Sunday, February 28, 2016

Core Reading Post #4 The Actor as a Storyteller

Over the summer, I volunteered at L.A.'s International Short Film Festival and sat in on a discussion between actors and directors that centered on fostering better communication between the two.  One question that was proposed was whether actors are storytellers.  A heated debate arose between a director claiming actors are conduits of their storytelling but are not the storytellers themselves and an actress who insisted she was a storyteller because it was her mouth and expressions that told the story.  Barry King's article, "Articulating Stardom" speaks of the role of actors and the differences between film and theater for their roles.  King states that the full participation of an actor in the narrative as character depends upon the suppression of the literary conception of the author.  This is a statement I agree with in regards to film.  The actor is not the author, the director and screenwriter are, while the actor is one of many devices, often the most visual, used to tell the story.  It is interesting however that because actors are in the spotlight, they are referred to as possessing the film in an authorial way.  Perhaps this is because it is easier to say "Robert DeNiro's new film" instead of "the new film in which Robert DeNiro acts."  Actors become stars because they, as Barry King describes, are a "behavioral commodity" and it is their face that is used to market and sell the film, but perhaps they are given a little too much credit or at least credit in the wrong place.  This does not necessarily mean directors and screenwriters should become celebrities because that is not always a desire or reward, but they simply should be appreciated more.

In regards to Barry King's comparison of theater to film, and ultimate favoring of theater as an actor's medium, I do not believe such a comparison is fully dissected as theater and film have many more complexities to them than what was mentioned by King.  It is interesting, however, to think about the types of actors such as Daniel Radcliffe who began in the theater, transition to film, and then when they have proved their chops, go to Broadway.  If theater is truly an actor's medium, why do actors even aspire to work in film?  Is this aspiration purely an economic or egotistical motivation?  In the case of A Streetcar Named Desire, for me, this was an example of a play being converted to the screen and sticking true to its theatrical origins in terms of set design and location while enhancing the emotional impact of the character portrayals through the intimacy the camera provides.  Marlon Brando's performance did not take less skill because he got multiple takes instead of a singular shot.  If nothing, else, film provides a larger platform for great performances to be enjoyed by larger audiences.  Additionally, while there is more creative manipulation in film and more ways to harness technology, no level of editing can create a great performance that is essential to deeming a film great.

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