Friday, September 9, 2011


If we look at experienced actors, we'll see how one of the secrets of camera acting is to low-key everything. If you don't, you'll most probably overact. Mind, physically low-keyed does not mean emotionally low-keyed.
Acting in a number of shorts movies, I often came to realize during filmed rehearsals how I often tended to give a single emotion (a moment of surprise, fear, or happiness) its own body or face movement. Result: I was overacting all of the time! When I say overacting, I mean either doing something unnecessary, or being "too much". So I learned to reduce, reduce, reduce, get rid of what is superfluous (sure, I decide what's necessary once I have more or less completed the work on my character), cut and make it lean, rather than fat and bombastic.
Overacting on long shots may still be acceptable, as it might still pass unnoticed. Close-ups, on the other hand, won't be that pitiful. In a close-up, the faintest movement will appear wider than it actually is; the slightest rocking of your head, which will not be seen in a long shot, will get your face partly out of frame for a fraction of a second in a close-up. Here is where I always try to clean myself of anything that might create disturbance. It happened at times I was into a scene with lines and one take was filmed in a long shot. Right after, for the following take, the setting, lighting and everything was changed to make it a close-up of me saying my lines. That's where I stop doing what I was doing in the long shot, if I realize that what I was doing might be disturbing here, or calling the attention off what I consider important in that close-up. Close-up also means: be mindful of your voice, volume and all. I learned to work in close co-operation with the sound guy (the one working with the boom).
Michael Caine has been a major source of understanding and inspiration in my gradual grasping the mechanisms of camera acting.


  1. Welcome to the blogosphere, Jacopo!
    I love the wallpaper of your blog; so artsy. :)
    Acting is as difficult as writing. Anyone that tells you differently has never tried it. You said, "doing something unnecessary, or being "too much". So I learned to reduce, reduce, reduce, get rid of what is superfluous". This happens in writing as well. I used to write wordy and long sentences. Through practice, I learned that less is more.
    Wishing you much success in your acting career.

  2. Thank you Claudia.
    Your blog is a major source of inspiration! And so are you! Thanks for all your advice and support.

  3. This is a pretty cool concept man. I love acting (as a fan) and I'm very happy to find someone who discusses the subtleties of the profession. I agree that restrain is a very good tool for accurate acting. Maybe the exception that confirms the rule is Toshiro Mifune in SEVEN SAMURAI. The film is articulated around him, overacting. It's a very tricky and yet beautiful use of his actors by Akira Kurosawa.

    I think a good example of what you say is Marlon Brando in APOCALYPSE NOW. He was almost perfect and yet his face was almost inert.

  4. Sublety or its opposite, it all depends on the choices the actor makes with the director and on the actor's personality. Some actors aren't subtle at all, but they can still be perfectly natural, believable, and truthful. Others instead employ their body to much lesser degrees and everything happening in them is released through thinner pores.
    You're right, Marlon Brando was definitely a more intraspective type, and he found a way to showcase that very powerfully.

  5. You are so right! I find that the less "business" I do in a scene the more I fall into schtick with my face (head shaking, weird expressions). It's a bad habit I am working hard to get rid of. Thanks for raising the issue.

    And while I'm at it, isn't it remarkable how much influence Michael Caine has had with that little book? Actors and drama teachers cite it all the time. Kay

  6. Hi Kathryn,

    I bet they cite it! I don't think there's any better explanations than the one given by Michael Caine! Then you watch his movies and you see how amazing he is, and that's when you start believing in everything he writes!

    Thanks for commenting!