What is the difference between acting in a play and acting in a film?

7 Answers

  • 9 months ago
    Favorite Answer

    Play acting is in the moment. It is performed in an it’s entirety from start to finish. There are no “retakes”. Because of this there is a longer rehearsal period so actors can memorize the lines and blocking. During a performance, actors get immediate feedback and an energy from the audience. And since the audience is different each night, the feel of the performance, the timing and the impact is different each night. Actors can make subtle changes is response to the audience. With play acting, when the play opens the director is done with their job. An actor is in charge of their performance each night.

    In film acting, the script is broken down into parts and usually filmed out of order. There is little rehearsal time before a scene is shot and the script may change and actors need to be able to memorize the changes quickly. There can be retakes (but people will get frustrated if an actor is ill-prepared and requires too many retakes). The same scene is filmed over and over for different camera angles. Since it will be edited together later, an actor needs to be very consistent in their choices between takes. Like if they pick a cup up with their left hand in one take they have to do that with every take for continuity. This makes film acting very repetitive. The camera picks up everything, so a film actor needs to be more aware of the subtle movements, facial expressions and "acting with their eyes" then a stage actor. The only direct feedback is from the director and it can take months before an actor or the audience sees the final product. And the director's job is just starting once the filming is done. It's the director and editors that have control over the final product, not the actor. Editing can make things very different then what an actor expected when filming.

    The basics of acting - analyzing a script, building a character - are the same regardless of the medium. An actor needs to be in control of their voice and body and make appropriate adjustments regardless of the medium. For example, not all stage acting is done in huge theaters. There are some black box shows, theater in the round and just small theaters where large gestures and loud voices aren't as necessary. And with the technological advancements, stage actors can be easily miked so the need for projection is less, but actors do need to know how to control their voices for the mic. Computer graphics plays a role in many films these days and that may require more exaggerated moves for actors in those types of films. So the stereotype of stage actors needing loud voice and big movements then film actors is true in a sense, but less important than it was.

    Having done both, I do prefer stage acting.

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  • Anonymous
    8 months ago

    There are many misunderstanding and much confusion about the craft of acting on film and on stage.

    These misapprehensions are almost all born out of the unfamiliarity on the part of both communities about what the other actually does!

    Film and stage are very similar in that they both are looking for truthful behavior within imaginary circumstances. Both aim to fulfill Stanislavski’s dictum that actors must “live privately in public” the difference between them lies in the technical demands of each.

    1. On stage, the actor must draw focus; on camera the camera focuses on whatever the director wants to be seen.

    2. On stage, the actor has the ability to repeat a performance night after night which usually deepens their performance and therefore the emotional wallop of the play. On camera, the actor repeats a scene or a sequence over and over, which should, if the actor and the director are in sync, produce different and or better work. This is similar to the out of sequence way in which most plays are directed i.e. scenes out of order, and then put together in the final weeks of rehearsal.

    3. On stage, the actor does a scene and goes off stage for only a brief moment of time rarely leaving the immediate environs of the stage itself. A play usually takes about two hours. On camera, when a new scene is to take place, production needs to stop, new lights and camera angles must be set up, and often the entire company may need to move from location to location. The concentration needed by a stage actor is therefore not as difficult as it is for the film actor who may need to stay focused and waiting for 8 to 10 hours while moving out of the set and into his or her trailer. And, they may shoot so out of sequence that the actor might have a close up from a scene that was shot much earlier in the day. For this reason, many film actors may be criticized as ‘too method’ or hard to work with, or as unfriendly. In reality, they need to maintain the emotional commitment to the scenes they are being asked to shoot that day.

    8. On stage, the actor’s physical movements are fairly unrestricted. On camera unrestricted movement is more likely in long shots and less so in close-ups. In

    both, efficiency of movement is valued. There is also the need for film actors to be a bit slower in moving, at least in close ups and two shots, because of the camera’s

    need to follow them. The great commercial director, Leslie Dektor, once said that actors should imagine that the camera is on a chain and at some distance from

    them. With that image, the actor will understand that not only is he or she connected to the camera, but that sudden unplanned movement would whip the camera around like a ball on the end of a string, or the ‘whip’ ride at a carnival.

