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  • Writer's pictureClare Lopez

THE VALUE OF THEATRE TRAINING FOR ON-CAMERA ACTORS

Updated: Apr 21

Our training as actors is essential. Ultimately Theatre and On-camera training don’t conflict. They aren’t opposing skills. They are just different pages of the same book.

The reality is, the On-camera medium was birthed out of Theatre. Theatre has been around for thousands of years and film about 100. So theatrical training has a lot more to do with on-camera than visa versa.

You can have a thriving theatrical career with theater training and no on-camera training. But in my humble opinion, it is pretty hard to have a successful On-camera career if your only training is in an On-camera classroom.

These forms of training support one another. They won’t teach opposing techniques or skills. But On-camera training presupposes that the actors have a solid process, that they already know how to prepare a role, work on impulse, be vulnerable, and instinctual. In my opinion, Theatrical training is a pre-requisite to working On-camera.


On-camera training adds the new dimension to all that same work we do in Theatrical training. The film medium takes these foundational moment-to-moment tools of theatre and translates them in the frame and spacing of an on-camera space. Ultimately, if an actor isn’t vulnerable, believable, honest, and able to personalize text and master character creation— having good on-camera technique won’t be enough.

Thankfully, the best teachers I know, who teach On-camera also have Theatrical training. They themselves have trained in Theatre and had/have thriving theatre careers.

There are a few other dimensions in approaching a film script as film and tv scripts are written differently and in a more compact format. And of course learning the business side of the process and auditioning will be different too. These tools and techniques serve the different parameters and scope that the Film & TV industry demand.


As actors, our job is to learn how to get good. And while I realize not everyone will agree with me on this, there really isn’t “Theatre acting” vs “On-camera acting”. It’s acting. Students should be learning the craft. And doing everything they can to master rich, full, believable performances and develop a tool kit and process to create consistent work. All of it helps.

Our job is to master the craft— not just pick the parts we like. Like Olympic champions, we actually need to lean into the skills we are weakest or most resist. It’s the only way to get really good and a really balanced training. We’d never argue “oh we really don’t like audition technique can we just do scene study instead?” Nope! We need to do both. They are both essential. And for having a career in this, and for longevity and true mastery I’d argue you need both Theatrical and On-camera training.


As an educator I always encourage folks to study everything. You have your whole life to focus in and only do On-going training with your favorite studio or coach or class. But now is the time to take advantage of the buffet.


I’m not saying you should ever force an actor to do anything they don’t wish to. But I do think it’s important to start reframing the conversation all together. Because it’s not about choosing between one or the other. It’s about assessing: is this the career I want? And acknowledging: what steps are essential to my success? And choosing to train in anything we can get our hands on - even if we aren't sure it is ultimately the genre we prefer.


My hope is that all actors do a play at least once in their lives. The value that actors gain from learning how to craft a run of a show, and get that rehearsal process refined (remember in film actors don’t have weeks of rehearsal to figure out how to craft a character, they have to show up to a film set 100% off book and with all their script and character analysis done). So I find, I encourage my young actors to do theatre because it helps them build that muscle with a lot less pressure and a lot more time.


FINAL THOUGHS:


On-camera technique is hard. The process and the work the actor has to do before getting on set is the same work an actor in a Theatre play gets weeks and hours of rehearsal to develop. And in Film, actors don't receive the help of a director and table work and conversations to build to it.

On-camera acting requires us to show up to set ready for opening night without any of that guided rehearsal. Theatre gives us the opportunity to learn how we need to craft our own process during a guided rehearsal. Which in it of itself will 100% translate into the work the actor needs to do independently for their On-camera roles.







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