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Understanding the Differences between Stage & Screen Acting: How Theatre Actors can use On-Camera Acting Classes for their craft

A lot of actors come to us with a theater background, eager to make the transition to TV and Film acting. The first thing they ask us is: what's the difference between the two mediums?

Understanding the differences between film/TV and theatrical/stage acting is essential for actors looking to transition between mediums or expand their skill set. By mastering the specific techniques required for each medium, actors can effectively communicate their performances to the intended audience, whether it be through the intimacy of the screen or the grandeur of the stage. Here are the key differences between the two mediums:

Visual Perspective:

  • In film/TV acting, close-ups and various camera angles offer intimate views of actors and moments, whereas theatrical/stage acting requires performers to project their voices and movements to reach all corners of the theater and be heard and seen by the entire audience.


  • Similarly, Film/TV actors employ subtle movements and gestures, relying on the camera to capture nuanced emotions and subtext, while theatrical/stage actors may utilize larger, more exaggerated movements to ensure visibility and convey emotions to audience members sitting farther away. Screen acting caters to the seeing audience, where viewers perceive emotions through facial expressions and visual cues, while theatrical/stage acting engages the listening audience, where emotions are conveyed through vocal projection, intonation, and body language, creating a multisensory experience for spectators.

Emotional Expression:

  • Facial expressions and eye contact are crucial in both film/TV and theatrical/stage acting, though they play a more significant role in film/TV where close-ups allow for detailed portrayal of emotions and demand an actor to have true charisma on camera, whereas in theatrical/stage acting, vocal projection and body language also contribute to conveying emotions to the entire audience.

Intimacy and Connection:

  • Film/TV performances are often more subdued and intimate, with actors delivering lines in a naturalistic manner suited for close-up shots, while theatrical/stage actors establish connections with other actors and the audience through spatial relationships, body language, and vocal projection, creating a sense of presence and immediacy in the performance.

In short, both film/TV and theatrical/stage acting require authentic emotional expression, but the methods of conveying emotions differ, with acting for film relying more on close-up shots and subtle facial cues, and theatrical/stage acting employing vocal projection and exaggerated physicality to engage a live audience. Here is a video we made comparing the two mediums which helps demonstrate these points:

We encourage you to explore the nuances of each medium to enhance your craft and versatility as an actor, whether you're perfecting your theatrical audition self-tape or honing your on-camera audition training.

At Kimball Studio, we offer specialized on-camera classes for professional actors that incorporate techniques from our founder Kelly Kimball designed to help theatre actors transition to screen acting. These are also great acting classes for recent college grads who may have primarily theatre-based training but want to audition for film & TV. You can learn more about our classes here and our intensives here.



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