Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


"Don't Act Like You're Acting"

There is a brilliant scene in The Rocketeer where one of the actresses in a theater production is chastised by the director. I couldn't find the scene on YouTube, and my only copy is on VHS, but he tells her something like, "Act, but don't act like you're acting."


And, yes, that is very good advice. There is nothing worse than watching actors do nothing more than read their lines from memory. <shudder> It's horrible.

On the other hand, the truly brilliant actors can act so well that you can tell when they are acting. It's those exceptionally subtle changes they can show in their faces that makes you believe that they are lying to the other characters. Not only do you completely believe that they are the character they are playing, but you know that they are playing a part to mislead someone else.

It's absolutely brilliant.

So, yes, please do more than merely state your lines.

And please don't act like you're acting.

...unless your character is supposed to be acting at that moment in your story.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Anonymous said...

Mr. Holzmann,

Yes, reading is always, whether fiction or non-fiction, educational (for good or bad); the writer always has a certain world view which will affect his work. I think all books have some message they are trying to get across. Reading good fiction can also teach people how to write fiction well.

I have run into a frustrating problem and would really appreciate any help you may be able to give. We bought a Canon HV20 and I shot a full tape with it. Using a firewire cable, we hooked the camcorder to our Windows XP in order to upload the video to Sony Vegas. We turned the camcorder on and nothing happened. Sony Vegas said “device not available.” It is as if our computer does not recognize our camcorder. We have tried to fix this but nothing has worked. Do you have any suggestions/advice?

Thank you,

Luke Holzmann said...


My guess, based on the little information you gave me, is that you have Vegas Movie Studio or earlier which does not support the HDV format that the HV20 uses. The older and basic versions of Vegas only work with standard footage shot from a home camera. The HV20 uses an HD file type which requires a program that can read HDV footage.

If that is the problem, you will need to upgrade to the "Platinum" version of Vegas Movie, or higher.

Hope that helps!

If you have a version of Vegas that supports HD footage, let me know and I'll be happy to poke around for another answer. I'm here to help!


Anonymous said...

"Act, but don't act like you're acting."

credit must go to directors who can coax a great performance out of their actors. actors often get berated for delivering a ham job when it's quite possible it's all the director's fault.

one lesson that struck me hard was gleaned from the DVD rebel's guide. the author relates his experience in film class where the teacher asked one student to act like a thief and walk sneakily from one end of the blackboard to another. the student proceeded to do his best hamburgular impersonation. then the teacher had him do it again, this time with the instructions to do so in complete silence - not a floorboard must creak. the second take was vastly different from - and superior to - the first. and all because the direction had changed.

so kudos to directors with a keen sense of what they wnat and how to get there. may we be like that and not just rely on our actor's skills.

Luke Holzmann said...

Dan, great point! That is so true.

The same can be said for the script and style decisions of the filmmakers, as is painfully evident in 10,000 BC where most of the bad acting is dictated by the insistence that everyone speak with an Old English/"barbaric" lilt.