Economical Acting

Richard Sarell


I received an email tonight asking what it means when actors use descriptions such as “I go on trying to eliminate and to economise” and “in film acting, depending on the type of part you’re playing, it is about economy”? 

“What do they mean by economy?” this young actor asked.


The reply I came up with was this …


An ‘economical’ approach is one that is cost effective.

If I Google that word I get … “Giving good value or service in relation to the amount of money, time, or effort spent.”

So, that phrase you refer to  means trying to eliminate the excessive choices and to simplify the approach.  It means getting rid of things that have significant effort attached for an insignificant result.  Under these circumstances, with an actor whose process is not economical, it is much more likely that the effort going into the performance is more evident than the result it is providing.  That’s when we see the ‘acting’ happening.   When effort is going into areas that have a low-percentage return then the performance is not economical.  That’s why, in our classes, we are focusing on economical processes that have a high-percentage return for minimum effort.

It also reflects the way we function in life.  In life we MOSTLY don’t show what we are thinking or feeling … we mostly hide that.  In life the analogy that is often used is that we function like the duck on the pond.  On the surface everything is moving serenely but underneath the legs are going like mad.  The ducks legs are the same as our mind.  Our mind is busily doing all the work but our exterior is endeavouring to travel forward as serenely as possible.

This is the area in which you are making significant improvement but there is still a tendency to add extra bits to describe to the audience what is going on.  This is not economical, its not efficient and it has a low-percentage return for the effort that you are putting in.  Eliminate the embellishments, simplify the choices, trust your listening and make economical choices and you will see a huge transformation.

Rehearsal Room mantra goes …

“Simple processes = effective and complex outcomes.
Complex processes = a high failure rate and confused outcomes.”

For ‘simple’ by all means substitute ‘economical’ … we are all talking about the same thing.

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