For many years one of the most frequent complaints from drama school graduates was while they felt prepared for big classical roles and theatre productions, they had been given very little training for screen.
When I set up an MA in Acting for Film, TV and Radio at East 15 back in 2003 there was little or in some cases no screen acting classes for students at drama schools. The attitude was very much if an actor can act on stage they should be able to cope with a camera so the majority of courses would include a small number of screen classes added on towards the end of the training. Over the past decade or so most drama schools have thankfully gone a long way to finally address this.
Whilst a decent actor, if they have been trained well, should be able to handle different genres and styles of material regardless of whether it’s stage or screen, there are a number of technical nuances that the actor must be able to handle in order to feel comfortable in front of a camera.
The technical differences are predominantly to do with the fact that on stage an actor needs to send a performance out to the audience, whereas in TV or film they need to allow the camera in. In the same way as a magnet pulls iron filings towards itself, a camera will attract whatever it is the actor gives – provided the actor is open and allows it to.
There is of course some overlap between stage acting and screen acting although some drama schools treat stage and screen as such separate topics that the relevance of other classes such as, voice and movement to screen work is not always made clear. At RADA we work hard at making sure the screen work is fully integrated into the acting curriculum across all three years, with teachers in other disciplines referencing screen work in their classes. This is so very important so it becomes an inherent part of the actor’s process.
If you think about it in terms of learning to drive while to some it comes naturally, others need to work harder at it. But once you've mastered it, driving different cars does not require any additional skills or tools as the principals are the same. However if you were to drive a racing car in a race successfully, you would need to refine those driving skills learned to feel confident in your ability to drive the the unfamiliar racing car in a high speed race! The same is true of screen acting the principals are similiar but the experience and feel is very different.
Taken from an interview with Edward Hicks for The Stage with Thomas Hescott - Sep 16, 2016