On-Camera Techniques for the NON-Actor

From Dan Cordle


Last week I was a guest on the 50th episode of Micheal Port’s podcast, Steal the Show.  Michael is a friend and former student who’s mission is to help entrepreneurs excel at public speaking.  We covered a range of topics, including:

  • Tips for looking awesome like a professional actor on camera
  • How “cross training” can benefit public speakers
  • How to rehearse your speech without losing spontaneity
  • The Perfect Speech: How to Get it “Right”
  • The difference between speaking on stage and speaking on camera
  • How to speak and connect to your audience on camera
  • Tips for overcoming camera fright and putting yourself out there
  • How to give an authentic performance on stage or on camera
  • How to influence an audience and achieve your objectives
  • How to handle your nerves and act naturally on stage or on camera
  • What to do with your hands and how to look natural on camera
  • Public speaking: What to do when your mind goes blank…
  • How to embrace life as a creative artist and performer
  • Fun games you can try immediately to Enhance Your Performance Skills

If you’d like to hear me address these topics, go to www.stealtheshow.com/podcast/itunes and play the 50th episode. Cheers!

THE BIG BANGER! an On-Camera Workshop for Entrepreneurs


From Dan:

I’m so proud to have completed this workshop for a select group of entrepreneurs.

The workshop was held in NYC at the gorgeous headquarters of the National Society of Colonial Dames mansion.

In keeping the group small, each person was able to get the greatest possible benefit from the experience. In advance of the three days we spent together, we had weekly Skype meetings as well as chat sessions. That preparation, in addition to the days we met led to amazing results.

Here’s what we did on October 22, 23 and 24:

1. Expanded  performance possibilities through Voice and Text work.

2. Movement, alignment and breathing through the Alexander Technique.

3. Establishing a pre-performance centering warm up.

4. Improvisation – thinking outside the box!

5. On-camera work – paired improvisation.

6. On-camera interview technique.

7. On-camera lighting – discovering and setting up the best light for you.

8. On-camera composition for the home/office/venue.

The next workshop will likely be held in Princeton, NJ in January. If you’re interested in attending, reach out!

email: dan@thefilmpractice.com

Skype: (609) 557-7415

The Film Practice Workshop, September

Crazy Lens

The Film Practice – Short Films and Reel Scenes

Using outlines, writings and improvisations, we will be creating original material leading toward shooting scripts for short films and reel scenes for a select group of actors. This is an excellent way to take charge of your career and create work that gets you work.

Sundays 10:00am-1pm

Manhattan, studio

Contact: dan@thefilmpractice.com

August Workshop

Canon Video Cam

The Film Practice – Content Creation

In August we will be creating content through improvisation. This is an excellent way for actors to create their own short films, scenes for their reels, and to take charge of their careers rather than wait to be cast in someone else’s production.

Thursdays 7:00pm-9:00pm on  8/6,  8/13,  8/20 and 8/27

(Manhattan, studio)


June Classes

Christie Film Practice

The Film Practice – Acting On-Camera I

Working on original and improvised scenes, actors learn to overcome the fear of on-camera performance and find their unique voice as artists. This is an excellent workshop for actors who want to perform in independent films and/or create their own on-camera projects. Every actor is on-camera during every class.

Thursdays     6:00pm-9:00pm (TBA)   June 1, 8, 15, 22

The Actor’s Space

This class combines improvisation/theatre games and scene work to improve the depth and impact of an actors performance with scripted material. Scene work includes scripted analysis. Actors who take this class are preparing for live as well as on-camera performance.

Mondays    10am-1pm (TBA)   June 2, 9,16, 23

Life, Death and Public Speaking

Mammoth2sketch by eric quigley

Imagine this scene, one year from now…

Your boss has asked you to give a speech at a shareholder’s meeting in two weeks. Profits are falling and you’re speech is supposed to keep the shareholders from dumping shares. You don’t feel good about this. You’re not a public speaker. You’re not even an extrovert. In fact, your main talent is being shy. You’re invisible at office parties, hate making eye contact and avoid socializing like the plague. Thinking about your speech fills you with terror. If you get past the first sentence without collapsing in a sweaty mess, you’ll surely be thrown off the stage by your boss. Shareholders will sell the company for peanuts and you’ll be fired without a severance. And it gets worse. You’re spouse will leave you for being spineless, you’re children will call you a fool and your parents will finally accept your complete failure as a human being. But there’s hope. The speech is two weeks away. If you turn in your two week’s notice of resignation now, you won’t have to make the speech! But two weeks notice is no good. You need to give at least a month’s notice or everyone will call you a jerk. They will anyway when they hear your speech! Oh No! You’re doomed!

