I’ve been trying to figure out if actors are able to do something that all the rest of us cannot do.
I’m not talking about actors like Meryl Streep and Dustin Hoffman – obviously they have a God-given talent to disappear into a character.
I’m talking about actors below their level: the non-elite, B-list actors, regulars on TV series … are they doing anything other than hitting their marks and saying their lines with the appropriate emotion without looking at the camera?
If we picked 100 people at random, couldn’t most of them to at least a reasonably competent job acting in most scenes (i.e., not a scene requiring serious emoting)?
I’ll take the 100 random people, with a few qualifications. After all, actors are people too…with the possible exception of Keanu Reeves. No one knows yet what he is. He sure ain’t no actor.
Could 100 random people with no previous experience just walk on a stage or set and act believably? No way. But if they had the desire to act convincingly, and had enough training, as well as talent, sure they could. How else do actors become successful?
OTOH, acting is hard work. I’ve tried my hand at stand-up comedy as well as being in an improv troupe. I’m glad I tried, but I didn’t stick with the stand-up because I realized just how hard it is, and with the troupe (be it improv or any acting company), you need chemistry to be successful – it’s that way with any team, be it a sports team, or actors.
In my opinion, anyone famous for doing something talented comes in two flavors: the truly talented and the ones with enough balls to be able to fake it.
For example: Madonna. She’s no great singer, she dances ok, her acting is passable at best, and yet she’s one of the most rich and famous performers in the world … because she had the balls to go for it. Her talent barely got her through, if you ask me.
So, in response to the OP, I’d say acting is difficult if you don’t have the talent for it, but having enough balls to fake it works a lot of the time too.
Interesting question. On some level, it would be a very unusual person who has never said something that was untrue, imaginary or otherwise not based in their own personal experience. Every time you call in sick, say the dog ate your homework, hide a birthday present, you are acting.
That being said, the difference between everyday people and professional actors is working on the craft, in the same way that the difference between having some story ideas and being a writer is sitting down to the computer for a couple of hours every day and churning something out.
The best way to find out how difficult working on that craft can be is to sign up for an acting course. There’s quite a difference between telling a story in the pub and holding the attention of your fellow cast members and an audience.
Acting is easy. Keanu Reeves is an actor. By this I mean that when you see him, it’s apparent that he is acting. What’s difficult is being on camera, immersed in a role, and not emoting the “I am ACTING” vibe to the world.
Acting is a craft that requires a lot more physical control over your body and musculature than most people realize. There is a lot of training that goes into it. Simple actions like “how do I walk across a room” or “how do I go from standing to sitting in a chair” are different when performed on stage or in front of a camera. Doing them as you normally would will look terrible. The movements would be fast, ungraceful, and hard to watch. And that is before you get into actually speaking anything.
When it is done well it seems like it takes no talent at all, but if you select 100 random people with no training at all to get up on stage and preform a scene most of them would make fools of themselves.
You could do a bit better with acting for the screen, since it requires less physically from the actor. But out of 100 people, I would say that 60 or so would seem like fools if placed in front of a camara and asked to perform.
I’ve often wondered about this. Especially when someone like Tatum O’Neal has won what is arguably the highest award given to actors, the Academy Award or Oscar. She was 10 years old when she won. How many 10-year-olds are there IN any other profession, much less 10-year-olds who have won the profession’s highest award? I’m not saying it’s easy, but still, it does make me think.
I have a theory that children make better actors because they don’t have all the hangups that adults have. Kids just exist and don’t have to try so hard because they lack a level of self conciousness that we gain as adults. Part of learning how to act is learning to get yourself back to that childlike state of just existing.*
*I know that sounds new agey as hell, but I don’t know how better to explain it.
Can you film a complicated scene that may require multiple takes from different angles over several hours and keep your performance perfectly consistent so when they edit it all together it flows smoothly? Just for this, I respect professional actors and am pretty confident I couldn’t do their job myself (even at a minimally acceptable level) without a few years of training and practice.
I agree with this. I think acting is easy as falling off a log. I’ve done it, and well, and it comes very easily for me with very little formal training. I just have an internal sense of what will look and sound right without having to articulate or quantify it, the same way some people can work out the path of a basketball in their head without studying calculus.
Math is hard. Embroidery is hard. Singing rock music is hard. Actually falling off a log is hard. But those are only hard because I’m not naturally very good at them. Could I practice and get better? Sure, absolutely. But they’d all be fundamentally harder for me than stage acting, even as my skills at them improved. I could (have) taken acting classes and gotten even better, but it doesn’t make the act of acting any harder.
I also think that film and stage acting require such different skill sets as to be impossible to lump together. I have no idea if film acting is hard or if I’d be any good at it. I’d like to think I would, but I really don’t know.
Have you ever attended any productions by local theater groups or by college theater departments? They are veritable orgies of bad acting. Sometimes bad enough to be funny; usually just plain bad.
Yes, there are a few competent performers to be found in those venues. Mostly in the colleges. There you get a constant flow of new “talent” coming in. The community theater groups, IME, tend to have a relatively stable membership. My first wife was peripherally involved in community theater; the core membership consisted of a laughably untalented group. If they’d had to audition for roles to anyone but each other, they’d never have set foot on a stage.
So, to answer the OP: No, acting isn’t easy. There are lots of people, though, who think it is.
As NAF1138 said, actors don’t emote; that’s why they’re called actors and not emoters or feelers. If you just say the lines, you’ll sound like the guy from the local furniture or stereo store commercials. Actors take action, and taking actions that are natural, logical, fit the scene, and serve the story requires sufficient scene study skills. You need to take action person-to-person, not just character-to-character. You need the reflexes to follow through on impulses to take a scene in a new direction that you haven’t rehearsed, and you need the reflexes to play off of a scene partner who is taking the scene in a new direction. Even as you’re reinterpreting a scene, on the fly, in tandem with one or more scene partners, you have to be present rather than caught up in your head academically analyzing the scene. Then, when a scene is flowing along nicely, you have to be open enough for emotions to manifest as a by-product of the events in a scene. Then one you nail it, you have be able to replicate a few dozen times.
And that’s just base-level competence. So no, it’s not just “saying lines with the appropriate emotion”.
My employer hired a production company to film a commercial, employees of the the company would be the actors in the commercial. The initial call was for 50 people to fill the 20 or so spots. All that was required of each person was to speak a sentence so it could be understood and perform a simple task at the same time. The director ended up going through almost 300 people to get the 20 that could do what he wanted. The most common cause of being rejected was freezing in front of the cameras and crew. The commercial made it’s debut during the Super Bowl game during the mid 90’s, it was about the Boeing 777 and it’s launch into the US market by United Airlines.