    9. On stage, the actor’s text is usually meant to convey those things that aren’t seen or the feelings the character have. Film does most of that for the actor simply through pictures and music. There is a basic tenet of film that as much as possible the camera should tell the story without words. The theatre comes from a

    literary tradition; film is far more beholden to the visual arts. As is said, the camera sees you think.

    10. On stage, actors can make character choices that are extreme because stage is not based in realism. Film is essentially a realistic medium and the actor’s need for deep personalization is more necessary (sorry to say) than stage. Of course, the stage choices that actors make are also delimited by the size of the theater. In Chicago, most of our theaters are between 40 and 150 seats, which leads to a more intimate style of acting. Perhaps that is why so many Chicago actors make the easy transition to camera which adds to our becoming a hub of film production.

    11. On stage, the script is sacred, while screenplays are often only a guide. This depends on the directors and writers involved, but as a rule of thumb, it is true.

    12. On stage, actors and directors generally work to create an ensemble, wherein small roles are as important as lead roles and, with the exception of Broadway, there are no stars. Film is generally based on its leading actor’s drawing power financially, and frequently all other roles are seen as ancillary. This is of course a generalization, because as a casting director myself, I have worked with many directors who come from an ensemble based way of working i.e. the Coen brothers.

    13. On stage, the actor is the essential artist and the director’s job is to guide the actor toward a particular way of seeing the role and the play. Once the director is gone, the actor may remain for months and even years. On camera, the director is the essential artist because while he or she may guide the actor to a particular vision, when the actor’s leave the set and filming has ended, the director and the editor choose what they like and the rest is never seen.

    14. Film audiences become almost mesmerized in the overwhelming nature of the sound and the light emanating from the screen. The spectator becomes enveloped in the world before her and, when it works well, loses her sense of being in a crowd. As a result, the movie-goer needs the space to become the characters in a way. Actors who are too “big”, meaning actors who don’t leave enough room for the audience to participate emotionally, can lessen the effectiveness for the observers. Stage on the other hand, is almost always a communal experience. Audiences respond as a group, and actors are always influenced by their behavior, both consciously and unconsciously. Stage is a far more social, immediate, and ephemeral medium. When a play is over for the night, no other group of people will ever be able to have the same experience.

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  • Athena
    Lv 7
    9 months ago


    A play is a story the actor portrays for start to finish.

    A movie is a collection of scenes you shoot that is stitched together later.

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  • 9 months ago

    Location, props, production and equipment. Plays are set on small stages with often homemade props and no cameras unless it's a family member. As for production, plays are typically local events while films are released world wide. Also, films have more elaborate set pieces and are sometimes shot on location

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  • patty
    Lv 6
    9 months ago

    i think theatre is a bit different. u probably have to talk loudly for a start. actors say that being in the theatre is great as they are in front of an audience.

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  • 9 months ago

    The medium.

    Acting is acting but the two forms are very different.

    Stage acting is in the moment, you have to memorize not only the lines but your blocking and get it right every time you perform. It requires the ability to project your voice to the back of the room and command the stage.

    Film acting is repetitive, with plenty of chances to try different things and no control over the finished product. It also requires the actor to be very still and deliberate as the camera is very close and large movements look forced.

    Having done both I prefer stage acting.

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  • mokrie
    Lv 7
    9 months ago

    Big difference. In film you get multiple takes to get it right. In a play you have to get it right from the beginning. No re-do. You have a live audience that you need to be heard by and you need to act so the last row can hear and see you. In movies there are multiple cameras so you are always seen clearly and heard clearly. You do not get feedback from any audience. No applause or laughs. You need to show more with your eyes for close up camera work.

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