NHB has just published A Screen Acting Workshop, an invaluable new resource book by internationally renowned acting coach Mel Churcher, with a Foreword by Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons.

Mel has worked with actors of all backgrounds and experience – from drama school students at the start of their careers to Hollywood stars including Daniel Craig, Angelina Jolie and Keira Knightley. Featuring a series of five practical workshops covering every aspect of acting on screen, the book is accompanied by a unique 90-minute DVD showing all the work in action.

On today’s blog you can watch clips from the DVD, see photos from the official launch at London’s Actors Centre, and read an extract from Jeremy Irons’s Foreword.

Film acting has traditionally, in the UK at least, been rather looked down on as being something that the Americans do and which really doesn’t need the technique of a theatre actor. In England, we’re mainly theatre actors, and film actors have been historically regarded as overpaid and under-talented.

But in reality, film acting can give you a real insight into acting in the theatre because you can’t lie on film whereas you can get away with lying in theatre. In other words, the camera will see you if you are pretending. You have to be. Now, I believe you have to be in the theatre also. You have to have a technique to enlarge that state of ‘being’ so that an audience, whether it’s two hundred or two thousand, can understand what you’re saying and what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling. And you have to be able to transmit that. But in order to do that honestly, you have to be able to be in that moment – with no pretence. And if you come to film and think that you can ‘pretend’ in front of the camera (which you can get away with on stage, and which you see a lot of actors doing) – it doesn’t work.

In life, we recognise the difference between someone pretending to be angry and someone being angry. We can tell whether they really find something funny or if they’re pretending to find something funny. So, if we ‘pretend’ on stage, a perceptive audience sometimes can tell. Well – they can always tell on camera.

So I think film is a real testing ground for actors. You have to find ways to get, very quickly, into your role – to learn the techniques that you need when you’re going to shoot, probably, in short little bites. You have to understand what the scene’s about and what the arc of the scene is, as you would in theatre, but then you have to be able to get immediately into the right bit of that arc for the particular shot that’s being done. These days, people tend to shoot longer takes, shoot wide and use multiple cameras, so things are easier than they were. But you’ve still got to have tricks to make sure that – very fast – you’re ready. You don’t want directors to have to do more than two or three takes. The old days of fourteen or fifteen takes are over.” From Jeremy Irons’s Foreword to A Screen Acting Workshop

Vodpod videos no longer available.

[Photographs by Rob Baker Ashton]

A Screen Acting Workshop is now available for purchase. Click here to order your copy through NHB’s website for £13.99 incl. UK P&P (RRP £14.99, standard international postal rates apply) by quoting ‘BLOG OFFER’ in the Comments field.

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