Amanda Charney, TMU contributor and sophomore at USC
Our second to last article… Where has the semester gone? It flew by in a whirlwind of rehearsals, essays, and $7 sandwiches (really USC? $6.99 for a turkey sandwich? Come on.).
As we come to a close, I delve into the realm of mysteries. I personally know very little about the film industry as a whole, and I fully appreciate the problems this could cause for me in the future! Having (provisionally) decided I want to live and work in Los Angeles after graduating, and with LA having a little place called Hollywood, I think it's pretty important to gather as much information as I can on the subject.
Musical theater has always been at my heart and will always be my dearest passion. But since coming to USC and experiencing straight theater for really the first time, I've become open to the possibilities available out there in the thriving film industry. Hollywood both fascinates me and terrifies me; while I'm obsessed with watching behind-the-scenes footage on every DVD I own, the thought of having a camera pointed at my face, capturing every minute detail, is petrifying.
Still, life is an experience, and it seems silly to avoid something so present in the city I love! But where do I start? What's different about film than theater? And how does someone even begin to experiment with it?
Since I have zero experience with anything regarding film or TV, I turned to a few people who do! Maddy Heyman, a sophomore theater BA student, has been performing onstage from a young age and has worked in film as well. "Film was less available to me growing up, but I was always very interested in pursuing it. I was an extra in the Cohen Brothers' A Serious Man, and I have done a lot of student film work since coming to SC. I have an agent back home in the Twin Cities, and so I have gone on some auditions for local commercial work."
So what's the main difference between working in the two fields? "The biggest difference is definitely the process and the particularity. Theater is all about the process. You rehearse for weeks in preparation for the show, and you study your character in-depth before bringing them to the stage. Film is about doing it again and again until you get it right. Coming from theater, it is also alarming how in-your-face film is. I had a very hard time adjusting because of what a physical actor I am, a lot of the things I was doing were too big."
Alyssa Overbeck, USC sophomore, brings up a very interesting distinction between theater and film. "On film it is the silences, the reactions, and the moments between the lines that end up being the most beautiful." While it is true that in both fields, silence filled with tension or meaning can be absolutely captivating, on film this silence is filled with the details of minute facial reactions and body language that could be lost in a big theater. "To me, [film acting] feels much more like trying to recreate real life or to simply be in the moment."
Is it possible to act on both the screen and stage successfully? "I think it's easiest to transition from theater to film because it's always easier to 'bring your acting down' than to learn how to perform in a large space for audiences. While I prefer film, I think that you can experience truthfully honoring a different perspective in both theater and film, and I think that there is nothing more exciting then the instant gratification of theater."
So ultimately, do you have to choose between the two in order to be successful? Despite all of the differences between film and theater, at the core you are still acting: practicing empathy and slipping into another world in order to communicate a story. It is, of course, very different to act the same line 8 times with cameras zooming around you versus standing on a stage belting out a ballad live. But at the heart of it, you are committing to living truthfully in a perspective other than your own, and if you can find that seed of certainty and work to cultivate it, I believe you can have it all.