NYC City Acting Classes Stress On Camera Practice

By Mark Stolzenberg

Are You Ready for your Close-up?

Mark Stolzenberg Acting Coach(Continued from the homepage) …academy award for Best Actor in the movie Revenant. His acting in the film is clearly defined by his reaction shots to the horrible circumstances he was facing in the unfriendly wilderness of Northern Canada. The story centers around his struggle to survive and we see great close-ups of him watching his son being murdered, struggling with a killer bear, and in general dealing with the adverse elements he must face.

A classic example of great close-up work is the final scene in the film, Casablanca. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman are madly in love with each other but must part ways because of the circumstances of World War 11. They stand next to the plane which will take her away forever, and we see close-ups of the two characters staring into each others’ eyes.

The emotional conflict, passion, and tragedy is heart wrenching. Most viewers of the film cry at this point because their close-ups are so masterfully executed. When you have a close-up in a film, the audience sees you as an important part of the story and vital to the director’s vision. Furthermore, most auditions are shot in close-ups or medium close-ups, so if you want to work in the industry, you absolutely must master close-up acting.

There are many do’s and don’ts for acting in close-ups effectively. Of course nothing is 100% and there are exceptions to everything I am suggesting.

  • Do not move your head too much or bounce around – it looks weird and takes away from your eyes and the power of your emotion.
  • Hold still, soften your face, and fire from your eyes. Your eyes are paramount. They reveal your inner life and soul and you can send energy, emotions, and ideas through your eyes to your scene partner.
  • Breathing in and out deeply looks great on close-ups, so always find a moment to take a deep breath in and release out. Not only does it look great on camera but it will relax your body, your facial muscles, and help you access your emotions.
  • Though we ask you to be relatively still on a close-up, we do not want you to be to stiff or cardboard-like. Make sure you are alive and vital with a deep and textured inner life even though you are still.
  • Don’t over use your eyebrows. We don’t want to see bouncing eyebrows on your close-up acting.
  • Do not use your tongue and mouth a lot. Often nervous actors wriggle their mouth and, over tense their lips and jaws. Stay soft, still and real. This will amplify your emotions and draw the camera to your eyes. Also, keeping your chin down will force the camera to go to your eyes (as opposed to your neck).

Some gestures work very well in close-ups. Others do not.This is hard to explain in a written article but when you are on camera in class, experiment with various hand and arm gestures. Some will really help you to be real others will look awkward. Shaking your fist or pointing at someone when you are angry usually works, while puckering your lips to create a kiss usually does not work.

Use the space well. You can lean in towards the camera an inch
or so ( of course NEVER LOOK IN THE LENSE) or lean back ever so slightly to create a dramatic effect. Don’t tilt your head, unless you are making a conscious choice to tilt your head for the character or situation.

Let the camera come to you. Don’t put on a performance. Just believe in your circumstances and the camera will find it. If you believe, the audience will believe.

Try to create a dance with your thoughts. You could be looking at an external object, then thinking, then feeling, then remembering- all these require a change of focus from you and it creates texture and movement in the scene.

These are some basic suggestions. Take a class like those offered at the New York Acting School for Film and Television where you can experiment. I emphasize close-ups in all my film acting on camera classes. Trial and error is the best way to learn. We do not know what we have until we see it up on the screen.

Mark Stolzenberg teaches at The New York Acting School for Film and Television.