Film actor

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A film actor is an actor who appears exclusively or primarily in films and on television .

Working method

There are fundamental differences between acting in a film and the way stage actors work. While a stage actor always presents his role in the overall context, the work of a film actor breaks down into individual takes , which are only put together later - in the film editing . For production-related reasons, the individual scenes are often shot in a completely different order than they are shown later in the film. This requires a lot of attention not only to the continuity , but also from the actors, who need to know exactly what is going on in previous scenes - which may not have been shot yet.

In contrast to stage actors, who only ever see the audience from a relatively large spatial distance, film actors must be prepared for their play to be captured by the camera in close-up or close-up . For the representation of emotions, film actors have completely different options than stage actors. Seasoned film actors are also well versed in technical issues that stage actors normally do not deal with, such as: B. the lighting, the sound technology and the possibilities of the camera.

While stage actors are usually hired for one season (autumn to early summer), film actors today sign contracts that they normally only sign for one film at a time. Stage actors have to know their entire text by heart over a period of months, sometimes even years; Film actors usually only prepare for the text that is needed during the recording of the following day of shooting.

working area

Depending on the area of ​​work in which film actors are employed, a distinction is made between drama actors , comedy actors , voice-over speakers, extras and stand-in . Specialists such as singers , dancers and stuntmen are not counted among the actors in the narrower sense.


Film actors are often trained together with stage actors. However, there are also acting and film schools that train young actors specifically for the requirements of the film medium. Courses and workshops for camera acting , mostly outside, with individual offers also within the drama schools, are offered to deepen the skills required in this professional field.


In Germany, the Federal Association of Film and Television Actors (BFFS) has been looking after the professional and political interests of film and television actors since 2006 .

The Screen Actors Guild has been in existence in the United States since 1933 . The decision to join the SAG is difficult for most actors because although membership is associated with certain social benefits - at least in theory - the members, on the other hand, can only be used in union roles ; this is a percentage of all roles that can be filled in a film project. The majority of the available roles are non-union roles .

Job situation in the United States


From its early history, film production in the United States was more industrial than in most other countries. This had important consequences for the work of the film actors, which has shaped the profile of the profession in this country to this day. Even in the silent film era, there was a gap between the host of poorly paid small actors and a small number of very highly paid stars who gave the product glamor and guaranteed sales.

In the time of the studio system , ie from the 1920s to the 1950s, it was common in Hollywood to bind actors to a production company through long-term - usually seven-year - studio contracts . The main benefit of this practice lay with the large studios, which ensured that the stars they had built into figureheads of the company did not move to the competition after a short time. The long-term contracts offered the lesser-known actors a certain material security - in contrast to the stars, who were often given a certain freedom within the studio's offers, they had to take on the roles for which the company selected them. This selection was made from a purely entrepreneurial point of view; a human resource development in the modern sense - as targeted promotion of talent - did not take place. Not only talented supporting actors, from whom the studios withheld interesting roles, but also well-known personalities such as B. Marilyn Monroe , who was built up as a star by 20th Century Fox , but was employed in a role for business reasons in which she was never able to develop her acting potential to the full.

Since the early 1950s, the long-term studio contracts have gradually been replaced by individual contracts (one picture deals) that only tied the actors for individual production projects. Marlon Brando was one of the first Hollywood stars to benefit from this relaxation. At the same time, the importance of agents (talent agents) grew . The agencies, which initially only brokered film engagements, soon expanded their area of ​​responsibility considerably. For example, the Music Corporation of America (MCA) , which was founded as a music agency in 1924, developed into the largest film agency in Hollywood, offering studios not only actors, but also entire service packages of scripts, directors and stars. B. practically controlled Universal Pictures . Since the 1950s, contracts that provided for the stars to participate in the profits of a film production also became common.


Even today the job market for film actors in the USA is characterized by extreme competition. The chances of finding regular employment in this profession are very slim; Children and young people and the descendants of well-known Hollywood stars have the best prospects of making a living from acting. Many film actors also began their careers in theaters in Los Angeles or on Broadway . Many of the American film actors active today have studied acting and are constantly developing their method; others have no formal training whatsoever. Even today, in most film productions, the lion's share of the budget earmarked for the actors is paid out to the stars, while only small amounts are left for lesser-known actors. A considerable proportion of the actors living in Hollywood only receive film offers irregularly and are dependent on outside employment; others work free of charge so as not to lose their professional experience; for most, their income allows for nothing more than a middle-class lifestyle. Of the film actors living in Hollywood who are not unemployed, only 10% have an annual income of more than $ 75,046.

See also

Actor lists:


Profession film actor

Collective biographies: Germany

  • Friedemann Beyer, The Ufa Stars in the Third Reich. Women for Germany, (Heyne) 1989
  • Friedemann Beyer, The Faces of Ufa. Star Portraits of an Era, (Heyne) 1992
  • Ralf Schenk, in front of the camera. Fifty actors in Babelsberg, (Henschel) 1995
  • Georg Markus, the really big ones. Memories of the darlings of the audience, (Amalthea) 2000 (German-language film from the 1930s to 1960s)
  • Cinzia Romani, The Film Divas of the Third Reich. Stars between cult and terror, (Schüren Presseverlag) 2001
  • Frank-Burkhard Habel , Volker Wachter : Lexicon of the GDR stars. Actors from film and television. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-89602-304-7 .
  • Ulrich love, adored, persecuted, forgotten. Actor as a Nazi victim, (Beltz) 2003
  • Manfred Hobsch, Klaus Rathje, Ralf Krämer, Filmszene D. The 250 most important young German stars from cinema and TV, (Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf) 2004

Collective biographies: USA

  • Lars O. Beier, Gerhard Midding, stars of the New Hollywood. Bright spots, 1991
  • Karen Hardy Bystedt, My Way to Hollywood. Superstars tell how it all started (roller coaster) in 1997
  • Frances Schoenberger, barefoot in Hollywood. My life among the stars, Frankfurt (Krüger) 2005

Collective biographies: Diverse

  • Christian Deina, Die Künste eines Gypsieys, 2006 (C + D Verlag)
  • Gerd Egelhof, The best films and actors of all time. A subjective average through the world of film, (BoD) 2002
  • Gabriele Jatho, Hans H. Prinzler , dream women. Stars in the film of the fifties, (Bertz + Fischer) 2006 (Hollywood and Europe)
  • Susanne Marschall, Norbert Grob , Ladies, Vamps, Companions. Actresses in the cinema, (Gardez!) 2000

Web links

Wiktionary: Film actor  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. Toeplitz, p. 31
  2. Buzzell, p. 258
  3. Buzzell, p. 68; Haffar, pp. 25f, 54;