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How to Show Real Emotion when Acting

To many, acting is a difficult and arduous journey of self-development. An actor not only has to control voice but also body posture, facial expression and also memorize their lines. However one of the hardest steps in the journey of becoming a skilled actor is developing the ability to convey dramatic emotion. So for those of you finding that sad scene a little difficult or the scene where you are meant to be terrified but everyone else thinks you look constipated, here is a short guide to get you started.

  1. Think of acting much like an artist or an author, in the sense you need to develop the right mentality before you can start. Read the script or study the story and try to understand why each character reacts the way they do and how you would feel in that situation.
  1. Visualize any scenes that pose a problem. Why does the character react this way? What is the character thinking? What is the person usually like (posture, tone, register, age, body movements etc.) and try to build up the character. Sometimes it is easy to make the character like you in some way and it can work, however acting should be like wearing a mask. You become someone different and afterwards remove the mask again.
  1. Practice “being” the character. Find a mirror and recite lines while in character. If possible, practice posture, tone, body movement and register to try to iron out any issues with believability. Try to criticize but make sure you are realistic and not overly critical.
  1. When trying to convey an emotion try to make yourself believe that you are the character.Try to build up their fears, their feelings and immerse yourself in the story. It may seem slightly obsessive but most actors use this technique. Al Pacino remarked that during the filming of Scarface, he went into a different world and felt as if Al was gone.
  1. Remember the conveying of emotion is more than just words and tone. Posture and gestures add to the effect and make it realistic.
  1. Studying is an important part of acting. Study any aspects of your character in greater detail and anything you don’t understand in the story. Watch videos and pay attention to the way the person moves, speaks and stands. What register do they have? What tells you they are sad? What facial expressions are they using? What is their tone like? Also remember depending on the sex, age, and background of your character, they may react differently. A gruff, Glaswegian gangster will not start to cry in front of all his friends, will he?

Here are 30 emotional acting exercises to help you!