope with these demands. So, live an active life: run, swim, dance, play sport, go to the gym, do aerobics. Walk or cycle to get around; run up the stairs instead of waiting for the lift; don’t be one of the zeroes who stands still on the escalator (of life.) You will feel happier, depression will lift. Why? Because vigorous activity, like laughter, sex and exposure to the sun, releases beta-endorphin, a neurotransmitter which is a powerful painkiller and which also promotes feelings of relaxation and well-being. It’s also released by acupuncture, incidentally.

And while you’re about it, eat a good diet including the famous five portions a day of fruit and vegetables, but keeping down the proportions of fatty foods and refined sugar. And if you’re one of the few remaining smokers, now is the time to kick the habit. Your voice is so important to you: why ruin it by smoking, as well as wrecking your lungs, arteries and quite a lot more? By taking one step at a time you can gradually adapt your body to a better lifestyle. It does take time: running guru Bruce Tulloh reckons it takes two years to turn a non-runner’s body into a runner’s body. But think how many people maintain their car more carefully than they maintain their body – the difference being you can trade in your car for a new one, but you can’t trade in your body, it has to last all your life.

If you do all this, you will likely live longer and better, and you’ll be a better actor. Keep fit.