The Act of Lying and the Lie of Acting
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The Act of Lying and the Lie of Acting

A philosophical look into the profession of acting in the film and television industry. This article will give you a somewhat unique perspective on some of the aspects of acting and film-making by giving you just a subtle glimpse behind the curtain and see how, although the art and skill of film-making and acting is deceptive in nature, it is done so for the purpose of entertainment, not to cause damage to those exposed.

In an interview after filming "The Mask of Zorro", Antonio Banderas compared the job of an actor to being a professional liar. In many ways, this is true. When it is broken down to the foundation, the job of an actor is to make the viewer believe that they are something that they are not. On some degree, actors are con artists. It is the objective of an actor to make the audience members believe anything they want them to believe. With the inclusion of the costumes, props, sets and locations, it just draws people deeper into the con.  

 A decent actor can draw the audience into a character to the point where the line between actor and character disappears. People no longer see the actor playing a role. They only see the character. Throughout the years, there have been characters that have become so loved or so hated that the actors find themselves being confronted by fans who talk to their character instead of them. This is most often seen with actors from soap operas. 

The film community term for this is known as "the suspension of disbelief". This term is defined as the point that an audience reaches where they become tricked into believing that what they are seeing and hearing is actually happening. It is the key to a good film. Without it, it's just a bunch of people quoting lines from someone else's story.

Actors are not alone in this act of lying. Every aspect of film-making is, in some way, an effort to tell a lie. Lights are added to make a scene look like it is only lit by natural light. Sets of wood, plaster and Styrofoam are built to give people the impression that something is there when it doesn't really exist. Makeup artists apply layers of makeup onto actors so they can look like they aren't wearing any makeup at all. Sound artists take ambient noise from a location and use it to replace the actual background noise that was recorded during filming, and they go even further by adding sound effects of things that aren't really there. Special effects artists add both practical and digital effects to a scene to make it look more impressive than it really was when it was filmed.

However, this grand series of lies is not told with any malice. It is simply the collection of fantasies that have been brought together with the intent of drawing the audience into a world where good always triumphs over evil, where the impossible is possible and where everything and anything can be accomplished in a matter of an hour and a half.

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Comments (2)

I really don't think of an actor as a liar.  An actor is acting and not lying.  He is simply giving life to the character asked by the scriptwriter.  It takes great talent to be able to breathe life into characters who are not in any way similar to one's real self.  That's not deception.  I call it art and not everyone can do that.  I am a local actress in our small community and I know that acting is not for everyone.

I'm an actor as well. I have been acting in independent films for about 9 years now. I am also a weapons master/technical advisor for films. Acting is a lie, in a way. It is just not a malicious one. The actors are portraying a character that doesn't exist. They are deceiving the audience into believing that they are something that they are not. I have played a lot of villains and I am actually a pretty good person in real life. That doesn't stop the audience from thinking I am a badguy.

From the weapons master side, it is my job to make an actor look like a weapons expert, when in most cases, the actors I have dealt with have never even handled a gun in real life.