How to Kiss on Film
Kissing on screen. It happens often enough but for new actors it can’t often be quite traumatic and nerve-racking when in truth there is no reason for it to be anything like this.
So here is our simple guide to how to kiss on film.
Justify the kiss
First off, check the script and find out why your character is kissing. There can be loads of reasons but to make the kiss work, you need to know why they are kissing.
Here are short videos of 4 very different kisses on film. Take a look at each one and see how different they are and how each kiss has a different meaning.
So while it can be about love, maybe it’s just sex or betrayal or mind-games or guilt or domination or subservience or even something completely different altogether.
Whatever the reason, you need to know why your character is kissing and think about the emotions and meaning behind it. This will change the way your character approaches the kiss: coldly, aggressively, passionately, etc.
Before the kiss
Once you know why they are kissing, think about what leads up to this.
Suppose the kiss is to say sorry. In this case you need to have clear in your mind what brought this about and what the kisser hopes to gain from the kiss. For example:
the kisser has said some hurtful things during an argument and they want to kiss their partner in order to say sorry
so the kisser feels a little guilty, a little worried, perhaps even a little fearful of what the reaction might be
they will kiss their partner tenderly, not aggressively at all, not sexually really, but simply and honestly
it will be a short kiss and then the kisser needs to step back and see what the reaction is
So as you can see, there’s often nothing simple about a kiss – there’s often a lot more going on besides.
Prepare the kiss
Once you’ve worked all that out, you need to prepare the kiss.
This means sitting down with your screen partner and talking about the kiss (and, for that matter, anything else that might be involved) and working out the actual movements.
This is for three main reasons.
to make sure you don’t bump heads as you go in for the kiss
to make sure you both know what’s going to happen so you’re not shocked or surprised by an unexpected movement or action
to make sure you are both comfortable with what is going to happen
At this stage you need to be frank and talk about things like whether you are using tongues or not (probably not, but occasionally yes) and what kind of embrace it will be, where you will touch each other, and so on.
And now is also the time to raise any objections if you have them!
It’s unprofessional to wait till five minutes before the shoot to tell the director you don’t want to kiss or be touched in a certain way; now is the time to tell them so you can arrange things around your objections.
Especially if you are nervous about the kiss, talking to your screen partner will also help relieve those nerves. Remember, they are probably as nervous about it as you are!
So by now you know why you are kissing and how you will kiss.
Now is time to be practical so that your screen partner is not put in an uncomfortable position.
clean your teeth well beforehand; and then a few seconds before the scene how about a quick blast of mint mouth spray?
if you smoke, then don’t smoke for as long as possible before the kiss
if you’ve never kissed anyone, find a willing friend and have a go in real life!
An on-screen kiss is not a real kiss. Despite what you might think, there’s likely to be no emotion involved from your screen partner (or, hopefully, you) once the scene is over.
So once the director says, Cut! it’s over: move on with the next scene and forget about it.
If you’d like to read much more about this subject, take a look at a full discussion on intimacy between actors in our e-guide here: Sex, Intimacy & Actors.