The acting business is not as easy as it may seem. There are thousands of struggling actors across the country who wish to try their luck in movies and stage shows. With tough competition at every step, not everyone is lucky to bag a coveted role. Of course, luck plays a huge role in what will happen in your life. However, it's your dedication, determination, hard work, and passion that will take you one step ahead. So before anyone can get to the point of giving auditions for anything, it is basic knowledge that one should know the "ins and outs" of this industry. As there are various genres of acting, getting into each character, learning the lines, connecting with the audience, bringing every emotion of the character out with dialog and mannerisms is what helps you advance further.
Acting Methods and Techniques
The acting techniques for actors mentioned below can be useful if you are taking any acting classes, going for an audition, or impressing any casting director(s). Let's take a look at four genres, comedy, drama, action, and horror, and see what different techniques are expected from its performers.
There are many subcategories in the comedy genre: farce, imbroglio, black comedy, pantomime, and many more. It may seem easier on television or stage, but comedy is tough work. The key element of a comedic acting style is not that you "milk the audience" for a laugh. The script might be really hilarious to work from, but if you act out the scenes as if the will come automatically without your input, you are definitely going to kill the essence of comedy, spontaneity. Just so you don't give the joke away before time, an actor has to stay focused on each and every moment which unfolds during the scenes. The humor has to be seen and heard together.
- Don't be funny on purpose. If you have trust, the laughs will follow. While delivering a funny line, don't try to be funny at all. When you try too hard to squeeze the humor out of one line just so that you can get the audience laugh or after the lines are delivered, you wait for the laugh, disaster follows. You'll find nothing but crickets chirping in the dead silence.
- There's a simple technique on how to laugh. Some actors can laugh or cry on cue. For you to easily slide into this pattern, let's take a look at a few techniques to laugh effectively. First of all, don't get distracted. Always keep your concentration on the scene and your partner. Second of all, think of what kind of laugh you need for that moment. The size and type of laugh will be different for each scene. Third of all, the mood of the scene will decide how your character would react. Once the dialog are delivered and you receive the kind of response from the audience you're looking for, then forget about the rest. Just go for it and let the moment carry you through.
- Improvisational comedy is what masters of the profession do. One actor whom I can think of at this moment, Matthew Perry, is by far one of the best improvisational actors alive. To come up with the wittiest lines or out-joke your scene partners is not easy. The basic idea, whether it is a short Improve or a long one, is that to take the scripted scene and turn it into the scenario based on the reality of the moments.
- Physical comedy goes beyond words. Not just the dialog, but your body is also used in many different ways to communicate with the audience and evoke humor. Remember the Vaudeville comedians? Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton were the masters of this type of humor. In today's time, actors like Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, Steve Martin, and many more are carrying on the old tradition. To study physical comedy, you need to be open to the fact that it is hard work and needs patience.
What is drama? It's a piece with plot and characters which are regulated by an overriding theme. There are 3 primary elements of drama: plot, theme, and character. As an actor, you are required to inquire and translate the theme. Your boundaries are within the themes, you let the drama unfold, let it flow through you, and build relationships with other characters in it. Remember, you are not working there alone (except for a solo scene), it's a collective effort.
- Soap operas are still essential. It's not like the old days where the women used to cry and men were broody. There are few soap operas that hire talented people who can bring some reality to the characters. They are not some fictitious worlds with artificial characters and plots. Audience, whether a live one or not, get pulled towards a performance which is vivid with emotions and provides thrills to them.
- Drama schools have a major impact on how good an actor you turn out to be. They focus on developing your skills as an actor (which you already possess) and help you into advancing to many other levels. If you really have a keen interest for this field, you need to be absolutely prepared to go through the entire process.
- One of the major aspects of acting in this genre is to play your status accurately. For example, you and your scene partner pick a card from the deck. Don't reveal the number each of you have. Now, act the scene you were working on. If, according to you, the number is high, you will play that character in a way to keep the status high. After the scene is over, check what each of your numbers were and see if you were accurate enough in your performances.
