Warming up for Screen Work

Many actors forget to do a warm up when working on screen. In fact, the only component of a vocal warmup that isn’t usually required for camera work is projection. And even that’s not always true. I have been on a film set where work with the leading actor (who had to yell at his troops) was postponed for five days because he had lost his voice.

Film is a deceptive medium. The adrenalin rush is extreme so actors lean forward to offset this (because they feel more comfortable if they are protecting the solar plexus area). This means they disconnect both vocally and emotionally.
In life we are ‘connected up’. In theatre we connect up technically in order to project our voices. But in film we can easily start to breathe too high, close up at the throat, lift the shoulders and stop breathing freely.

Since breath and thought are linked, posture and breath are linked and the nerve endings that make us ‘feel’ are clustered around the abdominal area – this means that not only do we feel less confident but we also do not have the ‘ring of truth’ in our voices and we may push and manufacture emotion. (Which is when the director will say, ‘Do less’!)

So, for star quality, stand or sit up easy but straight, breathe and think. Then just be in the moment, pursuing what you (in the role) want.

(Dogs want to be loved, they lean forward, tilt their heads, nod a lot. They’re nice. Cats sit back, they watch, they are still. Cats are intriguing.

Dogs say, ‘You give me food, you give me warmth, you give me love (you might give me this job) – you must be a god.’

Cats say, ‘You give me food, you give me warmth, you give me love (you will give me this job) – I must be a god.’

This is a lighthearted analogy with truth in it – we are attracted to people comfortable in their own skins, not ‘needy’, not trying too hard…so add a dash of ‘cat’ to your audition technique.)

Don’t forget to warm up! And to cool down by humming – which stretches the vocal folds – at the end of the day. (Use steam if your voice feels tired.)
http://www.melchurcher.com ‘A Screen Acting Workshop/DVD’ Nick Hern Books 2011 ‘Acting for Film: Truth 24 Times a Second’ Virgin Books 2003

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About Mel Churcher

I am an acting coach, voice coach, actor and director.