The Actors Centre

Physical Truthfulness on Camera

18 September 2015

Connect to your physical self

The camera. That all seeing, unforgiving beast that stares at us impassively while we squirm and writhe internally, hoping against hope that we haven’t just won a gurning competition. Take after take, trying to do less, trying to find the infinitesimal “do nothing” mantra inside of ourselves so that we give the camera exactly what it wants.

 It’s funny that we accept that on stage we need a physical awareness and that we should be able to access this physicality to either enhance our performance or help us create character. Yet on camera it is often neglected because we associate the word physical with big.

Not so. Physical processes can give us an awareness of our bodies so that we can mark the subtlest of changes. They can also give us profound insights into our emotional lives, which can be useful when doing an emotionally draining scene.

Working on camera, at the beginning, can be daunting and if you are working with a director more interested in the technical side of things than performance you really must have a notion of how you use yourself physically. This isn’t to say that any acting on camera can be reduced to just a series of physical actions, but we cannot separate our bodies and ourselves. 

The more aware and connected we are to our physical selves, and aware of the relationship of the emotional and the physical, the more truthful we can be as actors.


Peter Machen is one of ASC's collaborators during our Empowering the Actor Season at the Actors Centre. Peter trained at the Arden School of Theatre where he discovered his love of all things physical. He was Artistic Director, and co-founder, of Negativequity, a touring theatre company that created highly visual theatre with a strong movement style. In 2005 he landed in London and continued to act, write, teach and be a movement coordinator. To date, he has worked in theatre, TV and Film and in recent years has helped set up Seahorse Film, where he works as a writer, script developer and movement consultant. 

Peter Machen's workshop Empowering the Actor: Actions Speak Louder Than Words is on Thursday 24th Sept at 2:30 – 5:30pm at the Actors Centre. More info here