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Tics and traits
Actress Victoria Adams-Zischke teaches “Acting for the Camera” as part of IPFW’s Summer Arts program
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Actress Victoria Adams-Zischke, who teaches “Acting for the Camera” at IPFW this July as part of the school’s Summer Arts program, says that the first and usually biggest obstacle that any actor making the leap from stage to film has to overcome is what we’ll call the “tic” problem.
What’s the “tic” problem?
As explained by Adams-Zischke, the “tic” problem is much like the sensation most people have when they hear a recording of their voice — a moment of confusion, followed by slowly dawning horror and mortification: “I sound like that?!”
For many actors, something similar happens when they see themselves performing on film for the first time. “All the little personal quirks that you have, you can’t escape them on film,” says Adams-Zischke, who joined IPFW’s Theater and Performing Arts Department last year. “So if you blink your eyes a lot, or look at the floor, or move your head… those things get lost on stage, but it becomes a hundred times more amplified on camera.”
These aren’t the charming quirks and personality traits that some actors use to successfully create an on-screen persona or image, like Hugh Grant’s stutter, or Renee Zellweger squishing up her face. These are usually just kind of strange and distracting when seen on camera, “All of us have these tics, but we don’t really know it,” Adams-Zischke says. “You hear ‘I do that?’ They’re dumbfounded.”
Adams-Zischke explains that most actors really just want to get rid of these tics and mannerisms. Fast. Doing that isn’t the only challenge that an actor needs to tackle when making the leap from stage to film, but like we said, it’s often the first obstacle they encounter, and Adams-Zischke says it tends to be a pretty big one, especially since many actors are mortified at first to see themselves blinking or scrunching their eyes or rolling their head…
But a budding actor should take heart from the fact that even seasoned stage actors make some of these mistakes when they first appear on camera. Adams-Zischke herself was hardly a novice when she got a small walk-on part in All My Children. Originally from Florida, Adams-Zischke had been involved in theater and acting since she was three. After college, Adams-Zischke worked in theater and film in New York for years. “I pretty much did everything from musical theater to Shakespeare,” she says.
Yet, with all that experience, she closed her eyes during the scene on All My Children. “I was mortified when I saw it,” she laughs, adding that the scene made it to TV, closed eyes and all.
But she says she was grateful for the experience, since it helped prepare her for many other on-camera roles she’s taken, especially her stint as a recurring character in Another World.
As an actress, Adams-Zischke’s first interest was theater, which is basically why she worked in New York rather than LA. But like a lot of New York stage actors, she also found work in TV, film and commercials. “A lot of actors tend to do that kind of work to supplement their income, but it’s usually more lucrative than stage work,” she says.
In fact, Adams-Zischke claims she can usually tell if a commercial was filmed in New York or LA. The difference is… well, it’s probably what you might expect. “In TV commercials from LA, the people are more model-like,” she says. “They’re sort of idealized, what used to be called the ‘P&G’ look — Proctor & Gamble.” The actors in the New York-filmed commercials are just as attractive, she explains, but they tend to be a little ‘funkier,’ with less of an air brushed look.
For the soap opera Another World, Adams-Zischke actually auditioned for a different role than the one she ended up playing. She didn’t get the part because she looked too much like one of the other lead actresses in the show. “But they liked me and wrote a part for me, where I played opposite to the woman I resembled,” she laughs. “I was a foil for a guy character who was obsessed with this other character, so she pushed him off on me.”
The job paid very well, but Adams-Zischke says it was a lot of hard work. “Day-time TV… those actors work harder than anyone in the field,” she says. “They have great short-term memories. The amount of dialogue they have to remember overnight is really staggering, and the lines are so cheesy sometimes, but they have to make it work… They have to think fast and produce stuff very quickly. With film, you can do lots of different takes; day-time TV, it’s one or two takes and you’re done.”
Adams-Zischke stresses that actors stepping in front of a camera for the first time are not going to have to “unlearn” everything they’ve been taught about acting. “Where you’re coming from is the same, but there’s a huge difference in how you approach it,” she explains. “You’re playing to a much smaller audience when you’re in front of a camera and there’s a boom mic over your head.”
And yes, there’s a tendency for actors to become self-conscious and defensive when they see themselves act on camera for the first time, but Adams-Zischke says anyone interested in acting should not let that initial reaction stop them from learning. “Sometimes, you’ll see people who are so mortified that they can’t get over it,” she says. “But you have to be objective, you have to stop judging yourself and be willing to learn from your mistakes and move on. That’s true of acting, and it’s true of any field you’re in.”
For more information on Acting For the Camera and other classes offered in IPFW’s Summer Arts Program — or to register — contact the IPFW Division of Continuing Studies at 260-481-6057 or on-line at learn.ipfw.edu.