Film & Television or Theatre? What’s the difference? Which is better?
Neither one is better than the other, but they are definitely very different!
In my experience theatre acting is much more instantly satisfying, your audience and their reactions are right in front of you. There is nothing quite like putting on a really great show and knowing that your audience is hanging off your every word, crying with your tragically affected actors or laughing with you through the lighter moments. It is a very different feeling than Film & Television acting.
The reason Film & Television acting isn’t as instantly satisfying is because your audience is much more removed. Until your piece is aired in film theaters or on TV you won’t be able to see how people react to it. It can be much less personal. In a way though, it can be more natural and realistic.
Film & Television acting has the boom (microphone) right above your head, and the camera in very close proximity to you. This means you keep your voice natural without stressing on volume and act as realistic as possible. While you need to act realistically on stage too, the audience is farther away and unless you also have microphones on your person then you need to be able to project your voice all the way to the back of the audience. Your feelings and emotions must be conveyed to the entire audience as well, generally resulting in slightly more exaggerated expression. This is not a bad thing, just a type of acting that has a very different feel.
In both respects, the actor currently speaking takes all of the attention. In theatre, the entire audience is watching that one actor, and in Film & Television the entire crew is watching. Likely the crew watching will be alot smaller than an audience, but also alot more critical as it is the director and producer deciding if you’re acting how they want. An audience is also very critical, but on a different level.
While the actual style of acting can be more natural in Film & Television, the layout of the storyline isn’t. For Film & Television the different scenes in an episode or movie can be filmed in any random order based on availability of location or daylight hours. The first day you could be filming the tragic break-up of a couple and the next day your filming the couple meeting for the first time. It is random and doesn’t flow nicely with a storyline meaning the acting is very scene by scene. This also isn’t a negative thing, just different. In Theatre you put on a play from beginning to end so it is easier to build upon the beginning scenes to properly execute the following scenes.
So in the end, Film & Television or Theatre?
For myself, I have concluded that I enjoy both. Both styles of acting are exhilarating and different in their own way and I greatly enjoy having the opportunity to act in both areas. Some argue that you should pick just one area and stick with it so you can fully hone that type of acting skill and truly excel in that area, but I don’t see why you should limit yourself. At the very least, give both a try before choosing, some people just prefer one type of acting over the other.