Friday, March 7, 2014

The importance of making the camera your close friend

I ran into a friend today at Trader Joe's and we got to talking about how to get comfortable in front of a camera. She is used to performing on stage and felt a bit intimidated by acting on camera. The advice I gave her was this - get used to it. No, I wasn't being sarcastic. I really did mean that we have to get used to having a camera near us - sometimes a mere few inches from our face. There have been a couple of times when the camera was so close to me that if i moved a few inches I could bang my head on it.

What I told her was that she needed to practice - with her own camera (even an smart phone will work for this) - and get comfortable with the intimacy that comes from working with a camera. Because a camera is a very intimate thing. If the camera is close (or if it's shooting a close-up on your face), it will pick up on your slightest eye movement, or the smallest curve of your mouth - up or down. And this will give us (the audience) a world of information about your character and what they are thinking and feeling.

You must be comfortable with that - as if you're talking (or reacting) to a close friend. Someone you want to share your deepest secrets with. You need to welcome that intimacy and know that you don't have to do very much in the way of "acting" for it to pick up on your innermost thoughts.

This is great if your thoughts are the character's thoughts. But if you're trying to fool the camera (your best friend), it will know it and reveal your deception. This is what is often the scariest part of working in close-up. Through your eyes the camera will know if you are faking it, or if what you are expressing is genuine. But this is also the most exciting part - the ability to reveal your inner self with very little "acting." For this reason I love to work "close" with the camera - as long as I am really feeling (or at least expressing) what the character is supposed to be feeling.

And this takes practice. That's why I suggested that my friend shoot herself over and over. Learning to feel that comfort and to open up to the camera as you would to a very close friend. You can practice doing asides to the camera (like they do on some TV shows) and also talking slightly off to the left or right side of the camera - like you would do in most films and TV shows.

Another technique you can develop is the ability to "sweep" your eyes past the camera without focusing on it. Try it - look to one side of the camera and then move you eyes to the other side as if you were following a car down the street. Or, as if you were talking to two friends, one on each side of the camera - first speaking to one, then the other. As I talked about in an earlier post, you can learn to focus your eyes at a further or shorter distance, so that it will really look like you are following a car that is further away than the camera.

So, if you haven't had a lot of time in front of a camera - get one and practice. And make sure you look at all the footage. Maybe even work with a friend and evaluate each other's footage. No judgements - just honest feedback about each other's strengths and weaknesses.

And be sure and write me with any questions you have about this or any other show biz subject.

CBS - Studio City

Looks like I'm back at CBS auditioning again (for a different caster). I seem to be going over there a lot lately - which is fine with me as it's close to where I live. 



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