View Full Version : Acting! Is it all in our mind????

07-30-2004, 10:31 AM
Ok here is a strange question.

I have noticed posts on this and other forums about "Bad acting" in many amateur short films.

Is the acting truly bad? Or are we as an audience projecting this? i.e. it is amatuer production/acting therefore it = bad.

My thoughts brought me to the DVD of Starship Troopers, where one of the extra features is the actors screentests.

When I watched the film I didnt think Denise Richards, etc were bad actors. I didnt think they were oscar worthy, but they werent bad either.

When you watch the screentests they seem like a bunch of wooden posts.

Did their acting change or does the production value of the finished film alter my perception?

Any thoughts?

07-30-2004, 10:45 AM
If a film has enough you can identify with, you find youself more willing to wrap your mind in the story. I think it's one of those things where you want to like a film so much, you don't judge the performances of the players within the story.

I do think that if starship troopers was shot on miniDV with some "public access" grade visual effects, the film would be a joke and the acting would seem laughable. So perhaps production value is also enough to elevate a performance as well.

07-30-2004, 10:51 AM

Check out Starship Troopers 2. That is what you get.

Shot on Video from what I can tell and with no money for locations. Shots and FX from the first one chopped in. what a mess. But the actors I'm sure are no better or worse than the ones from the first one.

Actually this just got me thinking. The script for 2 is awful. That probably has a lot to do with it too.

Bad Dialogue stinks, no matter who is saying it.

07-30-2004, 01:04 PM
The script for 2 is awful. That probably has a lot to do with it too.

Bad Dialogue stinks, no matter who is saying it.

"With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece. With the same script, a mediocre director can produce a passable film. But with a bad script even a good director can't possibly make a good film. For truly cinematic expression, the camera and the microphone must be able to cross both fire and water. The script must be something that has the power to do this."

--Akira Kurosawa

07-30-2004, 01:08 PM
Nice Quote!!! ::)

07-30-2004, 03:00 PM
Akira Kurosawa, smart guy...

The acting is in fact bad in these amateur films. More so actually the actors are not *actors*

Hollywood actors make it because they have a quality about them that is intangible. Simply looking at them is enough to lend credibility to your film. This is how actors can end up making millions and millions of dollars. It's something that can't be learned or trained, it's an inate ability they have. Even denise richards in starship troopers has that quality. An actor with this quality is worth more than anything else in your film. It's what makes it believeable. Movies with low production value can still captivate you. A good example is Collateral with Tom Cruise and Jaime Fox. It's filmed on NTSC interlaced video. It looks amazing though, a great deal because of the actors in it.

That being said, production value can't save a film with bad acting. Pretty much all hollywood films have actors with at least double the quality of the actors in these amateur films. The reason acting is such a hard field to get into isn't because there's tonnes of competition, it's because most people don't have that special quality that captivates the audience. Bad looking actors will also immediately make us think the acting was worse than it really was as well... you need good looking people too...

07-30-2004, 04:03 PM
A good example is Collateral with Tom Cruise and Jaime Fox. It's filmed on NTSC interlaced video

Actually I think it was 1080/60i HD *::)

I agree though, most professional actors have a certain quality about them. *But production value doesn't hurt, either, in selling the movie to your audience...

07-30-2004, 04:17 PM
I wondered about that after seeing the tv commericals. I thought wow that looks like video. what's up?

anyone know why he shot 60i? Why not 24p? I know that what Robert Rodrieguez shoots. Once Upon a Time in Mexico looked way more filmic

07-30-2004, 04:25 PM
I think Mann shot parts of Ali in 60i HD as well...I think he just likes the look of it transfered to film maybe...beats me though!

07-30-2004, 04:27 PM
It certainly looks different. I am looking forward to seeing it.

07-30-2004, 04:44 PM
Me too :D

07-30-2004, 05:34 PM
While we are on that subject.

I saw Robert Rodrieguez's footage from "Sin City" at Comic-Con. It looks excellent.

07-30-2004, 05:56 PM
24P HD?

07-30-2004, 06:00 PM
Yeah. 24PHD. Shot completely Greenscreen. Then desaturated and compt into CG backgrounds. Looks sweet

07-30-2004, 06:06 PM
The posters.


07-30-2004, 10:27 PM
Sure it's 60i HD... that's just because it's being projected on the big screen. The actually quality of it (the look more so) could simply be said as 60i video :P

Definitely an interesting stylistic choice...

