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Are You a Camera Smart Actor for Bollywood | Check

Author Kiran Pande in a close shot in "The Amusing Life of Billy Moore"
Author Kiran Pande in a "Close Up" shot in film "The Amusing Life of Billy Moore"
It is common for beginner actors to think there is a fundamental difference, in terms of acting methods, between theater, film and television. This is untrue. What is different between the mediums is only technical. The basic acting tools you use to create characterizations and imaginary worlds are exactly the same -- and this is what 98% of quality actor training is about, I would like to highlight. 

So, the difference between film and television, versus theater, is a matter of practicing "levels of expressiveness." You must learn to "calibrate" your performance to the camera, as you must also learn to calibrate your performance in a theater with an audience of 3,000, or a theater with an audience of only 40.

The actor's Soul and camera

  1. The illusion of depth on the screen is created only by the artistic use of light and shadow. 
  2. The actor too must use a kind of emotional lighting and shading to give depth to his creations of a character for the camera
  3. The camera catches the truth of our emotions and projects them back to the audience
  4. Some actors unconsciously reveal feelings they don’t intend to.  But these unintended feelings are from our soul. By the soul, I mean our innermost feelings, then yes, the camera can see into the soul.  But only if the soul will show itself
  5. The camera cannot reveal what it isn’t shown.  But it will pick up the most subtle and minute expressions, feelings and messages if given a chance.  Can the camera see into your soul? It can.  But you hold the key. 
 Will the camera believe a lie?

Yes, It will.  If it is a believable lie.

Keep in mind that a good and subtle or theatrical  performance (depending upon a "Character") over multiple shots by an actor can be turned into a great scene by altering circumstances in the editing room.

You May Be Wrong

Many actors have a wrong notion probably learnt from acting schools that

A-"If I’m in a film then I don’t have to project my voice.  I don’t have to “act” talking.  I can just talk.  I don’t have to “show” the camera that I’m listening either, I just have to listen"

In front of the camera, you cannot merely “suggest” that you are the character, you have to be the character. While portraying a character, if you have to speak in a particular way, your voice will create your emotions as well by moving your facial muscles (eyes, eyebrows, lips, neck etc.)

B-The reason actors appear too big and sometimes false on screen is that they are trying to overcome preconceived non -existent camera myths.  If we allow ourselves to accept the reality of a character we are playing and where we are, then our inner reality will match it.

C-It is wrong to believe that on camera, we have to be subtle all the times and not theatrical. Again, it depends on the script, profile, emotions of a character and the objective of a shot/scene

D-It would also depend on whether it’s a close or a long shot.

E- The same actor may have to use different styles in different films or in the same film, depending upon the character (which sometimes change in a same film as he/she may have to portray different stages like from young to old or a good to bad or from healthy to sick and dying).
(Look at the classic example of actors in the classical Bollywood film “Sholey”)

If you ask a good cinema actor about their different styles, they would probably say they weren’t playing any style at all, but only the appropriate truth of each particular character

F-If two characters responded in the same way, there would have been no need for two characters at all.  It is the contrast between them that makes the interplay between the characters possible
So an intense, intimate style works on camera, and a big, theatrical style works on camera.  The common denominator between them is believability

Camera in Bollywood

Today films are most often shot, edited, and presented in what is known as the Typical Bollywood Style.  It style and form is modeled on the narrative techniques developed. The story usually begins with introducing the audience to the time, the location, and to the characters of the story.  Next, the author explores the situation that the characters are in, and shows us the conflicts with which they must deal

  • As the pace of events quickens the interest of the viewer’s increases.  Soon, the viewer begins to hang on every word, every gesture, every reaction, every twist and turn of the plot.  As the conflict intensifies and the story reaches its climax, the audience involvement it total
  • Then the conflict is resolved and tension is released as the writer places the story back in its context.  The author and the director have artfully drawn us into this world step by step.  The progression of our interest has moved from mild curiosity to intense identification; from background to foreground.
  • Having said a bit above on the film making process, even the film scenes are shot and edited this way.
  • To simplify for aspiring Bollywood actors, the shooting style in a classical way begins with (though may change):
  • With the shot furthest from the actors, known as the master, and ends with the shot closet to the actors, known as the close-up
  • Between these distances are the two-shot (closer than the master) and the over-the-shoulder (closer than the two-shot). 
  • When a scene is shot on a set, the sequence of shooting is this 1. Master 2. Two-shot 3. Over-the-shoulder (O.T.S.) 4. Close-up

This may be so, because it mirrors the process by which a storyteller draws an audience into a story.

What actors should know

A. The actor needs to know what each shot is “telling,” and how it helps to illuminate his character’s story.  Knowledge of the logical reasons for camera positions transforms the actor from a just “a photographed object”, to a creative collaborator to a film

B. The “master shot” gets its name from the fact that it records a scene from beginning to end and therefore serves as a reference shot.  Any shot other than the master is known as coverage.

C. The master shot has some particularly important features.  Since it is far enough away, it is extremely useful for showing the relationship between the characters themselves, and between the characters and their environment.

D. Being a long shot and uninterrupted shot, the master also gives the actor the opportunity to find the timing with his fellow actor.  Use the master to feel the dynamics of a scene, its movement and rhythm.  It may be the only time you can do this.  You can’t be sure that any other set-up will cover the scene from beginning to end.

E. Important: Before the camera blocking (the movements of the camera) can be set in the master or subsequent shots, the actor’s blocking (the movements of the actors) is set,  If the actor has ideas about the scene, about where to be and when to move, now is the time to share with the director or cinematographer.

Why?  Because after the master shot, the blocking will be very difficult to change. 

Remember, the other setups will be based on what the actors do in this master shot and therefore an actor has to remember the blocking (movements), dialogues delivered, the way props used and gestures, which will probably use in the subsequent shots. 
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  1. I'm an actress but didn't knew these camera acting details. That's why I use to get nervous and use to forget my lines. Can I take your workshop on camera acting?

    1. Yes, you can join my "on camera acting workshop" at Mumbai. For details, please contact me through contact form on left sidebar or email me. I will send you details


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