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Acting For Film - Truth 24 times a second
Published by Virgin Books, 2003
Review by Laura Hart - Voice and dialect coach
On receiving this book to review, I am aware that there is a real need for such a book and that Mel Churcher is a respected Voice and Acting Coach with a lot of experience in the film industry.
Actors often express vulnerability when approaching their first film acting job and can feel swamped by the demands that they are facing; they rightly feel unprepared for the scale of the project they are now a part of.
Mel Churcher's book will be an enormous help to those keen to embark on a film career. Mel's style is easy and accessible and she takes us through the actor's involvement in the film making process in six parts: Making a Start, The Art, The Craft, The Working Environment, Summing It All Up and finally Resources.
Some of the chapters within the book end with a 'Quick Tips' Section which furnish the reader with specific advice, exercises and useful reminders which will doubtlessly vary in their usefulness depending on the level of actor's experience in the first place. As the book progresses the information becomes more detailed and works at a much deeper level.
There are 5 chapters dealing specifically with the Voice: The Breath of Life, Your Voice, Sound Advice, Special Sound Needs and Extra Exercises.
'Your Voice' advises the actor to use their "whole natural voice" to enable her/him to perform in the appropriate style for film acting and Mel explains the specific vocal techniques that are needed for this.
Her description of how the voice works is basic and clear, which is excellent for untrained actors and for those who wish to re-visit this information.
Mel never patronises, but guides the reader through specific exercises to open up the voice making it truly responsive to any required demands.
Mel's advice and practical work always stays within the boundaries of safety and encourages the healthy usage of the voice. For example: in her advice on Yelling and Screaming, she reminds the reader, amongst other hints, to use the breath, keep the sound rooted, keep the voice hydrated, use steam, rest the voice afterwards etc.
Mel's style as a Voice and Acting Coach is evident through her writing. She writes with clarity and is precise in her attention to detail.
Her voice exercises are clearly described never sounding too strict and rigid, or too vague and mysterious.
Whilst it is possible to dip into the various sections of the book, as the need arises, an actor would benefit far more from taking their time and going through the book in much greater detail allowing them to absorb the ideas and exercises as they go along.
Having read this book, any actor about to take on their first role in a movie should feel far more in control of their part in the film-making process, they should be able to approach the experience with more confidence and should thus be freer to deliver a great performance.
Caine, Michael, Acting in Film, 1990, Applause.
Kotby, M.N.,The Accent Method of Voice Therapy, Singular Press, 1995
Thyme-Frokjaer, K, Frokjaer-Jenson, B, The Accent Method, Speechmark Publishing Ltd., 2001
(This article was first published in Essays on Voice and Speech: Film Broadcast & E-media Coaching ed. Rocco Dal Vera , presented by the Voice & Speech Review 2003, a publication of the Voice & Speech Trainers Association. (Vasta) inc.)
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