Tics of the Trade

I’ll never forget my first on-camera class in Los Angeles. I had been a working actor in a minor market, so I’d done my share of on-camera gigs, although most of my experience had been on stage. I knew how to act on camera, I thought, but maybe there was more to learn… so I took this class.

I proudly hit my mark, delivered my lines, and waited for the praise to pour in.

“STOP BLINKING!” the instructor screamed from the camera control room.

Take after take after take, he had me attempt the scene without blinking. Ever. And he screamed at me during the long beat at the end of the scene, refusing to yell cut until my eyes obeyed his demand.

Was I an obsessive over-blinker? Was this a problem?

You bet it was. I had a tic.

In the many years since I’ve left an acting career behind, I’ve worked with many actors who’ve found themselves blocked, usually in the realm of the business side of their creative careers. But sometimes — rarely, but sometimes — I’ll be asked for feedback on some craft action. I’ll be shown an audition piece and asked for help in bringing it to its best possible level.

And what I see more than anything else is something bigger than “playing too big” and something louder than “not listening.” It’s the tic. That physical thing you do as an actor that is NOT a choice you’ve made for the character, well-timed, purposeful, to enrich the material — that physical thing you do that is YOUR habit — that’s a tic.

Do you have tics?

Many, many, many actors do. Not just auditioning actors or working actors whose names you might not know! A producer friend and I were talking last week about a name actor whose new hit TV series she finds unwatchable, due to the actor’s tic (a pursing of the lips that does not align with the confident character, but instead happens no matter WHAT role the actor inhabits).

If you can’t afford an on-camera class right now but you want to know what tic(s) you might have, fire up your webcam and do sides. Get together with friends and tape each other, watch back the footage in a group, give one another feedback. Get down with WATCHING yourself — even if you’re one of those actors who would prefer not to do so — because if you have a tic you know nothing about, it could be taking buyers out of the moment when they’re watching you audition, and that could be standing between you and the booking that would take you to the next tier.

Why would you do that to yourself?

Get rid of your tics. Make purposeful choices for your character. Don’t wait for some egomaniacal on-camera coach to scream at you from a booth. Or, worse, for a casting of your dreams NOT to happen, due to something that’s totally within your control.


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001685.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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