Okay, so this tip may initially seem contradictory to what some of you have been taught as actors. Basically, my advice is the following:
STOP STARING AT THE OTHER CHARACTER SO MUCH
Too many actors think that 100% eye contact = a connected read. WRONG! Don’t believe me? Next time you’re in a conversation with someone, I want you to notice how much eye contact you get from them. Better yet, stare at them constantly, never break your eye contact no matter what! Feels unnatural, doesn’t it? Then why do it in the audition or on the set????? Still don’t believe me? You ever watch a scene filmed in a moving car? Weren’t the two characters connected even though they rarely looked at each other?
What 100% eye contact really equates to is “actor trying to maintain focus by staring at the other person”. You need to be relaxed and natural with your eye contact. Sure, different scenes will affect how much eye contact you give, but don’t fall into the trap of giving it 100% of the time.
A great concrete example is the scene in “Heat” between DeNiro and Pacino. This is a great scene in the movie. The first time these guys have ever been on film together. They’re playing a cat and mouse game as Pacino (the cop) chases DeNiro (the bad guy). They take time out to have coffee. Here’s a YouTube link:
Notice how natural their eye contact is. Don’t you agree they’re connected throughout this scene, even when they don’t look at each other? So again I ask you, why would you burn holes in the other character by staring at them so much?
NOTE: the same can be true for not enough eye contact, especially if it’s because you’re stuck in your script. There’s definitely a balance to be found.
If this concept seems odd to you, or you’re confused, then it probably means you need some private coaching.