Here is an acting terms dictionary. This list covers many of the acting terms and phrases that you are going to hear when you are on and off the set throughout your acting career.
Some of them have links to other areas of the website to give a better explanation or guide you to acting schools that might teach a certain technique.
Alexander Technique – Teaches you to feel more comfortable in your own body.
Audition – This is the process of trying to get a job in a stage play, film, television show, or commercial. You typically read from the strict for the decision makers.
Avail – When you are “put on avail” it means that you are available to the do the job but the production has yet to commit to you.
Background – This is another term for “extra”. These are actors that are in the background of a scene or behind the principles. They make the scene look as if it is taking place in the real world.
Back to one – This is a direction given to the actors when they are to go back to the original starting spot of a scene and try it again.
Beat – “Take a beat” means take a pause when reading from a script.
Blocking – These are actually, physical movements that the actors will be doing during the scene. many times it is planned out ahead of time. This would be blocking a scene.
Booking – You got the job and you are confirmed a time and place to perform.
Callback – After the initial audition, if the director or casting director want you to audition again, they “call you back.”
Call Sheet – A schedule of the scenes to be shot that specific day of shooting. It will list all the actors and crew members that will be working that day.
Call Time – The time an actor is to report to the set each day.
Casting Notice – The announcement that a casting director is looking for certain actors for certain role. Also referred to as a breakdown.
Cattle Call – A type of audition in which the general acting population is encouraged to audition if they are right for the role. They are heard without and appointment so an agent is not needed. You just show up.
Character Acting – Typically an actor that is not “leading man” material will get a lot of character rolls.
Character Biography – An actor creates a back story and life for the character that they are going to portray.
Michael Chekhov – One of the most famous acting coaches of all time.
Cold Reading – The performing of a scene, usually at an audition, without rehearsal time.
Communication – Without it you can’t be a good actor.
Composite – A series of head shots on an 8’’ x 10’’ sheet demonstrating a variety of looks of an actor. Typically used in the modeling world, this is a series of photos showing the actor in different “looks.”.
Copy – Refers to the script or pages of the script.
Craft Service – Food that is provided for the cast and crew on a production set..
Cue – A verbal or visual sign to begin performing.
Dailies – Footage that was shot during the days shooting. Usually watched by the director, producer and actors.
Definition of Acting – The art or practice of representing a character on a stage or before cameras.
Demo Tape (Reel) – A series of scenes edited together by an actor to show his/her work..
Dialect – Different regions of the world have different was of speaking. An actor might be asked to perform one..
Drama – Term used to describe a performance with a serious undertone or plot.
18-To-Play-Younger – Many productions will want an 18 year old actor to play the role of someone 17 or younger because of child labor laws.
Field Rep. – Usually refers to a SAG representative being present on the set.
FX – Special Effects.
Hiatus – The time a television series is not in production. Typically accrues in the summer.
Holding – The area in which the extras working on the production will check in a hang out until they are ready to shoot.
Hot Mic or Live Mic – These acting terms mean that a microphone is on.
Improvisation – Performing without a script abiding by a set of Improv rules.
Looping – Matching the sound or voice to footage already shot.
Mark – Certain positions on the set or stage in which the actor is to end up during the scene.
Monologue – Basically performing a scene by yourself where the actor is the only one in the scene.
Off-Camera – Dialogue or action that is happen outside the framing of the camera.
Production Company – The company that is in charge of the making of the film or television program.
Residual – A fee paid to an actor when a commercial, film or TV show has been rebroadcast.
Scale – The minimum daily pay determined by the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) for actors working under a union contract.
Screen Test – An actor is filmed in full make up and wardrobe so the decision makers can decide.
Stage Management – Person in charge off taking care of the sound stage for a film or theater stage for a play.
Stage Right– Refers to the actor’s right side and the audience’s left side.
Taft-Hartley – A federal law allowing an actor 30 days after the first day of employment before being required to join a labor union.
Treatment – The outline of the plot and character descriptions of a possible future film.
V.O. – Voice over. Performing a scene or script off camera. Your voice only.
Wrap – Completion of filming at the end of the day or the completion of the entire production.
Day Player – An actor hired for the day, as opposed to a longer contract. Generally works for the current SAG scale rate for the day.
Double – An individual who temporarily appears in place of another performer, such as a stunt performer or body double in a nude scene.
Extra and Background Performer – Both acting terms refer to individuals used in non-speaking roles in a film or television program.
Lead Actor/Actress – A principal performer who is the main actor in a film, TV show or play.
Motion-Capture Performer – An actor who performs a role while wearing a special suit equipped with multiple motion sensors to “capture” his movements via visual effects software.
Principal – An actor with one or more lines of dialogue in a production.
Stand-In – An individual used as a substitute for a principal performer, typically used to set up the correct lighting and camera angles.
Stella Adler – Very famous acting coach.
Supporting Actor/Actress – A performer who has a smaller role than a lead but portrays a character that may be integral to the film, TV show, or play.
Understudy – A common theatre term for the performer who learns the all lines, choreography and songs of a principal performer in the show in order to take over the part in case of emergency.
An acting terms dictionary is something every actor should study before they start working.
We will continue to add more acting terms to the list.