Updated: Jun 27
by Faith Hibbs-Clark
Have you ever been so moved by an actor's performance that it felt like reality? Chances are, their captivating portrayal was powered by the subtleties of body language. Non-verbal cues account for as much as 85% of communication, making body language an indispensable tool for actors. In this article, we explore how understanding and utilizing body language can elevate an actor's performance to the next level.
Believe in your performance: that's a golden rule for any actor. Words can only take you so far. Body language, on the other hand, is an actor's secret weapon for delivering a believable performance that captures the audience's heart. In this blog, we will delve into why body language is crucial in acting and how you can use it to create a compelling performance.
"Acting is the art of storytelling, and body language is its lifeblood." says Michael Fassbender, a German-Irish actor known for his roles in films such as "Inglourious Basterds", "X-Men: First Class", and "Steve Jobs".
When an actor communicates genuinely through body language, the audience connects more strongly with the character. An actor's facial expressions, posture, gestures, and movements all speak volumes in conveying emotions, making their performance more convincing. In a world where only 9% of communication is the meaning of words, mastering the fundamentals of body language is of utmost importance for any actor.
What is Body Language?
In simple terms, body language is any communication done without using words. It can include facial expressions, hand gestures, posture, or gaze. Our brains process visual information much faster than verbal information, and our bodies constantly send signals about how we feel in any given situation. By utilizing these signals in your performance work, you have the potential to create incredibly authentic characters that viewers will connect with on an emotional level.
As I always say, "All acting is a lie!" - In the CMFA "Acting Science Method" I call it the ENTERTAINMENT LIE, but the trick is making that lie a believable lie.
So how do actors go about doing this? The key is drawing from your own body language indicators and not mimicking others - after all, no two people express themselves in precisely the same way! That being said, there are some basics that every actor should be aware of when performing.
The Science of it
It is often said that our actions can reveal more about the emotional journeys we take than our words alone. In character development, this notion holds true; the choices we make define us far more than mere utterances. Nonverbal communication plays a more crucial role than spoken words in human interaction. As an actor, expressions, hand gestures, and postures are equally, if not more, significant than lines from the script. What is left unsaid often conveys more than what is said. Therefore, as performers, your body language and nonverbal cues carry enormous weight in expressing the intended message and emotion.
How Body Language Contributes to Performance Work Through Reverse-engineering
Body language can be used to control what the brain is feeling and make it easier for performers to believe in the role they are playing. While many actors may look outside of themselves for inspiration—studying other people’s body language or mimicking others' mannerisms—it’s important that each actor finds their own way of expressing feelings through body language. The best performance work happens when an actor draws from their own body language when creating a character's movements or behavior.
In fact, body language can do even more because it has the power to influence our own brain chemistry and behavior; studies have shown that by adopting certain poses and facial expressions, you can actually induce physical changes in your own brain – such as releasing endorphins chemicals into your LImbic system – which can help you better embody the character you are playing.
Actors must also be conscious of how their body language impacts their overall performance. For example, if an actor needs to portray a sense of sadness, they may need to adjust their posture and facial expressions accordingly. They may also need to think about how much physical space they take up in order to convey certain emotions like fear or intimidation. All these adjustments help create a more believable character that resonates with the audience.
The Power of Authenticity
When utilizing body language to enhance your acting performance, it’s important to remember that authenticity is key. Rather than mimicking another actor’s movements or trying to force yourself into a certain pose, draw from your own personal experiences and feelings when crafting your character’s physical presence onstage or on camera. Taking the time to really understand how various emotions manifest themselves within your own body will help you communicate those feelings more accurately and believably onscreen in character.
Body language plays an integral role in any actor’s performance work - but it takes practice and dedication in order to master this skill set. By taking the time to understand how different emotions manifest themselves within their own bodies, actors can learn how best to express these emotions through their physicality - creating more believable performances that move audiences around the world. For more information on using body language for professional acting work, visit www.cmfatraining.com today!
In conclusion, mastering body language is just one part of the "Acting Science" that is essential for any professional actor who wants to bring a character's story alive on camera in a believable way. By understanding how body movements affect emotion and overall performance work, actors can ensure that every scene resonates with truth and authenticity—and ultimately helps them create characters that their audience will truly connect with.
To learn more, join me for the next 8-week Film Auditioning Workshop & support program starting July 8th (Saturdays 10-12 noon Pacific Time) or if you have already taken this class, sign up now for our next PRACTICE CLASS always the first Tuesday of each month.
About Faith Hibbs-Clark
Faith is a body language expert who specialized in deception detection before becoming a casting director and working in the film industry for over 25 years. She is the founder of the Communication Method for Actors, LLC & the creator of the Acting Science Method.