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Acting Is the category of cinematic form that most of us know the most about.

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Presentation on theme: "Acting Is the category of cinematic form that most of us know the most about."— Presentation transcript:

1 Acting Is the category of cinematic form that most of us know the most about.

2 What is acting? Impersonation - pretense Impersonation - pretense Embodiment (including voice) Embodiment (including voice) “the aspect of filmmaking over which directors have the least control” (196) “the aspect of filmmaking over which directors have the least control” (196) Seemingly intuitive or natural, but actually calculated and contrived Seemingly intuitive or natural, but actually calculated and contrived

3 How do we distinguish between the actor and the acting?

4 Four key types of actors: Actors who maintain a single persona from role to role (personality or type actors) Actors who maintain a single persona from role to role (personality or type actors) Actors who deliberately thwart expectations (actors cast against type) Actors who deliberately thwart expectations (actors cast against type) Actors who are different in every role (chameleon actors) Actors who are different in every role (chameleon actors) Cameo actors – those from other professions who add verisimilitude Cameo actors – those from other professions who add verisimilitude

5 The more famous or ‘exposed’ an actor is, the harder the actor must work to be seen as anything but a personality actor.

6 In Courage Under Fire, casting helped shape the audience’s expectations. How would you categorize these actors in the film? Denzel Washington Denzel Washington Meg Ryan Meg Ryan Lou Diamond Phillips Lou Diamond Phillips Matt Damon Matt Damon

7 A personality actor... Harrison Ford “Everyman” “Everyman” Embattled hero Embattled hero Tough loner Tough loner Action hero manqué Action hero manqué

8 Personality actors are often box- office favorites, but not well- regarded for their acting ability. Clint Eastwood Clint Eastwood Tom Cruise Tom Cruise Angelina Jolie Angelina Jolie Jennifer Aniston Jennifer Aniston Keira Knightley Keira Knightley Jack Nicholson Jack Nicholson Seth Rogen Seth Rogen

9 An actor cast against type Charlize Theron Usually cast as a glamorous blonde beauty Usually cast as a glamorous blonde beauty In Monster (dir. Patty Jenkins, 2003) she was cast as an unattractive, street- walking prostitute and serial murderer In Monster (dir. Patty Jenkins, 2003) she was cast as an unattractive, street- walking prostitute and serial murderer

10 Chameleons are considered the most accomplished actors because their work requires craft. They are often ordinary-looking. Robert de Niro Robert de Niro Gene Hackman Gene Hackman Philip Michael Hoffman Philip Michael Hoffman Laura Linney Laura Linney Edward Norton Edward Norton Nicole Kidman Nicole Kidman William H. Macy William H. Macy

11 A chameleon actor... Johnny Depp Pirate Pirate Historical figure Historical figure Fantasy figure Fantasy figure Action hero Action hero Mentally unbalanced brother Mentally unbalanced brother Drug kingpin Drug kingpin

12 A cameo actor... This shot from Forrest Gump includes John F. Kennedy, who died three decades before the movie was made. Sometimes a living person Sometimes a living person Sometimes appears as self – or as someone else Sometimes appears as self – or as someone else May or may not be credited May or may not be credited Sometimes a historical figure (with special effects) Sometimes a historical figure (with special effects)

13 Sometimes chameleon actors are so effective that they become full-time – successful - actors. Mark Wahlberg started as pop star, boy-toy, and underwear model “Marky Mark.” Mark Wahlberg started as pop star, boy-toy, and underwear model “Marky Mark.” Has now made a serious career as actor “Mark Wahlberg.” Has now made a serious career as actor “Mark Wahlberg.”

14 Later, with Jennifer Aniston in the film “Rock Star.” Dr. Jadwin’s Film Rule #36: Taking off your clothes generally does not get you nominated for an Oscar™, but putting more clothes on might.

