I was watching a portion of the 2017 AACTA Awards last night. AACTA is the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts – basically, like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Oscars – in the US. I was reminded once again how terrible actors are without a great director and lines written by a good scriptwriter.

Reading corny lines, and frequently enough delivering tone-deaf sexual harassment jokes, from their autocues and running short little skits that had no-one amongst their peers laughing, let alone the TV audience, one wonders how the actors get paid to do what they do. My eldest daughter, not yet 15, is a great little actress, and has a great brain amongst many other gifts. She would be embarrassed and appalled by the standard shown by the “famous” entertainers at the AACTA.

I’ve witnessed the same kind of poor speaking ability on numerous acting awards shows from around the world. The actor that does get it right and sounds natural and engaging is the exception, rather than the rule. I’ve not bothered with an empirical validation, but it seems the more the big Hollywood star they are, the more awkward they are.

They’re better off with a great director who makes them look like they know what they’re doing on the screen, a cinematographer who can frame the shot right, a professional writer who gives them great dialogue and an editor who can juxtapose scenes to make the same shot look like the actor is either intensely angry, deeply in love, paradoxically anguished, or inscrutably morose, depending on the context.

One of the secrets to great communication is actually to be authentic – genuine – in your speech and manner. Doing that, ironically, requires practise. If you are using an autocue or prepared lines, do the unthinkable: practise them beforehand. Make it sound natural. Work with the language so that it is your own and rolls off the tongue and your body language. When preparing your own material, ensure it reflects you and your language and ideas and be able to say it on stage, in a group and in private. Know it and own it.

Don’t be wooden. Don’t be corny. Don’t be inappropriate and insensitive to the moment. In short, don’t be like those people up there on the stage. It’ll kill you!

© 2017. Peter J. McLean. www.petermclean.co

Why Can’t Actors Speak at Awards Shows?
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