- For an honest visual drama, you need to focus on the subtext in any given scene. You won't be verbally communicating with other characters, but it's the emotion going on in the back of your mind. For example, there's a scene which involves a fight. Now you are supposed to recite, "I hate you", in your mind in the scene. By repeating the words or phrase in your head over and over again will give the effect of your emotions in a natural way, without any actual words.
- Leave your personal issues at the stage door. This is a very popular saying in drama and very true. Playing any character requires presence of mind, no distractions, and no hindrance to the scene due to your current mood. In front of a camera or on stage, you are that character, and nothing else. Everything else just disappears till the time you are that character.
When we talk about action movies or acting for this genre, we can't forget that drama is involved in here somewhere. Without drama there's no action. The intense dialogs, physical strength, and rendering mystery through your words and actions will make up for the whole scene. In order to learn how to excel in this genre, know what your character and plot demands.
- In a car chase, the main focus is to keep the adrenaline pumping. You're not just acting for yourself but are bringing the whole scene alive. As the scenes are shot in several parts, it can become difficult or tough to keep the same emotions each time. Here, what you need to keep in mind is that in every shot, your energy level has to be high and the adrenaline level should be soaring.
- In a shooting scene (with guns, missiles, etc.), know who your character is, what is the role, and how well can you contribute to the scene. If you're not the main lead and are not giving any dialog, then your facial expressions will be your most important tool. With emotions like fear, strength, energy, concern, revenge, etc., you can easily carry the scene forward.
- In a hand-to-hand combat, your physical strength will be challenged. Of course, in such moments, you will be given prior training. But the fact remains that what you bring to the floor, at the final shot, is what counts the most. Here, all your training and mental preparation will be tested.
Now don't go thinking about those cheesy, fake horror films which don't require preparation for role, plot, or genre itself. It's not necessary that your audience believes in the world of horror. More important is how your character makes it believable. To understand techniques for this genre, ask yourself these questions: What are the emotional thoughts of your character? Are there any motivations for him/her? What actions or decisions led your character to be in such a dangerous situation?
- Acting with blood and other scary props is what makes this genre credible. It's your job to make the "oh I just got stabbed in the heart and my friend's hand got chopped off in front of me" look real. Any sort of gory scene needs some meditative time so that it comes out more ghoulish. Think of what scares you the most and then get into the character to make the audience realize the actual horror of being in the situation.
- Calm before the storm. The after-effect or shock factor is what makes horror films so thrilling. This is what most horror movies cash in on where the scene is moving slowly, but suddenly that calm is broken. The "too eerie" effect is what, as an actor, you should be able to portray. If you stay as calm as you can in a scene, the more shocking your actions will be later on.
- Playing dead doesn't work when you can actually see the dead guy breathing. But it's a fact that such errors happen after working for many hours and giving takes after takes. The integrity of the film depends on that small breath taken. If you are stuck in such a situation, here are some techniques for you. One, always be aware of where the camera is and if you are in the shot or not. Two, if your body is also part of a long, uncut scene, take slow, shallow breaths. And three, focus on breathing only in your neck and throat. Your lungs are working, but visually speaking, this practice will keep the chest from moving.
- Let your imaginations run wild. This is one of the most helpful tip when you are working on CGI films. There's nothing in front of you, but your character is surrounded with flesh-eating monsters. You will have to rely on your gut feeling and flow through the scene with some out-of-the-box imagination.
- Can you scream? There are actors who can scream like there was no tomorrow. Screaming is a big part of horror films. Let's take a look at some techniques for realistic screaming. Stand away from others, take a deep breath through the nose, fill your lungs, lower your diaphragm, open you jaw, and exhale from your mouth. Silently, but forcefully let the air out. Do this 2-3 times. Now comes the actual scream. Follow all the steps till exhaling. Now instead of doing this silently, let it all out with force. Scream as hard as you can and physically join in the pain and fear of the scene. Screaming is not good for the vocal cords. So make sure to drink lots and lots of fluids (water) every time you have to scream in a scene.
These were some of the acting styles and techniques to improve yourself furthermore. Consciously go through these techniques which were discussed in the article and you will see a difference in your performances. Pour all your energy and hard work to what you love, and the results will follow unconditionally.