Although audition technique and preparation is also covered, the primary focus of this training is scene study because on-camera performance tends to require a "deeper" listening and
more accurate reaction than is often required on stage. Further to this, since most films and TV shows are shot out of sequence, we focus on the scene
itself, in context to the whole.
The camera records everything you do: it sees you lying, deflecting, ignoring, worrying about what you look like; it catches every moment you are "in" and every moment you are "out." Working moment-to-moment is essential to this kind of training because it moves the performer away from "safe" defaults, it demands that you are present, it demands that you see and hear your scene partner in each and every moment you play.
Defining the following four elements will make any actor's performance more compelling:
Being present on demand and opening primary emotional states of being are the bedrock of this process. If we see (even in a flinch) that the actor is not invested, does not need anything, the audience does not follow.
The Action (or scene objective) -- what you want from your scene partner keeps you in the room. This is intrinsically rooted to that same investment.
The Icon - know what is happening. Is this a beginning or an ending? When I meet my scene partner am I saying good-bye or proposing marriage. This is usually defined by your action when the scene begins.
Relationship - to whom am I talking? It is very difficult to stay present if you don't know who you are talking to or what you want. This aspect also informs what tools and tactics are at your disposal to play.
Finally, how to approach text on-camera requires considerable adjustment for many stage actors. I will argue that a screenplay rarely provides a fully drawn character for an actor to play. On stage when you work on great plays by Tennessee Williams or Shakespeare, you can always go back to the written page to find the motivation, the character's desire, or the answer to a question in a scene. Not so with screenplays which offer a context, a setting, and perhaps only a sketch or starting point in comparison. It has long been my opinion that actors on film complete the writing of a character's story. They show us the character by the choices they bring to their scenes, by their specific knowledge and life experience, and by being brave enough to open themselves to intimate and vulnerable moments.
Acting terminology and concepts
referenced above are © David Rotenberg.