Acting : How do you differentiate good acting from bad acting? by Lucia Cascioli

Lucia Cascioli

How do you differentiate good acting from bad acting?

How Do You Differentiate Good Acting From Bad Acting?
How Do You Differentiate Good Acting From Bad Acting?
Answer by Marcus Geduld, Shakespearean director, computer programmer, teacher, writer: If anyone tells you there are objective standards, they're full of crap. This is a matter of personal taste. Ther…
Larenzo Simmons

Interesting & useful

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

A fascinating article. I'd add one thought. For me, a really fine actor, even in the non-action, non-dangerous moments of a story, makes me believe that the scene they're playing, in fact, all the time they are on screen in any film, is 'life or death' for them. I don't mean they are scared or breaking down. I mean they make me believe that what is going on is personally crucial to their character. In a sense, it's as if the actor is saying 'There's no where else my character could possibly be but right here right now.' And even if the moment does not call for the actor to render a particular emotion, sadness, happiness, whatever, the actor's face is still filled with energy and attention to what's going on.

Lucia Cascioli

Believability. Even little non-actor me can spot when it's not there. I can't see the "actor" when it all comes together, only the character. Some TIFF movies this past week have shown both sides.

Mahrukh Chikliwala

interesting. will watch actors more carefully now.

Lucia Cascioli

Interesting. Audiences can recognize the difference too. I'm loving the reaction to this article. Thanks everyone.

Suzanne Bronson

I think a good actor is one who listens. And you can always tell when someone is really listening as in the case of Keanu Reeves who is obviously not.

Anton West

I agree Suzanne! Watch to see what an actor does when he or she is not talking or is not the main focus at that moment. Some actors freeze, some do too much background business. Being able to look completely natural whilst waiting for your next line is a sign of class.

Alec Marken

I think it always comes down to the whole "reacting-not-acting" thing...and we must react from a place of sincerity, of personal investment, of honesty...and well said, Lucia! Whether as an actor, dancer, singer, etc, you can't fool the audience. I see it this way: If I really go there, I take the audience with me. Totally with you on the listening bit, Suzanne :)

Larenzo Simmons

This is a great blog, everyone is on point! I have taken positive pointers from every comment. Thanks

Mike Milton

Thanks for pointing to that interesting piece. The best book I've ever read on acting is "Acting and how to be good at it" by Basil Hoffman. It expands greatly on the issues cited here and does so in a VERY practical way. “Acting is many things, but for one concise description of good acting, this is my definition: Acting is disciplined truthful behavior in contrived situations.” Excerpt From: Acting and how to be good at it. “Acting and How to Be Good at it: Second Edition.” iBooks.

Lina Jones

I agree it is a matter of personal taste! #goodread

Rose Waldschmidt

I like the note regarding an actor must be surprising. I think surprising for the role that fits them. Surprising can also involve movement not just emotion. Something has to click with the viewer. I love it when I show a piece and an actor gets "wow" time and again just with a reaction, a subtle choice. Nice article.

Gregory Kauffman

Good article. I only took one exception to his evaluations. Tom Cruise. To a certain extent, he is right, but the movie that I think belied his evaluation was _Magnolia_.

Ryan O'Harris

Saying there is no objective standard by which to judge an actor’s talent, and that it is all about taste is like saying there is no difference between a Rembrandt and a 2 year olds finger painting. Of course there is a way to judge an actors talent, otherwise the billions of dollars that are spent promoting our industry would be an exercise in stupidity. The problem is that people confuse bad acting with bad production quality. In Hollywood we have all seen films packed with talented actors that were horrible and films with actors we would not normally consider good actors that are entertaining. It is not an audiences job to judge talent but only to be entertained. So talent must be judged by those who have the skill to do so. This is why an actor must pursue training and not just rely on novice opinions, family and friends. Training needs to be professional, aggressive, and constant throughout an actors career. An actors main job is to act in a manner that will suspend the audience disbelief. He/she must force an audience member to live in the world they have created free from anything that distracts them or pulls them out of that world. It’s that simple, but it’s not easy to reach that level of acting. To define what talent is would take many volumes but is a skill set and not an accident or personal preference.

Lucia Cascioli

And yet, the audience who is the ultimate target "audience" does judge. No, we don't hand out the Oscars, or cast an actor, but we do hand out $ to see a movie (instead of just waiting for it to pop up on The Movie Network) and...we talk. Boy, can we talk through various streams of communication. Yes, we want to be entertained and if we're not in the opening weekend, the industry knows it at the box office. In the end, does it - the whole package - work for the audience? Not just one actor, but the ensemble. Each plays a part, pun intended, on the success of the project as a whole. I can appreciate the talent and know when it is and isn't there because if it's not there, I'm not entertained. Audiences, in our non-professional opinions, will say , "I just couldn't picture him in that role," or "Wow, I loved the pace of the dialogue." Think West Wing. I'm rambling. Hope this makes sense out there.

