“Stagey” Acting

Is there a difference between “stagey,” “theatrical,” or “over the top” acting? Have you ever been accused of being “too big” for film?

If you are a younger actor (young in a training sense) or spend a lot of time acting on stage then move in front of a camera, you may be familiar with the above.

So, what does it mean, is there any thing of value here, and what do we do when we hear such stuff?

First off, if you hear that you are coming across as “stagey” or one of the other labels above, your choices are probably not believable in the eyes of the viewer. As my teacher, John Jacobsen might say, “You’re not connected.” And a lack of connection means, I think, that the inside work (thought/emotion) is not rooted in an organic or truthful way, so your behavior and words look false, fake, or, dare I say, “actor-y.” Remember, the trick of acting is making it look like you aren’t acting! We want to see characters doing and being, not actors acting.

One thing I sometimes see when watching younger actors is a lack of commitment to playable actions. I can’t see what the character wants or is doing, and the actor seems to be merely performing in order to entertain the audience. This is certainly not the main objective in most cases.

And, yes, in come instances, actors are just talking too loud for a camera audition. Especially if the scene has any intimacy (two people talking across a table, for example), a working stage actor has to be cautious about over-projection. Here is one way to almost guarantee no callback: Speak too loudly for the given circumstances. Remember, you will be mic-ed!

Now, certainly, there are physical adjustments that need to be tended to when you are acting for a camera. Aside from continuity concerns, the actor has to be sensitive about how she uses her body, as body language speaks volumes, especially in closer shots.

Thanks for reading, and please leave a comment!

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