Making Eye Contact with Your Scene Partner

Actors love making eye contact. Sometimes a little too much. One might even say that they stare. They think it makes them look authentic and intense. But au contrare, it only makes them look unnatural, and ill at ease.

This tends to happen often in monologues. For example...

A Tragic Story

In college, this actor was assistant directing a play. The day of the auditions, a young actress walks in and starts her monologue. And she just kept staring. (She might as well have been burning a hole in the wall...) After she was finished, the director leaned over and whispered, "Is she blind?" And he wasn't joking.

Making Eye Contact

Needless to say, she wasn't hired.

Don't let this tragedy happen to you. Follow the 90/10 rule.

Follow the 90/10 Rule

Next time you're out in public, observe two people having a conversation. One is talking, while the other is listening. But who's looking at who?

Usually, the person listening is making eye contact. The person talking is doing the following:

90% of the time they're not keeping eye contact. Instead, they're seeing images of the things they're talking about. Memories, stories, abstract ideas, etc.

10% of the time they are keeping eye contact. They check in with the other person to make sure they're listening, following, understanding.

Next time you're playing a scene, give it a try.

Exceptions to the Rule

Every rule can be broken. Especially when you're making art. Here are some examples:

Make more eye contact: Maybe your scene partner is ignoring you. Or maybe they're holding a gun. Or you're madly in love.

Make less eye contact: Maybe your character just got caught in a lie. Or maybe they're shy. You might be crying and too embarassed to show it.

The point is this: Don't take this rule too literally. It's only meant to be a guideline for more truthful acting.

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