But when I watch some Star Wars fan films, for instance, I cringe. Comedies are not so bad, but a lot of the serious ones are just terrible. And it's hard for me to tell just what makes them so bad. I think if I had to be vague about it, the first thing I'd say is that "I am aware they are acting." A good actor or actress should be committed to the part, not committed to playing the part.
I won't name names, because they people do these films for no motive other than devotion, but recently I watched a film about a superhero where she screwed up the simple act of being on the phone. Conceptually, she did it perfectly. She picked up the phone after it rang, spoke in a bored and disconnected way while typing on the laptop (as I assume the part called for), spoke to the other person, and the language seemed natural. Then she hung up, distressed and annoyed at being called. And scene...
The whole scene was as fake as a Pop Tart in a French bakery. I tried to analyze the scene to figure out what went wrong. I must have played this basic setup at least a dozen times before Youtube took it down for an unstated reason ("Punkie hates it!" maybe, heh). But in reality, I had seen it enough to notice what is wring with a lot of fannish actors in films: they are too aware of the camera and the scene. Not so much over-rehearsed, but simply as much a part of the scene as the props are and no more.
After a lot of consideration on this entry, I realized this subtle difference between being the part and acting the part would be nearly impossible to convey via text. Yet I don't want to show examples because part of me thinks it's really rude to point out another's flaws unless I am directly asked to do so. So I have this advice for some fannish actors (including those who do voiceovers where acting may be involved):
1. Don't focus on being technically correct. Nobody is in real life, and so that will come off as fake. Part of me wants to say "over-rehearsed" here, but it's more subtle than simply running through the scene as if it was just another part. You want to seem less flat and more three dimensional, if that makes sense.
2. Don't deliver lines like you expect to be quoted. When Sean Connery said, "Bond. James Bond," he is delivering a line as an introduction with caution and careful strategy towards his opponent to gauge a reaction as well as shield himself. He's not delivering the line as if he's thinking, "Fuck yeah, I am AWESOME!" His introduction, while a tagline that would be used for decades after Dr. NO was made, was no more important than anything else he said.
3. Don't rely on the line to carry itself. The best writing can be killed by the worst actors. Deliver the line naturally as if a real person would. To be cliche, you have to "be the part" and wonder what motivated the line from a realistic character point of view. For instance:
Bond: Do you expect me to talk? [Thinking: Shit, I am on a table with a laser, how can I stall him?]
Blowfield: No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die! [Thinking: WTF? Is he an idiot?? Oh, he's stalling. Man, how arrogant and amusing...]
But I'd see this if some fan films did it:
Bond: Do you expect me to talk? [Thinking: Whew, I didn't screw up my line! Ooh, face the camera, right. I make an AWESOME James Bond!]
Blowfield: No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die! [Thinking: HA HA HA WHAT A FUNNY LINE I am delivering! I am finally playing a powerful character! I should fluff my chest because that's what bad guys do, right?]
4. Nobody ever expects the next line in life. So don't look like you do on camera. When the phone rings, act a little shocked. When the person you are answering says something, act like you have never heard that phrase, and don't know what to reply until you are actually saying it. If someone takes a swing at you, duck like you thought of it at the last moment before you get hit. How you blink naturally is different that consciously doing it. Speech is the same way.
I saw a Star Wars fan film today where some "bad guy" was swinging around a light saber in an impressive martial arts dance. He was grinning like a bad guy, I guess. But I think most adults and even teens have enough experience with real fights where we know that nobody ever GRINS like they are a mofo bad-ass. Anyone who grins while fighting is going to have a forced, crazy-eyed stance of desperation and pure fury they can barely control: a real nut job (I know, the worst beating I ever got was from someone who laughed like a demented toddler as he was beating me). I see so many bad guys in bad films who act like they are evil. Truly evil people often don't even think they are evil. Most act fairly calm and nonchalant. In the case of this kung-fu Sith, he was grinning like he had a fan club just off camera. And while his physical display was fucking impressive and skilled, I got the feeling he only got the part because he could crouch and prance like some scorpion with a light saber. I would think a truly evil Sith would see killing a Jedi as more of a task set aside by his master, and take is very seriously without mugging to the camera.
Please. Acting is a talent that doesn't cost extra for your production. Invest some time to try and be less stilted and flow naturally. Your love, money, sweat, and tears went into some of these productions.