Michael Caine - Acting in Film: An Actor’s Take on Movie Making
I have been thinking about what other aspects of animation I should research, and Acting is quite an obvious one that I haven’t yet thoroughly researched.
So I have borrowed a few acting books from the Chifley Library.
Acting in Film, by Michael Caine is the first that I have read this year. I found the writing to be quite eloquent and approachable, and the information valuable, as evidenced by the copious notes I took while reading it.
My Notes with Page Numbers (My own text in parenthesis, the rest is quoted from the book):
3 A film actor must be able to dream another person’s dreams before he can call that character his own.
6 The modern film actor knows that real people in real life struggle not to show their feelings.
8 Screen acting today is much more a matter of “being” than “performing.”
By wielding the subtlest bit of body language, the actor can produce an enormously powerful gesture on the screen.
10 You must be thinking every moment because the camera looks into your mind.
The real key is in your mental transmission.
11 In movies it is reaction that gives every moment its potency. That’s why listening in films is so important, as well as use of the eyes in the close-up.
29 There may be a key word that triggers you during the sentence the actor is saying. So pick up on that; form your thought and be ready to speak.
30 Or you can bring new life to an apparently mundane reply by planning a thought process based on a key word and then never voicing it.
31 (but) You’ll seem like a maniac if everything sets you off.
43 (Locations that you aren’t supposed to know, don’t get to know well before shooting. Know everything about your characters home or office beforehand so you aren’t hesitant.)
50 (on hitting a mark) … stand on the mark, then say your line at performance pace while walking backward to an earlier position.
53 Here’s a little number I so before a long take: take a slow deep breath in, then bend over and let your arms dangle, really relaxed. Straighten ho slowly, breathing out gently and evenly. This exercise relaxes you, helps concentration and gives you control. If you are going to be shooting a scene where you need extra tuning up, just inhale and exhale quickly for a short time - it gets the oxygen to the brain.
59 (for closer/tighter shots) The film actor knows how to reduce a performance physically but not mentally. In fact, oddly enough, your mind should work even harder in a close-up than it does during other shots because in the close-up, the performance is all in your eyes; you can’t use the rest of your body to express yourself.
61 During a close-up, be especially careful not to change whichever eye you are leading with. It’s an infinitesimal thing, but noticeable on the screen. … I pick the off-camera actor’s eye that is closest to the camera and look at it with my eye that is furthest from the camera.
And I don’t blink. Blinking makes your character seem weak. By not blinking you will appear strong on screen.
Don’t make faces. Just rely on your character’s thought processes and your face will behave normally.
69 ‘what are you doing in that scene Michael?’ ‘Nothing’ I said. ‘I haven’t got anything to say’
‘That,’ said the director, ‘is a very big mistake. Of course you have something to say. You’ve got wonderful things to say. But you sit there and listen, thinking if wonderful things to say, and then you decide not to say them. That’s what you’re doing in that scene.’
Listen and react. Your lines should sound like spontaneous conversation, not like acting at all.
71 (from John Wayne) “Let me give you a piece of advice: talk low, talk slow and don’t say much.”
73 Less is more. That’s one of the hottest tips I can give any young film actor. To do nothing at all can be very useful in extreme reactive situations. For example is something terrible happens to you in the script, like you find your wife murdered, and they cut to your close-up, very often you can do a completely blank look. The audience will project their own emotions on your face.
83 When you walk from your center, you will project a solid perspective of yourself. … Sense of strength. A centered walk can be very menacing, too.
84 One important piece of technical advice about movement: don’t rush it. Give the camera operator a chance. James Cagney gave me this tip about running: “When the director tells you to run from over there right toward the camera and past it, run like he’ll when you’re far away, and as soon as you get near the camera, slow down. Otherwise you’ll go by so fast, they won’t know who the he’ll went by.”
88 When becoming a character, you have to steal. Steal whatever you see.
90 Our lives are not comedies or tragedies or dramas. They are a fascinating mixture, an alchemy, really, of all three.
91 In film, a character is a real person. You have to refrain from turning that real person into a type.
When you look for qualities to use in building your character, avoid the obvious approach whenever possible.
96 When you flesh out a character to make him real, your tools are the aspects of yourself that you apply, and your role models.
103 “Speak faster; he’s an honest man” - John Huston
Honest men speak fast because they don’t need time to calculate.
117 (work ethics) No matter what the reason, if you start to scream and shout, you look like a fool, you feel like a fool, and you earn the disrespect of everyone.
(don’t bother watching rushes)
Everybody buys their yachts after the rushes and goes bankrupt at the premiere.
The director, if he’s any good, will tell you what you were like far more accurately than the rushes will. To my mind, all you can tell from rushes is whether you are in focus, and even then the projectionist may have screwed up.