Now imagine this scene, 15,000 years ago…

The night is bitterly cold. You have no shelter except for the hide on your shoulders. The goat your tribe killed last month is gone and you haven’t eaten for a week. A small fire is burning, round which you sit with your freezing tribe. Everyone is exhausted, hungry and dejected. Into this mess arrives an emaciated scout, who reports that a herd of Mammoths is approaching and will arrive tomorrow morning. You think the same thing as everyone else. “Why couldn’t it be a herd of rabbits?” The last time you hunted Mammoth a third of your tribe was killed, including all the best hunters. Why is the Great Spirit toying with you? You feel pain deep in your heart. The cold, your hunger, your life makes you want to quit. You look at your tribe. Everyone is as miserable as you are. Then you look at your child, sleeping in the arms of his father. You love your child and can’t accept he will die of hunger. You love your mate too. Looking again at your tribe, you know your heart will break if they perish. Something happens deep inside and you think, “We have to live. We have to kill a Mammoth!” Rising to your feet, you feel energy lift through your body. The energy is hunger and love crystalizing into an objective. Your gaze steadies on the fire and you know what you must do. You must convince the tribe to go on a hunt with impossible odds. They have to believe they can take down a Mammoth. Lifting your hands to the heavens you address the Great Spirit, imploring it to look down on your people. “Look at us, Spirit! See how we strive!” Your voice is small but it rings true. The tribe looks up and listens, momentarily forgetting their hunger. You stride toward the center, turn and face them. They look back at you, expectantly. Without knowing how to begin, the words “I love you” come out of your mouth, loud and clear. The love is heart-felt, unconditional and it penetrates the tribe. They’re no longer so aware of the cold. With passion you continue, “I love you so much that tomorrow I will kill a Mammoth!” Never mind that you’ve been known to this point as someone who’s talent is finding berries; the words “I will kill a Mammoth” have come our of your mouth and you meant them. You’ve stated your objective unequivocally and with power. Feeling that power, you take it a step further: “I love you so much, I will kill a Mammoth ALL BY MYSELF!” Everyone is shocked. A few stand up and shout. Before they know what’s happening, you grab a spear from the ground and hold it like a hunter. Crouching down, you begin to stalk an imaginary Mammoth. The tribe is shouting. You have no idea where this is going and you don’t care. Your cousin Gak is so excited he’s jumping up and down. “Kill the Mammoth!” Gak yells. He grabs two sticks, holds them like tusks and joins you in the center. You turn your spear toward Gak. He’s helping you! Now the other tribe members are jumping up and down and cheering. They want you to succeed so badly they pick up their spears and rush to join you. Soon everyone is pretending to hunt Gak, taking care not to actually impale him. Gak is giving a huge performance. No one wants him to succumb too quickly. They want a hunt of epic proportions! Gak delivers, and when he finally falls, the tribe explodes with joy and laughter Everyone’s hugging and filled with pride. You love each other. You love the Mammoth. Tomorrow the Great Spirit will see how you live and if need be, how you die!

I bow down to our ancestors. They teach us about living, dying, and even public speaking. Here are things they teach me:

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. They’ll help you see your path.
  2. Connect with your basic needs. They’re a source of strong objectives.
  3. State your objectives boldly and go after them.
  4. Be passionate. Passion is the heart in action.
  5. Accept a greater definition of who you are and of what you’re able to do. Others will too.

