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Why is it so difficult for actors to play dead?


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#1 of 13 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted June 05 2010 - 09:20 AM

Been noticing something over the years.


Eye movement.


It's pretty difficult to depict someone as dead on

a TV show or movie without some sort of eye movement.


...and it totally takes you out of the moment.


First noticed it on one of my all-time favorite TV

miniseries, Jesus of Nazareth.  When they take

Jesus off the cross and he is lying there as rain

drops begin to fall on his face, you can see his

eyes moving under his lids.   Ruins the emotional

impact of the scene.


This month I began watching Battlestar Galactica.

There are a couple dead scenes where the eyes

of the actor can be seen moving under the lid, or

the eyelashes move.


So, I wondered just how difficult is it to play dead?

I closed my eyes but could not keep them still.

Just wondering if anyone has noticed the same

thing I have watching various movies and TV shows.


Ronald J Epstein
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#2 of 13 OFFLINE   Henry Gale

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Posted June 06 2010 - 02:31 AM



Originally Posted by Ronald Epstein 



I closed my eyes but could not keep them still.



This thread is useless without some video of that.  /img/vbsmilies/htf/biggrin.gif


"I was born to ramble, born to rove
Some men are searchin for the Holy Grail
But there ain't nothin sweeter 
Than riden' the rails."
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#3 of 13 OFFLINE   Will_B

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Posted June 06 2010 - 02:02 PM

I think the problem is that eyes normally shake a bit from side to side. That's how to keep the pixels refreshed, so to speak. (In fact, if you stare at a spot on the wall without letting your eyes shake at all, your whole field of vision will turn grey as the brain ceases to get new impulses -- I used to be able to do this as a kid, but trying it just now, I cannot). So it takes a lot of effort to hold them in one fixed spot... especially when you can't see the spot!


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#4 of 13 OFFLINE   JonZ

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Posted June 06 2010 - 02:42 PM

For Deliverance, Bill McKinney said he had focused on one spot for that long scene in the film wheres hes dead and the camera stays right on him.


Its still a long time not to blink or move.



#5 of 13 OFFLINE   Malcolm R

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Posted June 06 2010 - 05:04 PM

I'm usually more distracted by the chest rising and falling.


The purpose of an education is to replace an empty mind with an open mind.

#6 of 13 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted June 06 2010 - 06:18 PM

I remember hearing on a commentary that they'll do a freeze frame if they can get away with it.


One thing leads to another at cameronyee.com

#7 of 13 OFFLINE   Yee-Ming

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Posted June 07 2010 - 04:09 PM

I thought a freeze frame doesn't quite work either, because there's always some slight differential in either film grain, or in the way pixel sensors read the shot, even if absolutely nothing moves in the shot.  Hence the mention in some technothriller (could have been a Clancy book) that in feeding a fake image to a security CCTV, they didn't feed a single image, but three frames on cycle, so there would be just that little bit of jitter.


Anyway, the most remarkable 'play dead' I've seen is in I, Claudius, when Brian Blessed's Augustus dies while his wife is ranting about something.  He expires mid-rant (she doesn't notice), while the camera stays on him the entire time, slowing moving in.  The entire scene lasts several minutes, with no cuts or edits, and he's absolutely still, with eyes open the whole time.


#8 of 13 OFFLINE   Scott McGillivray

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Posted June 08 2010 - 04:06 AM

As an actor that has had to play dead, let me tell you, it is NOT easy.  I was crucified in my scene (in a not-so-good movie called "Lost Angel") and had the fake blood just barely trickling down my face.  THAT got pretty annoying!  Especially since I could not move my arms and my face got itchy.  At one point Alison Eastwood came over and graciously scratched my forehead for me...ah...that was sweet (she was in Playboy the month before...nice!)   So, there I am strapped up on a makeshift cross, itchy, with dozens of cast and crew standing around, bright lights beaming on me and then "action"....dont move!   Then do that 15 times.  Overall, I thought I did a pretty good job, but when I saw the finished product, I caught myself moving ever so slightly.  Sucks.  Especially when the director had even mentioned on set how amazingly still I got.  Editing has a lot to do with it as well.  My scene has many takes (as most scenes do) so they certainly could have edited around the slight movement I had.


