Viewfinder: On-Camera Talent

Many folks believe that the talent that appears in front of the camera is more important than the talent behind it. The entertainment industry is founded on this principle. In Hollywood, actors and actresses are celebrated because they are famous. Some of them have little acting talent, but are merely eye candy. Beauty may be skin deep, but what works in front of the camera goes to the core.

We may not realize it, but we have been trained by the entertainment industry to expect people to look like they belong on TV. Clean-shaven men with well-groomed hair who are well dressed are the norm. The look includes a good complexion and a symmetrical face, but there is a wide range of ages represented and a reasonable sampling of builds, from skinny to stocky. Women are under a lot more scrutiny. Young, tall and thin are mandatory attributes. Worst of all, actresses are contradictorily supposed to have low body fat and large breasts. This limits the field to all but the genetically rare and the artificially augmented.

You will not likely have the option of using a famous person for on-camera talent, so you’ll have to choose from the people that you know or conduct a low budget search. Modeling schools and drama class students are two possibilities to find on-camera talent. You should look for extroverted personalities who are comfortable making consistent eye contact. Look for great smiles. Talent that makes you comfortable during the interview process is also likely to make your viewers comfortable.

The same qualities that make a good public speaker make for good on-screen talent: clear pronunciation, good diction, poise and stamina. It is foolish to think that you can shoot a scene in just one take, because only a few people in our world speak flawlessly for more than a few seconds. In real life, we accept flubs. In fact we don’t even notice them. You must select people that can speak well and are comfortable re-shooting a scene dozens of times.

Concentrate on finding talent that knows and loves the subject matter first and foremost. People with unconventional, non-Hollywood charisma and great speaking skills come across much better than shiny, sparkly actors who have simply memorized their lines. If you’ve ever seen an infomercial for exercise equipment, you know what I’m talking about. Does anyone really believe that the 20-something model with the washboard abs attained them by using the product in question for just five minutes a day? Physical perfection (as Hollywood sees it) is part genetics and part spending several hours in the gym every day.

People who are experts on the topic that they are speaking about possess the trait of speaking from the heart. Beauty may lie in the eye of the beholder, but charisma is more attractive than just good looks.

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