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How to Pull Off a Close-up

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Sometime in your acting career you may be asked to do a close-up either as part of a scene or as the whole scene.  How are close-ups different from fully body shots?  They require you to act with your eyes, which adds a level of complexity you may not have rehearsed.  They can be terrifying for some actors, but they don’t have to be.  So, how is it done?  The key is to express emotions in a noticeable way, and it’s all about nailing the nonverbals.

In order to portray disconnectedness or sadness, relax your upper eyelids slight and let them droop.  The same simple act can be used for sadness, fatigue, or boredom.  When your lids raise, it can portray surprise or contentment.  Doing this by itself might send mixed messages, however.  There is a wide range of emotion that eye raising can reflect. 

If you raise your upper eyelids without moving the bottom portion of your face, for example, it can come across as you’re somewhat caught off guard, fearful, or contemplative.  If you lower your lids, it sends the message to the audience that you are irritated or concentrating.

Employing an intense gaze can mean you’ve momentarily ‘checked out,’ or are lost in thought or in shock.  Rolling your eyes, of course, portrays annoyance.  There are so many different expressions you can make with the facial features people notice the most.

Practice lifting your lids and lowering them in front of a mirror if you’re being asked to do a close-up shot.  You can also search online for images of each emotion.  Remember, these are everyday emotions you express anyway, often without even realizing it.  Have you ever been told it’s impossible to hide how you’re feeling?  This is because, regardless of your words, your face sometimes says it all.  When you’re asked to express with just your face, this is a great asset.  Pretend you are talking with a friend and come up with conversation that would cause you to react in the way required.

It can be intimidating the first time you’re asked to try out this type of shot.  You can have everything else down pat, but since close-ups aren’t all that common, they tend to be placed on the back burner until they’re actually needed.  Yet, it’s likely you’ll be asked to express emotions without saying anything at some point.  So, practice while you can at home, and you’ll show up ready for anything!

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