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#9 of 13 OFFLINE   Jeff Gatie

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Posted June 08 2010 - 06:49 AM

Alison Eastwood was in Playboy?!!  Now this thread definitely needs pics!



#10 of 13 OFFLINE   Joseph DeMartino

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Posted June 08 2010 - 08:10 AM




Originally Posted by Jeff Gatie 

Alison Eastwood was in Playboy?!!  Now this thread definitely needs pics!


Oh, sure.  Bring this up while I'm at work and can't Google the images.  /img/vbsmilies/htf/laugh.gif


As the saying goes, Scott, dying is easy.  Comedy is hard.  As a strictly amatuer actor I've died (in the fictional/biological sense*) a number of times, including contributing my bit to the giant on-stage heaps o' bodies that Shakespeare was so fond of.  Stage deaths are actually easier to do, provide dust doesn't get into you eyes or nose from the filthy floors.  Once you're on the ground, the audience doesn't have a very good angle on you, and they're generally distracted by the actors who are still up and about.  I found dying in (student) films a lot tougher because the camera is effectively a lot closer to you than any audience member, and if you're the only thing in the shot, or the dead body another character is spitting on or weeping over, you get a lot more attention than you do as another dead nobleman that Fortinbras has to step over on his way to the throne at the end of Hamlet.  It is virtually impossible to still all the slight movements just caused by blood flow, not to mention the cramps, pressure bruises cold and damp that can be the lot of the undead dead.  I really feel for those poor actors who play the "stiff of the week" in all those crime shows.

Regards,


Joe


* And yes, I've also died on stage as an actor more than enough times.  I'll take a hanging harness or a rubber spear through the ribs any day.  /img/vbsmilies/htf/laugh.gif



#11 of 13 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted June 08 2010 - 02:36 PM

Ron, 4 words for ya dude:


Willing

Suspension

Of

Disbelief


You needs it.

http://www.motivated...os.com/?id=1725


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#12 of 13 OFFLINE   Stan

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Posted June 10 2010 - 07:58 AM

In a waiting room, wherever, I used to stare at the ceiling until my sight went black. Never knew what was happening until Will_B wrote his post, Sight wouldn't get completely black, but very very dark gray, then just the tiniest movement vision was back.


I was pretty amazed by Hiro's time travels in Heroes, according to the commentary, no special effects, everyone just stood really still..


Expanding your chest and holding your breath is something most people should be able to do for at least a minute or more. I would think eyes would be the worst problem. You have be pretty calm to completely relax your eyes


Stan

#13 of 13 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted June 11 2010 - 02:54 AM



Originally Posted by Yee-Ming 

I thought a freeze frame doesn't quite work either, because there's always some slight differential in either film grain, or in the way pixel sensors read the shot, even if absolutely nothing moves in the shot.  Hence the mention in some technothriller (could have been a Clancy book) that in feeding a fake image to a security CCTV, they didn't feed a single image, but three frames on cycle, so there would be just that little bit of jitter


Yeah, I can usually spot the freeze frame too.  It looks phony.

Anyway, the most remarkable 'play dead' I've seen is in I, Claudius, when Brian Blessed's Augustus dies

I remember this and Blessed is very good in that scene (plus the series), very convincing.


Another excellent death scene I remember was Marlon Brando in Mutiny on the Bounty.  He's laying there dieing and one moment his eyes can see and the next they are glazed over and dead.


How about Janet Leigh in Psycho?  With the camera in a tight, tight closeup on her eye and it then pulls back.  How did they do that, was that a freeze frame?


Johnny
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