15 Screen acting has changed over time. The first film actors used stage techniques, which were often broader and more exaggerated than we accept today (“canned theatre”; Sarah Bernhardt at right). The first film actors used stage techniques, which were often broader and more exaggerated than we accept today (“canned theatre”; Sarah Bernhardt at right). Watch a short video of “The Great Sarah” as Queen Elizabeth I Watch a short video of “The Great Sarah” as Queen Elizabeth Ivideo

16 Acting gradually became more naturalistic as films evolved. Acting became more naturalistic during the silent-film period (Lillian Gish at right; video from Broken Blossoms) Acting became more naturalistic during the silent-film period (Lillian Gish at right; video from Broken Blossoms) video

17 The development of sound had a profound effect on film acting. Early cameras were noisy and had to be encased in bulky soundproof “blimps” (see box around camera at right) Early cameras were noisy and had to be encased in bulky soundproof “blimps” (see box around camera at right) This restricted the area within which actors were able to move This restricted the area within which actors were able to move

18 Singin’ in the Rain dramatizes the transition from silent films to talkies – and the casualties.

19 It celebrates a median point in film – between b/w silent films, the technicolor revolution/studio system, and present-day naturalistic films.

20 To get a sense of what silent movies are like, you can watch an early silent movie that is now in the public domain. Charlie Chaplin in Charlie Chaplin in “The Gold Rush” “The Gold Rush”

21 Barsam argues that in the film Applause, (1929, dir. Rouben Mamoulian), “we can almost feel the limited-range microphone boom hovering over the actors, one step beyond the use of flowerpots” (205). Check out this 29-sec. video. Do you agree? video

22 In the classical studio era, movie stars became prominent The movie star embodied The movie star embodied –A studio-created image, because the actor was “owned” by the studio who had them under contract –The social and cultural assumptions of the period –A paradoxical combination of ordinariness and god-like fame and power

23 The studio/star system (1930s-1960s) Gave studios complete control over actors, the power to rename, to define “type,” to determine roles, and to refuse parts. Gave studios complete control over actors, the power to rename, to define “type,” to determine roles, and to refuse parts. Dominated the movie industry until it collapsed in the 1960s, when movie stars became “free agents” with more independence, but less job security Dominated the movie industry until it collapsed in the 1960s, when movie stars became “free agents” with more independence, but less job security

24 Studio acting was succeeded by method acting in the 1960s. Developed by Konstantin Stanislavsky (director of Moscow Art Theatre, 1890s onwards) Developed by Konstantin Stanislavsky (director of Moscow Art Theatre, 1890s onwards) Influenced the silent directors of the 1920s in Russia and US Influenced the silent directors of the 1920s in Russia and US Pudovkin’s book Film Acting (1935) codified Stanislavsky’s ideas. Pudovkin’s book Film Acting (1935) codified Stanislavsky’s ideas. Method acting was later taught by Stella Adler, a famous acting teacher at NYC’s Actor’s Studio. Method acting was later taught by Stella Adler, a famous acting teacher at NYC’s Actor’s Studio.

25 Method acting emphasizes Natural-seeming – lifelike - acting Natural-seeming – lifelike - acting –Method actors learn to identify with their characters and to develop “back story” and “motivation” ideas –Method actors often study real-life people to get a better sense of how to portray characters Collaboration between actors and directors (rather than directors calling all the shots) Collaboration between actors and directors (rather than directors calling all the shots) Improvisation to enrich the film – deviating from the script when appropriate Improvisation to enrich the film – deviating from the script when appropriate The use of expressive objects to indicate character and convey emotion The use of expressive objects to indicate character and convey emotion

26 Method acting is still practiced, but is often combined with other styles of acting. Some directors counsel actors to “think, don’t feel” Some directors counsel actors to “think, don’t feel” Other directors encourage actors to feel and encourage spontaneity Other directors encourage actors to feel and encourage spontaneity Some actors are encouraged to invite the audience’s participation by restraining their emotions. Some actors are encouraged to invite the audience’s participation by restraining their emotions.

27 Issues in casting Casting decisions traditionally reflect culturally widespread prejudices about subordinate groups – everybody but able- bodied white men. Race Race Gender Gender Age Age Ability Ability

28 An expressive object we’ll see later in the course is the sled “Rosebud” in Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane.

