How To Identify Bad Acting

I’ve directed two theatre productions so far, meaning I had to sit through auditions and make casting decisions. I also had the opportunity to see many Namibian stage productions and as a film fanatic, over the years I have seen numerous movies; both local and international.

I’d like to think my taste in cinema is pretty much above average. While I quite enjoy big budget movies starring big personalities, I also watch a wonderful variety of indie films with amateur actors. I judge films/plays on its storyline, technicality and mostly on acting. Acting can make or break a film or play. A good actor can save a horrible script, whereas a poor actor can destroy a good script. Acting is the biggest part of any production. Otherwise, people could just write good scripts and we’d go to the cinema/theatre to listen to the message, but that not really the gig, is it?

From a film perspective, I have seen movies/tv-shows from various industries; Namibia, South Africa, Hollywood, Nollywood and Bollywood, UK, China, etc.. You can tell it is a lot of different cultures and storytelling methods, but the acting is the only thing that really sets the movie for me.

So how do you know an actor’s performance is bad? Here are the signs of a poor actor:

Bad Actors Speak In A Monotone

You know that thing where an actor is on stage/screen and you are convinced they are reading from a cue card? This type of acting is horrible. Poor actors take the script, rehearse their lines and focus on sounding their lines word for word, adding no type of personal expressiveness to their speech. If the speed, pitch and delivery of an actor’s dialogue remains the same while they are talking, they are bad at their job.

Bad Actors Are Afraid To Break Down Walls

In order for an actor to be believable, they have to convince their audience by showing, not by saying. An actor can have a very intense script to work with, but if they can’t show how they really feel, they are bad at their job. If an actor is afraid to be vulnerable on stage or on screen, they are bad. A good actor will not be afraid to be embarrassed. For instance, actors who refuse to be in nude or kissing scenes will not really heighten their acting capabilities- not that these equate to good acting, but being comfortable and really selling the character will unlock great acting potential. Actors who hold back are bad at their jobs.

Bad Actors Don’t Know How To Work With Their Cast mates

What this means is they just don’t listen to their acting partner. This can especially be detrimental to stage productions. A poor actor is only focused on remembering and delivering their lines, so much that they don’t care what their dialogue partner said, they will blindly deliver their next line without properly reacting to what the other actor said. A poor actor is only focused on looking good on camera or stage, they don’t care about their fellow cast mates.