07-31-2004, 09:58 PM
Of course the talent and experience of the actors matters most but one factor that is often under-appreciated is the contribution of the director in making the actors better.

I've been producing and directing video on and off professionally for about twenty years. I thought I'd learned a thing or two about working well with the "talent" and getting a good performance.

However, I learned that I didn't really know the first thing about this vital subject as I read the book "Directing Actors" by Judith Weston. I'd heard a lot of other directors mention this book but had never gotten around to reading it until last year. My mistake.

Do not walk. Run... to your local bookstore and get this book. You can read more about it here: http://www.mwp.com/books/directing/directing-actors.php4

I believe that any level of director will be able to get a noticeably better performance from any level of actor after reading this book. It's funny how much time we spend tweaking the various menu settings in our cameras to get a slightly better image, when spending twenty bucks on a book like this could take your next project to a whole new level.

--- Mark

08-01-2004, 12:34 AM
in my experience...no matter how good a rehearsal may be (or bad for that matter) when the actors step on set in costume..the level of performance just seems to go up dramatically. what this is caused by is anyones guess...be it psychological or whatever. but if the actor really sucks in rehearsal...they will still not be that great on film.

08-09-2004, 06:02 PM
There are a lot of factors which go into making an actor appealing.

Sometimes it is looks, sometimes they have a personality trait which is so outstanding that it sweeps away other considerations, and some actors have a deep understanding of the technical business of acting, and use tricks and methods of the trade to maximize their performance.

We are all natural actors to one degree or another, but how well does a given performance suit the medium in which it is captured?

Think about some of the top-notch actors whom you like best. Why?

Gene Hackman: here is a supreme technician. He agonizes over every nuance of every line he delivers, and he specializes in portraying characters who we love to hate.

Dustin Hoffman: here is another technical actor, but one who leans heavily (and rightly so) on a strong personality.

Cristopher Walken: now here is a guy who relies entirely on his personality to carry the performance, and what a creepy character he projects! Walken is the opposite of a technical actor.

Jack Elam: if you don't know who this is, think of the comic guy with the lazy eye in the Maverick series. He is so ugly, he is beautiful. Plus, he has a sense of humor which comes through his performance, so coupled with his uniquely homely mug, his is a memorable character. And I think he started out as an accountant at the MGM backlot.

What about women?

Kate Hepburn. She can act, but its her juggernaut personality which carries her performance.

Angelina Jolie. Now, laugh, but what she's got are feminine attributes which are almost cartoonish in their exaggeration, and she can do action better than the vast majority of stuntwomen in Hollywood.

Meryl Streep? Glenn Close? Powerful technical actresses.

All these people though are dependent upon the whole of the production, and the director is the captain of that ship. Bad director, bad movie, every time.

A lot of people have been looking very closely at this very question of 'what is good acting' for a long time...

J.R. Hudson
08-10-2004, 10:41 PM
Well put Speed

You mentioned an actor having a "personality trait which is so outstanding that it sweeps away other considerations" I feel this way about Owen Wilson. The dude is great to watch although has a long way to go)

You made the right calls with more or less all of the above (Walken is a freakin' genius).

How dare you omit DeNiro! Kilmer maybe?

08-11-2004, 04:39 AM
John, it's funny that you mentioned "Kilmer"..unless you are referring to the old Redskin Quarterback Billy Kilmer. Just kidding. I think it's a shame that Val Kilmer's hollywood stock has fallen. I think he is good in everything he does and could be cast alot more than he is.

08-12-2004, 04:58 AM
Ahhh! Billy kilmer!

blast from the past!

08-12-2004, 05:00 AM
There seems to be this general concensus in the industry that Val Kilmer is a class A jerk, and it seems that people who end up working with him on a project try not to work with him again.

People might look at him in a different light now though, after that last indie film he did.

08-17-2004, 11:07 AM
Based on markran's advice, and the fact that I had heard of the book before, I went out a few days ago and bought 'Directing Actors' by Judith Weston.

I am stunned. This is a fantastically inspirational and instructive work. What a fool I have been for not starting out in my film-making hobby by reading this book first.

This is totally changing the way I approach direction, and it can only result in stronger performances and better movies. Wow.


I thought about mentioning DeNiro, but my rant was getting long enough already. Kilmer? He is a strong performer, but it looks to me like he is one of those petulant, self-indulgent actors. Hopefully he can grow out of it and do more great stuff.

Really, the point of my post was to say that each actor is a whole 'package', and must be considered as such.