ACTING TECHNIQUE | What is a Button? 

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  • ACTING TECHNIQUE

    What is a Button?

    Putting the finishing touch on a scene 

    (By Carmichael Phillips)


    (Photo: Anastasiya Gepp | Pexels)

    You may have heard the expression, “Put a button on it!”, in one of your acting classes. It’s a phrase that gets thrown around from time to time. But what does it actually mean?

  • A “button”, in acting terms, serves the same purpose as a button on an article of clothing. It’s the final step, like buttoning up your pants or doing the last button on your blouse. It seals the deal. It closes it.


    The button, also called a “tag”, is a final beat that can be used to close out a scene.


    The button, also called a “tag”, is a final beat that can be used to close out a scene. It’s the last interaction between the characters that the audience will see. For that reason, the button can prove to be extremely important.

    Not only is it a final beat, but it can also be a prelude of what would happen if the story were to continue. A Button gives the audience a brief taste of how the characters will behave towards each other going forward.

    An Example 

    Let’s say, a young couple is having a heated argument. A lot of bad words are exchanged. There’s some name-calling. Tears are shed.


    Buttons can be an invaluable tool for actors in auditions. It’s the ultimate way to stand out without trying too hard. 


    Then, finally, there’s a resolution. The two kiss and make up and the scene is coming to an end. The lady finishes the scene with a friendly joke about the man’s snoring habits. The man responds with an approving smirk. The scene ends.

    That smirk can be considered a “button”. In that one gesture, he not only puts a bow on the scene, but he also gives the audience a prelude of their future interactions. The smirk indicates that this couple will be just fine, going forward.

  • Commercials 

    One great place to see examples of “buttons” is in commercials. You might see a commercial where, at the end, the camera pans to an actor who makes a funny face in reaction to what was said in the commercial. That final, funny reaction could be considered a “button”.

    Using buttons in auditions 


    (Photo: Jon Tyson/Unsplash)

    Buttons can be an invaluable tool for actors in auditions. It’s the ultimate way to stand out without trying too hard.

    When an actor tries to stand out in an audition, they risk doing so in a way that seems forced at best; outrageous at worst. Yet, standing out is the only surefire way to get noticed.

    How about using a simple “button” at the end of your audition? An eye-catching facial expression, which no other actor can duplicate, could catch the eye of the casting director. Yet, it doesn’t require you to force anything or to do something that takes away from the scene.

    Not all scenes need a button 

    It’s important to note that not every scene needs you to use a button. Most are fine without one.

    But an appropriate button can be a great device to add to the end of a scene, even if it’s not written in the script. The audience, simultaneously, gets both a conclusion to the scene and a preview of what is to come next, all with one small word, phrase or gesture.


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