Acting on Camera and in Front of Others

by Josephine
(Richmond, VA)

QUESTION:

I have recently considered becoming an actress and have had experience acting for plays, sketches, skits, etc. on stage, and have felt comfortable with those. However, I always choke up when in front of the camera. I'm also more nervous in front of people that I know, but I'm perfectly fine acting in front of complete strangers. Any tips of how to get used to being in front of the camera and others?

ANSWER:

I think it's normal to be more nervous in front of people you know. We feel we have more at stake with people we know, and we have to work harder for them to stop seeing us and watch the character we're playing. One exercise you can try is "substitution". Substitute the people you know in the audience for complete strangers. If you're doing a monologue or a sketch that involves the audience, you can also try substituting them for people your character knows, not you. But don't make eye contact, so you can remain in control of the exchange.

If you're doing a play and people you know are watching, work on concentration exercises before the show starts to build the "4th wall", that imaginary wall that stands between you and the audience. If you are method trained, you can try a "private moment exercise" to help you feel less aware of the audience. Otherwise, any concentration exercise will help, including meditation. I think you'll find some of the techniques to fight nervousness on this page helpful. You'll also find that the more you are in the moment and in character, the less you worry about who's watching. When I feel nervous, I like to imagine I'm an animal that represents my character in my mind. Since it's so different, it tends to do the trick.

As for acting in front of the camera, my guess would be that you are not so much nervous about the camera than about the crew. Even if you don't know them very well, you know them, whereas an audience in a theater only "knows" you as your character. If that's the case, use the camera to center and focus. It works for me every time. There's a lot of noise and activity on a film set, but when they call "action!", it's just you and the camera. Work on making that word, "action", a trigger to feeling completely relaxed and focused on your role.

If it's really the camera that makes you nervous and not the crew, maybe it's just a matter of gaining more experience. You could start with filming yourself every week and taking a good on-camera class to get over your fears. You can also learn more about screen acting here.

I hope you find this helpful!

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