How Do Actors Communicate Their Message in Films?

by Buffy Naillon Google
The work of a stage actor is much more exaggerated than that of a film actor's.

The work of a stage actor is much more exaggerated than that of a film actor's.

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An actor's whole being represents the instrument that he uses to communicate his message in films. While this stands true for live theater as well, some key differences between film and stage acting exist. These arise from the proximity of the actor to the camera in comparison to his closeness to a live audience. The actor employs the same tools for film acting, but uses them in a different degree than he would on stage.


The way an actor speaks has a big impact on whether the audience will believe that her performance passes the credibility test. An actor who has full command of her voice, not only in regards to how her voice sounds on film, but also how fully and authentically her voice conveys the emotions required for the scene. Crying on film represents one example. If her voice sounds choked up, her message on film will seem authentic. However, if an actor has tears in her eyes, but her voice does not match the upset emotion she's supposedly feeling, her efforts to communicate will fall short. Additionally, the actor will not project her voice to the same degree that she would on stage. The camera is much closer than the audience normally sits. She must make this adjustment as well for her communication to be effective.


Everything about an actor's movement is bigger on stage, but in film it's the opposite. While physical humor certainly exists on film, the actor makes smaller, more subtle movements on film. He also moves more naturally. If he has a itch on his back, he scratches as if the camera weren't there. This means he wouldn't call attention to himself in life if he had an itch; he'd just scratch it. The film actor conveys the physicalities of his body in the same way. This allows him to communicate a sense of naturalness on stage.


An actor's emotions help tell the story of the character. If the character feels happy and is bubbling over in good humor, these emotions need to come through. If she's angry, that feeling should come across as well. Actors train many years to have their emotions at their command so that they can call them forth during a scene. Additionally, the trained actor must have the ability to bring these emotions to the forefront many times, because filmmaking often requires that an actor redo a scene a number of times to communicate the intent of the scene correctly.

Character Work

Despite being asked to make adjustments to their acting to make it more subtle for the camera, actors must still do the work their characters require of them. Usually actors study scripts, make up backgrounds for their characters and come up with traits that the characters possess, but this is not always the case. For example, if the character has a nervous twitch and the actor doesn't, the actor must incorporate this into his performance without making it look exaggerated. An exaggerated twitch on stage comes across just right, whereas on film it would look affected.

About the Author

Buffy Naillon has worked in the media industry since 1999, contributing to Germany's "Der Spiegel" magazine and various websites. She received a bachelor's degree in German from Boise State University. Naillon also attended New York University and participated in the foreign exchange program at Germany's Saarland University. She is completing her master's degree in educational technology at Boise State.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images