Charisma. Presence. How do you define it?
Some people are photogenic: The camera makes them look even better than in real life.
Other people look better in the flesh and don’t photograph well.
Cameras see things differently than the human eye. Cameras have a different perspective.
All well and good but are some people born with charisma, or can it be achieved on-camera via artificial means, like good technique, for example?
Mel Gibson is one actor who possesses an indefinable charisma on-screen.
On Gibson’s first film Summer City (1977) the crew had heard the buzz about this new up and coming actor, but were watching him on set with their eyes, not knowing how the camera would perceive him. When the rushes from the first days shooting were screened a few days later, the cast and crew couldn’t believe how all of sudden Gibson seemed to leap from the screen as if there was a single spotlight on him and him only.
Was Gibson born with a certain charisma, a certain presence that only the camera could perceive? Maybe, maybe not – for he has great technique and a solid in-the-moment- performance style.
Increasing your on-screen presence can be achieved by the application of good screen acting technique, combined with good listening skills and truthful reactions to the stimuli you are receiving from the other actors.
Knowing the framing of the shot – full shot, three quarter shot, mid shot, close up, extreme close up – allows you to gesture appropriately for the framing size you are being recorded in.
Hitting marks so you are well lit and in focus; while “nailing your feet to the floor” when standing on your marks allows you to deliver your lines more powerfully – without any unnecessary and distracting movement caused by any shuffling around on your marks.
Moving from side to side or forward and backward while standing on your marks is not only distracting but severely undercuts your performance and takes the viewers eyes away from your most important on-screen feature – your eyes.
We may or may not be born with a certain presence or charisma, but we can increase our screen presence through the application of good technique backed by solid performance.