Ryan O'Harris

Audience judge the films and often that falls on the actor as well but what I was saying is that an audience really can not judge talent because directors, DPs, editors etc. can make a huge difference either way and the audience will almost never know it. We love some actors in some films and hate them in others. This is not judging the talent but the film. Of course and audience knows when an actor just does a horrible job or has little or no talent but to truly judge talent you have to understand what goes into it. Audiences buy branding not talent. They want to see their favorite actor do what they are used to seeing them do. When they brake the mold audiences are often unforgiving. That's why Hollywood does not take chances with new actors anymore. They pay for the branding. Most leading men and women in the industry today are over 40 years old even when some of the roles would be much better served by a younger actor but they stick with the tried and true. Sad, but it is a reality.

William St Romain

I have never been able to tell the difference between good and bad acting except when it's really bad. That's part of the problem. If the actor fits the character they're playing and actually behaves as if they are that person I don't see how people can judge it bad. After all, that's what acting is all about, portraying a role. Isn't Harrison Ford who once said to a famous director that he thought he was suposed to be a 'bus boy'? This was when said director told him you could tell this other actor, whose name I forget, was a star even though he was playing a bus boy. What counts is: does the acting fit the role? I don't see how you can judge good or bad if it does.

Margarita Zhitnikova

I'M SO GLAD HE MENTIONED KRISTEN STEWART. It baffles me that people think she's brilliant. I'm sure she's a lovely person and sometimes that discomfort works for the characters but otherwise.. its not good.

Bo Dean

The best actors are those who you forget are acting, Jodie Foster for example. I love the British actor Maxine Peake, best known over here in the UK for her TV work but currently getting very good reviews for her stage version of Hamlet. She has a real still quality about her and yet she is also very intense.

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

William I have a suggestion. Take a look at the movie 'Dune'. Early in the film listen to the dialogue. Reflect on the words. Then see what you think of how the actors handled them. What I'm trying to get at is when I watch 'Dune', the dialogue sounds a bit pompous/overheated/over the top to me. Yet the way the actors deliver it makes it work for me. My interpretation (and it is mine so feel free to ignore) - At least to some degree, the really fine actors involved in that project, by their superior acting, saved dialogue, which was not anywhere near the best it could be, from sounding really corny. (The writer(s) may well have taken the dialogue straight from the book which I did not read.)

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

Bo I agree. Intensity is what makes an actor eminently 'watchable' for me. Marzy Just my observation. Kristen Stewart has that intensity and it's what has made her a star [ along with signing to do the Twilight series :) ]. You might also check out a movie 'Mystic Pizza' and watch Julia Roberts' eyes and expressions. I think you can see her stardom coming from her intensity. (Or maybe I'm over-analyzing.)

Alec Marken

I just want to add that I don't think it's productive nor necessary to slam specific actors by name. Sure there are some actors out there who disappoint some of us, but we don't really need to bash anyone. One person may admire an actor while another person may harshly criticize the same actor, both doing so honestly. At any rate, I'd rather talk about who we wish to emulate than who we "hate".

Anthony Battelle

I always just ask myself "Do you believe him/her" To me, the answer to this simple question distinguishes the good from the bad. Now, great acting, that is another question entirely. You can't have great acting without great writing.

Kathryn Gould

I think the article gives a great explanation of something that I've never quite been able to express. To me, it was sort of a "I know when I see it" sort of thing -- did it feel like I was watching actors in a workshop or like a real movie? I found the article very informative.

Andrew H. Masset III

After 40 years infront of the camera ( and stage) and countless classes, teachers, this day i still have to work hard to make it look, sound and feel..easy.Natural and real. Best times are when you don't even know ur in a scene and everything just flows..few and far between. It's a love/hate thing....can't seem to live without it tho'....

Randall Gort

If you turn off the sound and the interaction remains believable, the character is there and alive.

Jim McKeny

Drew, that's sage advice! Haven't we all heard those stories about people in workshops with famous actors "before" they were famous? People would say, "That guy/gal couldn't act their way out of a bag!" But yet, here they are with the 3 picture deal making millions. :) I think a lot depends on the relationship one has with the "camera" .... When they say "The camera loves him/her" they aren't kidding!

Janet Elizabeth Swainston

Brilliant article and benchmarks I have always used.....though never so succinctly...I have a friend who thinks I'm a snob because I don't like the actors she likes and I have tried to explain to her why I dont like those actors or specific movie roles and I have never been able to articulate it, now I have a way to say it...they aren't real, they don't make me believe, they don't seem natural...she will probably still call me a snob but then I think she's kind of a moron LOL

Deryn Warren

I teach actors IN LA and coach them for auditions and wrote a book called HOW TO MAKE YOUR AUDIENCE FALL IN LOVE WITH YOU. My actors work a lot. Janet, I think you don't like those actors because they are not likable in the role. That doesn't mean you can't have a guy like Hannibal Lector being likeable. You can. He used humor and energy and loved his wins and his own wit. If you weren't sure he would eat you, you would like to have dinner with him. I teach actors to use energy, which is attractive and their humor and charm and vitality. Besides having a great technique actors have to use the best parts of themselves in the roles. Then you will love them.

Janet Elizabeth Swainston

Deryn....firstly, lets not suppose you know why I dislike those actors (my reasons are not up for disclosure at this time) I'm talking about actors that give poor performances time and again, or the same performance again and again, and show no progress and are not believable in the roles they take on. You can't deny there are actors without true skill in this business that are merely there because someone likes them.

Deryn Warren

Janet, I think we might be saying the same thing. :)

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