So, I play guitar a little bit, and recently a fellow at my church has been giving me pointers on how to play the guitar better. One of the things he told me was that the difference between pro guitar players and amateur guitar players was that the pros know when NOT to play. They know how to use the quiet moments.
I found that interesting and, of course, related it back to acting and animation. It’s definitely true of acting. You have to know when to pause, when to be quiet. Even if it’s not easy when you have people watching you up on stage.
In one of my acting classes we worked on two scenes from the play Bus Stop. We were playing the characters Bo and Cherie. At one point Bo leaves Cherie alone and, after thinking some things over, Cherie goes over to Bo and talks to him. Since the character I was playing, Cherie, was supposed to be working up the courage to talk to Bo my teacher told me to wait until I felt I absolutely had to go talk to him before I actually did.
I was on stage by myself saying nothing for a good few minutes. But. It worked. You could feel the struggle of this character because of the wait. Without that quiet moment the rest of the scene felt insincere.
Take a look at this clip from The Last Five Years (Brilliant musical by the way. I highly recommend the soundtrack with Betsy Wolfe and Adam Kantor)
Pay attention to 5:00 onward. Kathy gets angry and the song keeps building and building, but then at 6:15 the song goes back to being quiet and the characters are still.
That quiet moment pays off.
This also applies to animation. You have to know when to move your character and when to keep them still/quiet. Often I’ll see someone new to animation do a dialogue piece where the character is constantly moving. Don’t forget to use the quiet moments.