How Do Actors Cry on Cue?
7 tips for producing real tears
(By Kesha Tyler)
(Photo: Alex Green | Pexels)
How does an actor cry on command? What can an actor do to cry while performing an emotional scene?
There are lots of artificial ways to produce tears. You could try smelling an onion. You could add Visine droplets to your eyes. If you’re really bold, you could slam your finger in a car door before filming the scene, though I certainly wouldn’t recommend something like that.
Tactics like these could prove to be effective. But they are also artificial. And no actor should want to be artificial.
There are more genuine ways to cry on command. Here are some tips to help you bring the waterworks.
#1: Don’t try to cry
Unless the script specifically says that you must produce actual tears (which rarely happens) you shouldn’t try to cry. Though it may look good on camera, tears should not be the goal. Genuine emotion should be the goal.
If the tears come, great! If they don’t, they don’t. A genuine moment will be powerful, with or without the tears.
#2: Become your character
Become your character. Completely! Make everything your character experiences, real. Sync your thoughts and feelings to that of your character. The more the character’s experiences feel real to you, the easier it will be to cry when the emotional moment arrives.
#3: Raise the stakes
(Photo: Liza Summer | Pexels)
It may be necessary to raise the stakes. It might be necessary to go beyond the script, to give your character more of a reason to cry.
For instance, the script may say that you cried after you got fired from the job that you loved. But you could take it a step further. In other words, you could raise the stakes. You could add, in your backstory, that not only do you love the job, but that you need the job to help take care of your dying parent. You’ve raised the stakes, beyond what’s in the script, and given yourself lots of motivation to cry.
#4: Affective Memory
You could use Affective Memory to bring out your emotions. Affective Memory is a technique that actors have been using for decades and it can be highly effective.
Connect your own personal experiences to that of your character’s experiences. Your feelings of pain become your character’s feelings, and your tears become your character’s tears.
#5: Listen to crying people
Here’s a technique I once used: Listen to tears. That’s right. Use YouTube or an app to listen to the sounds of people crying.
If you’ve ever been to a funeral, you’ll understand what I mean. Crying, like yawning, is contagious. The sound of people crying causes other people to cry.
Listening to other people cry can put you in a somber mood. Once you put yourself in the mood to cry, crying becomes much easier.
#6: Drink lots of water
(Photo: Andrea Piacquadio | Pexels)
Hey, don’t forget to drink lots of water. It’s hard to sweat when your body isn’t well hydrated. Likewise, it’s harder to cry if you don’t have sufficient liquids in your system. So, drink lots of water before your crying scene.
#7: Sing a sad song
Finally, mood music can help. Everyone has a song that touches them in a visceral way. Surely you know of a sad song that reminds you of a lost love, a deceased family member or of a tragic event. Sing that song to get yourself in the crying mood.
At the end of the day, though, the goal should never be to cry for the sake of crying. Cry because you feel compelled to cry, based on what you’re feeling in the moment.
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