Actor / Entrepreneur

It’s hard to think of another job as exciting or rewarding as acting. You get to passionately feel and share things with other people. When you finish, people applaud. Every project is exciting and fun (as long as nobody involved is a complete lunatic). There are two sides to acting.  One is the artistic side. The other is the business side. Most actors love the artistic side. Some feel queasy with the “business” end of things. If you’re queasy keep reading, at least for another paragraph.

The Artistic Side of Acting

Hard to qualify, but among other things this is about being fully present with who you are, what you want, and being free enough, (mentally and physically) to pursue your needs in a very public way. Achieving this is impacted by how you train and how you choose to live.

The Business Side of Acting

Is acting your profession or your hobby? If it’s your hobby stop reading and enjoy yourself. If acting is your profession, accept that you’re going to be involved in marketing, advertising and sales. You’re not just an artist, you’re an entrepreneur at the head of your own business. How you run the business affects how much you’re paid to act. You need to work on the artistic side AND the business side if you want to succeed. Two points to consider:

1. Separate Art and Business. Nurture Both.

Think about world-class professional athletes. They strive to combine training and lifestyle choices that lead to peak performance. Successful actors do too. Elite athletes are paid for performing in their sport as well as for endorsements. The endorsements deliver big money but also impact negotiations for future athletic contracts. An athlete who doesn’t take care of business is behaving like his/her sport is a hobby instead of a profession. The business side is time consuming for athletes. Endorsements and appearances cut into training time, affecting performance. Athletes have to strike a balance for optimum results. Successful actors face the same challenge. The artistic and business sides each need nurturing and protecting. How do you separate and nurture each? When you train as an actor, make it about the training. When you work on the business side, make it about business. Fine-tune the balance so you grow as actor and entrepreneur.

2. Learn from the Best

Who’s the best instructor? The one who presents an environment that you can expand into, and ideas that help you clearly see the your path to the things you want. If you’ve been acting a long time, you probably know several great teachers and some to avoid like the plague. On the business side, there are also great teachers and a few hacks. A quick online search using “acting business” reveals a truckload of information, some of which is excellent. Take classes and read information specific to the acting business. Another great thing is to read books specifically about Marketing, Advertising and Selling. These books are aimed at entrepreneurs and you can directly apply the principles you learn to the acting business. Here are three I highly recommend:

“Reinventing You” by Dorie Clark

“Same Side Selling” by Ian Altman and Jack Quarles

“Duct Tape Marketing” by John Jantsch

I hope this has been helpful. If you have questions or thoughts, please reach out.

Chekhov Project – The Three Sisters

The purpose of the Chekhov Project is to introduce the students of New York University’s Graduate Acting Program to film production and to deepen their connection with characters they began exploring the previous year. In addition to helping the students make the transition from a live, theatrical performance to a filmed one, it was also my task to direct and film the scenes of Chekhov’s play in a way that works for the camera. This sometimes leads to re-imaging scenes in a way that illuminates the lives of the characters. For instance, in the play, the characters Masha and Vershinen are having an affair but their contact is limited to public settings within Masha’s house. For the project, we moved a scene that normally takes place in a public area of the house to a bedroom. The actors performed the scene as if it were a post-coital conversation. The intimacy that the bedroom provided the actors helped reveal the sadness of the characters and the complexity of their affair in a way I have never experienced watching the play. As with The Seagull, the camera we used for The Three Sisters was a Panasonic GH2 (hacked) with a set of Lomo Cine lenses. Sound was recorded on a Tascam DR-60 and Audio Technica shotgun mic. We filmed the project in a house in Sparta, New Jersey and in the studios of the NYU’s Graduate Acting Program in New York City. The crew included Michael Vanderpool, Chris Dwyer and Kelly Van Dilla.

September Workshop!

Announcing the next workshop at The Film Practice!


This workshop is for actors who are dedicated to an authentic, powerfully present way of performing on-camera. We meet twice per week and work on prepared and improvised scenes and monologues. The group is limited to ten people. Each actor works on-camera during each meeting.

Workshop Meetings – John Desotelle Studio, 300 West 43rd, 3rd Floor

Tuesdays, September 7, 14, 21, 28,  (7pm-9:00pm)

Thursdays, September 4, 11, 18, 25 (7pm-9:00pm)