The Science and Art of Acting for the Camera : A Practical Approach to Film, Television, and Commercial Acting book cover
1st Edition

The Science and Art of Acting for the Camera
A Practical Approach to Film, Television, and Commercial Acting

ISBN 9781138233676
Published August 3, 2017 by Routledge
240 Pages

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Book Description

The Science and Art of Acting for the Camera provides a precise yet practical approach to help unlock the mysteries of acting for film and television. Written by veteran actor, producer, and director John Howard Swain, the book offers a clear-cut, no-nonsense technique that equips aspiring or working actors with the necessary skills to succeed on camera. The technique teaches you how to build multi-dimensional characters; construct truthful and exciting relationships; ignite stimulating emotions; craft a series of discoveries guaranteed to energize your work; and much, much more. The book also provides instruction for actors working in commercials—from slating, to the dreaded "tell us about yourself" interview, to nailing "the tag" and embracing the cliché—and supplies sample commercial copy for students to practice.

Table of Contents

Shout Outs



Chapter One: Things Every Actor Should Know

Chapter Two: The Basics

Chapter Three: The Bones

Chapter Four: Ten Positive Attributes

Chapter Five: Relationships

Chapter Six: Main Objective

Chapter Seven: Opposites

Chapter Eight: Moment Before

Chapter Nine: Discoveries/Emotions

Chapter Ten: Beats, Tactics and Actions

Chapter Eleven: Humor

Chapter Twelve: Place, Transitions and Sense Memory

Chapter Thirteen: Status, Power and Secrets

Chapter Fourteen: Summary

Chapter Fifteen: The Technique—Condensed

Chapter Sixteen: Self-Taping


And A Few Words About Commercials

Introduction to Commercial Acting


Chapter Seventeen: The Slate

Chapter Eighteen: From Slate to Copy

Chapter Nineteen: Relationships

Chapter Twenty: Line-to-Line Objectives

Chapter Twenty-One: Moment Before and The Tag

Chapter Twenty-Two: Banter

Chapter Twenty-Three: Environment

Chapter Twenty-Four: Embracing the Cliché

Chapter Twenty-Five: Double Copy

Chapter Twenty-Six: The Dreaded Interview

Chapter Twenty-Seven: A Few Last Things

Chapter Twenty-Eight: Your Greatest Asset-You

Chapter Twenty-Nine: Commercial Practice Copy




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John Howard Swain has coached a myriad of clients ranging from first-time performers to Emmy Award-winning actors, Supreme Court Justices, and Fortune 500 executives. In addition to his New York stage credits he has also guest-starred in dozens of television’s most iconic shows, including such classics as Hill Street Blues to Law & Order: SVU. As a director he has staged over twenty plays, including such hits as That Championship Season, Veronica’s Room, and The Owl and the Pussycat. He has also directed four films: Whose Life, Uncommon, Stand-by, and the multi-award winning short, A Younger Man. Students from his program continue to work across the globe, and can be seen starring on Broadway, in television, and on film.


"Swain’s The Science and Art of Acting for the Camera is a welcome addition to the study of on-camera work! It covers the nuts and bolts of a very important and sometimes ignored medium in the actor's training. Swain provides a touchstone for any actor wanting to learn and know more about working on-camera. A great addition to my library in teaching the actor for today's world."

—James Calleri, Casting Director, Head of Graduate Acting, Columbia University

"John Howard Swain not only knows how to do it, he knows how to teach it...and that is exactly what he does in his wonderful new acting manual! He clarifies, encourages, and enlightens. A must-read for anyone who wants to be a better actor!"

—Mary Lou Belli, Two-time Emmy award-winning director, NCIS: New Orleans, Hart of Dixie, Pitch, Monk, The Game, Co-author of Directors Tell the Story

"John Swain’s The Science and Art of Acting for the Camera is a readable, practical, and immensely enjoyable guide to the study of acting on film. I have made my living as an actor for over forty years and still found new things to learn from his book. There are many books out there attempting to explicate the study of acting. Most only reduce it to results and pronouncements. Swain keeps it right-sized, upbeat, positive, and doable."

—Ivar Brogger, Department of Theatre, Chapman University

"I have had the good fortune to work with John as both a teacher and a director and have also had the pleasure of watching him work as an actor. The unique thing about his approach to the work is that he can see it from all sides. He is able to take what he knows and assist the actor so that his performance is not only clearer but also more powerful. It is truly the marriage of science and art that makes acting seem effortless. How lucky for actors that John has written this book to share his thoughts!"

—Summer Crockett Moore, Producer, Junction, Block Island, Lost Cat Corona, Wholly Broken, Above All Things, After the Sun Fell, Heather. Raising