Chapter 05: Your Face, An Acting Factory (Actory)

Your face is a valuable tool in your acting arsenal. Use it! It contains your eyes, ears, and mouth, this you know, but it also houses your eyebrows, forehead, eyelids, and lips. These latter bits are the secret weapons of expression. The eyes may very well be the windows to the soul, but the eyelids are the window-shades to the soul, the lips are the gatekeepers to the tongue, the forehead is the grand indicator of surprise, and the eyebrows are the awnings above the windows to the soul.

We will employ a number of exercises to keep your face under control and free from twitching at inopportune moments, such as when shaking hands with an executive producer.

First, pamper your face. Wash it lightly. Use an expensive cloth instead of a coarse rag. Treat your face to oils that won’t clog your pores. Use creams that are also good for the environment. Don’t smile or frown unless absolutely necessary. And refrain from playing rugby unless wearing a suit of armor. I have two.

Second, using a good mirror that you trust not to distort reality, practice expressions. On notecards, write down reactions such as surprise, fear, happiness, sadness, scandalous, and the like. Shuffle the cards and run through your catalog of expressions. Do not do this at a public dinner.

Third, examine an anatomy of the facial muscles. It will be important to refer to the muscles you employ in your face toolbox. Never forget that the face is an organ deserving of your respect. How can you be a proper game hen if you don’t respect your face?

Keep in mind that a majority of these exercises are intended for stage acting, not camera acting. When acting for the camera, use none of your face arsenal, lest you over-express and slip from “face arsenal” to “face arse”. What we call “cool face”, or the face in the relaxed state, is exactly what people want to see on telly, not some git parading their facial tics in front of the country’s evening dinner.

It is no coincidence that the phrase “face acting” shortens to “facting”. Facts are indisputable truths, and our faces do not lie. Think about it. Facting.