I’ve suggested a couple of times that CG animators often don’t use enough blinks and interesting blink patterns to show what their characters are thinking and feeling, and in my last post I put up a live-action clip showing how much a good human actor can do with blinks and half blinks and eye flutters. The great Michael Cain gives a counter-point, suggesting that actors NOT blink:His point is that blinking makes a character look weak or hesitant (I’m sorry if some of you hear “And I don’t blink, and I keep on going, and I don’t blink . . .” in your nightmares tonight!). Now, given the typical “Michael Cain” character, he’s absolutely correct. People tend to blink much less when they’re focused and/or angry. That’s what his ‘trick’ unconsciously conveys to the audience: “I’m a guy you don’t want to mess with.”
He once explained in an interview: If you want to appear strong, never blink. Marlene Dietrich told me that. If you want to appear weak and funny, blink all the time. Hugh Grant never stops blinking.
I think this oversimplifies things, but take a good look at the last few seconds of his clip above. See how effective that flurry of blinks is in conveying someone who ISN’T so sure of themselves, who ISN’T angry and focused? It’s like he’s a different character! The point is NOT that fewer blinks are better — the point is to understand what your character is feeling, experiencing, and portraying, and then use blink patterns and eye darts to help convey THAT to your audience.
Here’s part 1 of Michael Caine’s 1980′s seminar on acting, from which the above clip comes:
Note what he says at the beginning:
What we do we, we actors who are in the movie, we hang onto each other’s eyes. That’s the most important thing in film: Eyes. Eyes.