29 Another famous expressive object from Citizen Kane is a snow globe.

30 How casting works Casting professionals or agencies are hired to find appropriate actors Casting professionals or agencies are hired to find appropriate actors Actors are usually represented by agents and belong to a union that ensures they are paid fairly (SAG, the Screen Actors’ Guild.) Actors are usually represented by agents and belong to a union that ensures they are paid fairly (SAG, the Screen Actors’ Guild.) Well-known actors read scripts and negotiate with directors and producers to determine whether they are interested in a film. Well-known actors read scripts and negotiate with directors and producers to determine whether they are interested in a film. Less-well-known actors take screen tests. Here is an early, hilarious screen test of actors James Dean and Paul Newman. Less-well-known actors take screen tests. Here is an early, hilarious screen test of actors James Dean and Paul Newman.screen test of actors James Dean and Paul Newmanscreen test of actors James Dean and Paul Newman

31 Types of roles include Major roles – hero, heroine, villain Major roles – hero, heroine, villain Minor roles (in descending importance) Minor roles (in descending importance) –Character actor –Walk-on or bit player –Cameos –Animal and infant players –Extras Stand-ins and stunt-workers, wranglers and handlers, and body-doubles Stand-ins and stunt-workers, wranglers and handlers, and body-doubles

32 Styles of acting Naturalistic (method). Think of Johnny Depp as J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, in the historical film Neverland. Naturalistic (method). Think of Johnny Depp as J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, in the historical film Neverland. Non-naturalistic (expressionist) – involving the alienation effect. Think of Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands. Non-naturalistic (expressionist) – involving the alienation effect. Think of Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands.

33 Improvisatory acting Can occur spontaneously, or be decided on as a strategy by director and actors. Or both! Can occur spontaneously, or be decided on as a strategy by director and actors. Or both! Barsam cites the “You talkin’ to me?” segment from Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1973) as an example. There was no scripted dialogue/monologue for this scene; De Niro – who is a famous proponent of method acting - improvised. Barsam cites the “You talkin’ to me?” segment from Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1973) as an example. There was no scripted dialogue/monologue for this scene; De Niro – who is a famous proponent of method acting - improvised.“You talkin’ to me?” “You talkin’ to me?”

34 Framing, composition, lighting, and the long take all affect the audience’s perception of an actor’s performance.

35 Framing and composition can separate actors or keep them together in a shot.

36 Here the actors are separated in the frame (in depth and in length from each other).

37 Closeups can be very important. Note how, in this video clip, the filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer intercalates closeups of Joan of Arc and her interrogators (Barsam dicusses this sequence on 227). in this videoin this video

38 Lighting actors in particular ways helps create meaning. What are the kinds of lighting used in this shot of Marlene Dietrich in the film Morocco? What mood is created by the actor/lighting combination?

39 The long take (an exceptionally long single shot) encourages us to focus deeply. In this video, actors and director from Children of Men (dir. Alfonso Cuarón, 2006) discuss why the movie enlists long takes.this video (The clip is from the “Making of” featurette on the DVD release of the film.)

40 Barsam suggests we use the following criteria to evaluate an actor’s performance: Appropriateness; naturalness Appropriateness; naturalness Inherent thoughtfulness, emotionality Inherent thoughtfulness, emotionality Expressive coherence Expressive coherence Wholeness, unity Wholeness, unity

41 Screening checklist: ACTING Why was this actor chosen and not another? Why was this actor chosen and not another? Does the performance create a coherent, unified character? Does the performance create a coherent, unified character? Does the actor look appropriate for the part? Does the actor look appropriate for the part? Does the actor’s performance convey actions, thoughts, and complexities in a way that is appropriate to the film? Does the actor’s performance convey actions, thoughts, and complexities in a way that is appropriate to the film? What elements are most distinctive about the actor’s performance? What elements are most distinctive about the actor’s performance? What special qualities has the actor brought to the performance? What special qualities has the actor brought to the performance? How is the actor’s performance interwoven with the filmmaker’s overall vision? How is the actor’s performance interwoven with the filmmaker’s overall vision? Is the actor’s performance logical? Is the actor’s performance logical? To what extent do we get tricked into thinking we’re watching real life? To what extent do we get tricked into thinking we’re watching real life? (Barsam 235) (Barsam 235)


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