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How to Effectively Cry on Camera

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One of the toughest things you’ll likely be asked to do at some point in your acting career is to cry on camera.  This is no easy task.  It involves summoning something within you that’ll make the tears surface.  So, how is it done?

Sometimes it just takes a little psychological adjusting.  Try telling yourself, “I want to cry now” rather than “I have to cry.”  This will help you connect with the character on a deeper level and induce the emotions that this person would actually be feeling in that particular moment.  For instance, if you are portraying the wife of a soldier getting deployed, think of how this would feel – how it would really feel if you weren’t living it.  It is important to note your primary job as an actor is to bring to life the person you are set to play rather than simply performing a role.  This is what is going to make you, and the audience, truly empathize with what is happening in the scene.

Don’t overthink it, either.  Most actors don’t make it through the first take whether or not crying is involved.  Shedding tears adds yet another level of complexity that is difficult to master.  Rather than hiding your eyes in your hands and bowing your head down, practice evoking real tears by immersing yourself in the scene and inducing cry-worthy internal visuals.  This may sound crazy, but it can really work.  You want to think of crying as feeling rather than doing.  Any other time you cry it is because you’re deeply upset or overjoyed, right?  Practice connecting with these emotions.

Don’t be too caught up in creating a character that you forget to actually create the character, either.  What does this mean?  Don’t be too hard on yourself.  If you focus too intently on getting all of this person’s mannerisms down, you can lose the whole purpose behind what you are actually trying to do.

Part of mastering the world of acting is mastering the art of self-reflection and understanding your own capabilities.  Spend time alone when you can to meditate on where you are in your journey and where you’re hoping to go.  What is the next level you’re pushing to get to?  Where do you plan to go next?  Sometimes just thinking about how hard you’ve worked and how far you’ve come will induce tears of self-recognition for your efforts.  If so, translate these feelings into the scene the next time they’re needed.

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