‘A Screen Acting Workshop’ by Mel Churcher. Screen acting really isn’t something you can learn from books. You have to do it! Attending a professionally-run workshop is usually the first step but they can be expensive. If you can’t afford a quality screen acting workshop, then the next best thing is to get Mel Churcher’s book which comes with a DVD. It’s a comprehensive training course in screen acting by an internationally renowned teacher and acting coach who has worked with actors of all backgrounds and experience. The book and DVD contain five workshops which take actors step by step through the process of creating, developing and delivering assured performances on screen. Excellent.
‘Acting in Film: An Actor’s Take on Moviemaking’ by Michael Caine. A brilliant, witty book full of gems. An entertaining read. Caine also did a BBC masterclass series in the 80s workshopping actors through roles that he himself had played ‘Acting in Film’ [DVD]. Caine shows himself to be a brilliant director. When asked why he didn’t want to direct, he reportedly said that as a director he’d need to devote at least a year to a film. Being an actor was far more lucrative as he could appear in half a dozen films during that time! This DVD, alas, is only an instalment of the series, but a fuller version (in 6 parts) is available on YouTube. Check it out here.
‘Secrets of Screen Acting’ by Patrick Tucker. This one of the first books of its kind and remains a standard classic. Patrick is a very experienced TV director (who is also founder and director of the Original Shakespeare Company), and the book makes very clear the important distinctions between acting for stage and screen. Over the years I have learned much from him. I took one of his TV directing courses when I was training at the RCA, and then we were fellow directors on ‘Brookside’ in the 80s.
Screen Material for Workshopping. If you are looking for scenes to work on, the the following are worth getting. Each scene is prefaced with a context and both books have indexes of scenes indicating gender roles. The scenes are from well-known films but my advice would be NOT to look at the original film before working on the scene. Instead, use the text to make the material your own which will most likely be as legitimate as (if not more so than) the original. Watch the original version AFTERWARDS to see what choices the other actors made with the same material.