Acting : What is good Acting? by Ethan Frome

Ethan Frome

What is good Acting?

From a technical perspective of the craft and from an audience perspective, what constitutes “good” acting?. Looking for an answer beyond it being “believable” because that’s very surface level and what even makes the performance believable?

Karen E Ross

Ah, DUDE! What a great question... and I feel like it'd take a lifetime of studying to know definitively. But here's the best "simple" answer I can give you: the ability to listen and respond. The best actors know how to stay in character even when they are not speaking. Let's tag a few friends to get their perspective, eh? Andrew Katers Caleb Barker Walter Anaruk

Ethan Frome

Karen E Ross What you’re saying reminds me a bit of something I’ve heard before about the ability to display a diverse range of emotional actions and reactions. As of this moment I’m understanding that we judge the emotional range itself shown independently, as well as by how congruent those emotions are with the character, or at least what we think/know the character to be. And by that logic how good a performance is, is contingent on how well who that character is gets established - and that I don’t think is 100% on the actor. The writing or Story itself can influence that. That could explain bias towards strong biopic performances. Who that person the actor is playing is already established. I’d love to hear thoughts on this. I was thinking as I typed

Karen E Ross

Yeah, man, I often say that there are no bad actors, only bad directors, but the truth is there are no bad actors is you are fully prepared and present. Distractions take away from your ability to play, relying on the script instead of your director or your own instincts takes away from it, and ultimately, an audience can see the difference between doing what you think you're supposed to do (i.e. forced) versus just being who you are, just on camera (i.e. natural). It's a bit like noticing the difference between being talked TO and being talked WITH.

Ethan Frome

Karen E Ross So basically it’s up to the script and the director to provide an actor with sufficient information on the character so that they can embody that character and their emotional range. And from there the actor fills in the blanks and executes. This leads me to believe characters are generally not fleshed out enough to give way to compelling performances.

Matthew Cornwell

I believe it was Katharine Hepburn who said “if you give the audience a chance, they will do half the acting for you.” A good performance can be many things, and can be arrived at by many “techniques”, or as Bruce Lee sought to achieve, “no technique”, but the audience doesn’t care about that. As viewers, we want to be engaged. Even though we think we want to predict the ending, we really want to get lost in the story. And if an actor shows/tells us everything, the audience leans back and gets bored. If the performance leaves room for the audience to “collaborate” with their own ideas, POV, etc, they will lean in. In my opinion, for TV and film, this requires a great actor, but also a great script, a great director, a great editor, AND the most overlooked discipline (at least by the Oscars): a great Casting Director. I have so much more to say on the subject, but I’ll leave it at that for now...

Eric R. Velarde

Good Acting is Not Acting. It’s Being.

Ethan Frome

Matthew Cornwell That was very well said. I agree. Casting Directors don't get their flowers. I;m not 100% clear on what you mean about the actor leaving room for the audience. Can you elaborate? Maybe give an example?

Matthew Cornwell

I'm sure I'll think of a 1000 better examples than this after I post, but if you remember the first Matrix when Neo (Keanu Reeves) finally starts to believe in himself, and Morpheus says "He's starting to believe." Now, I don't have much of a problem with that line from Morpheus, but with good storytelling, it's redundant. And left unchecked, it becomes insulting to the audience. In other words, that far into the story, you need to trust that Keanu's performance in that moment will cause the audience to "lean in" and respond in a way that THEY decide that "he is starting to believe." By having Morpheus deliver that line, it's hitting us over the head in a way. A simple smirk from Morpheus would be have enough, in my opinion.

Another example (and a similar Hero's Journey movie) is Star Wars: A New Hope. When Luke is standing on Tattoine, looking pensively at the twin suns setting, it would be too much to have had a Luke voiceover narrating his thoughts. Instead, it becomes a nice moment where we as the audience get to fill in our own ideas of what Luke is thinking, bringing our own hopes/fears/dreams into Luke's story, thus COLLABORATING.

Writers often write too much dialogue, but it's not always their fault because they have to give that script to decision makers without much context. Once it gets to filming, though, there's always some dialogue that could be removed if you did your job right with casting.

One final example is this new show Outer Banks on Netflix. The entire opening of the pilot episode is just incessant VO explaining the main characters, environment, motivations, etc. It's such a turnoff as a viewer. You're basically admitting "I know this opening is really boring, but we need to get all this exposition out, and so we're using the easiest, most overused method we know which is narration."

Hope that helps...

Ethan Frome

Matthew Cornwell I see what you're trying to say. In your Matrix example typically what you're saying is the case, but for that movie, it works. Also, narration isn't inherently bad. I get if it's done lazy or in an uninteresting way, sure, but we are at a point where you could argue everything is "over-done". None of that matters if the end result is great or unique. Per your Matrix example. This did help tho. Thank you.

Matthew Cornwell

The bottom line is as an actor it’s not our job to tell the whole story. Partly because there are many other disciplines waiting to contribute their part (costumes, lighting, cinematography, sound design, production design, editing), but also because as a viewer I need room to insert my own POV. So if, as an actor, you’ve decided your subtext for the scene is A, but I interpret it as B and someone else interprets it as C, then congratulations you did a great job. If you try to force A down our throats because you think that’s a “complete” performance, well then now I’m bored.

Mungunzul Amgalanbaatar

Thanks for nice a question

Ethan Frome

Mungunzul Amgalanbaatar Glad it was helpful

Mungunzul Amgalanbaatar

Sure it ll be help for me thanks a lot

Ken Moretti

Good acting, technically means executing your role “as if” it was you not acting but living it. (The “as if” is in quotes as it is an acting form as coined by Stanislavski that actors use in preparation). Details are too much for this space, but I would be happy to explain in more detail at another time.

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