(818) 248 5602 | 3131 Foothill Blvd, La Crescenta, CA 91214

Above the city of Glendale, CA where the 2 and 210 freeways meet



What is Cheating for Actors? Video Acting Lesson

Whether you’re acting for camera or stage, you’ll hear the direction to “cheat,” “cheat out,” or “cheating.” What is cheating for actors? Cheating is positioning yourself towards your audience. In on-camera acting, cheating out is moving so the camera (your audience) can better see the action on your face and body. Take a look at this video for an example, and read more below to find out why and when cheating is important.

Why is cheating called cheating?  Just like you saw in the video lesson, actors create the illusion of real moments. However, real moments are often difficult to see, or at least to see the really interesting parts. When two people talk to each other, an onlooker doesn’t typically get the benefit of seeing both people’s faces at the same time.

WHY CHEAT?

You don’t have to be taking acting classes in Los Angeles to know that what actors (and models) do with their faces is a HUGE part of what makes them engaging to watch. The technique of cheating began in stage acting to share the drama on stage with as much of the audience as possible. In the early years of on-camera acting, the camera was as difficult to move as a hundred audience seats, so on-camera actors also applied cheating techniques.

MODERN CHEATING

Digital filming has in many ways lightened and freed the camera. However, audiences still watch one screen at a time, so on-camera actors still cheat for camera. Cheating for camera is a technical skill and a great asset that can especially help child actors stand apart in auditions and on set. Actors can work on this acting technique on their own or in acting classes that film and playback their performances like we do at 3-2-1- Acting Studios.

CHEATER’S 45

The technique of “cheating” is to let the audience see the action while maintaining the illusion of natural body attitudes and positions by the actors. Consider the acting school exercise above. Two actors in a scene together may angle their bodies at a 45 degree angle or at a diagonal to the camera. This way they effectively face each other and face the camera, too. The 45 degree standard is usually enough to let the camera see the nuances of a performance because it can pick up cues from both eyes, more of the face and body.

CHEAT UP, DOWN, IN…

You’ll see a lot of cheating these days when actors look at an object, like a computer screen, in a scene. Often the computer screen is put right in front of the camera, so the audience gets to see the actor’s full face. However, it’s natural to look down at a computer screen, but the top of a person’s head is only so interesting for so long. You may be directed to “cheat up,” which means to angle your face upwards toward the camera while keeping your eye-line on the computer screen (or whatever object you’re supposed to be looking at).

SUPER CHEATS

Sometimes when actors cheat their bodies, faces or eye-lines, they completely lose sight of the person or object they’re supposed to be playing opposite. cheating forced perspectiveIn the computer screen example, the actor may have to cheat the face and eyes up so much that the computer ends up outside their view. In The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies, director Peter Jackson used a technique called “forced perspective” to create the illusion that the actors playing hobbits were half the size of the actors playing humans and wizards. To pull off the forced perspective in these scenes, Jackson had the actors cheat for camera and adjusted their eye-lines so it appeared to camera (and the audience) that they were talking directly to each other. In actuality, the actors often couldn’t even see what the other was doing!

Cheating is another tool in your actor’s toolbox. Use it well, and keep acting!

Scroll for Transcript.
schedule free acting class

Man: Today we’re talking about cheating.

Today we’re talking about cheating. But with acting, cheating is a good thing. Cheating is when you’re talking to your scene partner, but also open for the camera. [00:00:15]

What I’m doing right now, I’m cheating a little bit, because I’m pretending my scene partner is over here. So what you wanna do is be open a little bit on a diagonal slant, talking so that your partner sees you, and also so the camera sees you. Lets take a look. [00:00:30]

Roxy: Hey, Ruby.

Ruby: Yes, Roxy.

Roxy: I think it’s time to do something new.

Ruby: Something new?

Roxy: Like get a blouse that’s not pink.

Ruby: Blue with stripes.

Roxy: Blue with stripes.

Man: This scene is great. The only problem is you probably can’t see it that well. [00:00:45] When we normally talk, we normally talk strait to each other. But we wanna be seen by the camera. So let’s cheat out a little guys. Take your down stage leg and move it out a little. There you go. Same for you Erica. Excellent. Now let’s try this again, with cheating. Go for it guys. [00:01:00]

Roxy: Hey, Ruby.

Ruby: Yes, Roxy.

Roxy: I think it’s time to do something new.

Ruby: Something new?

Roxy: Like get a blouse that’s not pink.

Ruby: Blue with stripes.

Roxy: Blue with stripes.

Man: Cheating is awesome. [00:01:15]

Whether we’re cheating for the stage so the audience can see us, or adjusting our sight line so the camera can see us, we cheat so that we can be seen. With acting, cheating is cool. Remember that kids. Cheating is cool, but just for acting. [01:30] See you in class.

Related posts: