The fourth wall is a performance convention in which an invisible, imagined wall separates actors from the audience. While the audience can see through this wall, the convention assumes the actors act as if they cannot. From the 16th century onward, the rise of illusionism in staging practices, which culminated in the realism and naturalism of the theatre of the 19th century, led to the development of the fourth wall concept.
The fourth wall is the screen we’re watching. We treat this wall like a one-way mirror. The audience can see and comprehend the story, but the story cannot comprehend the existence of the audience. If you break that wall, you break that accord. This is called “Breaking the Fourth Wall.” It can also be described as the story becoming aware of itself.
I think we need to be careful when and how to break the fourth wall while telling a story because if you do it wrong, it ruins what you have built with the audience. But if you do it right, it may take your story to another level. The audience can get into your psyche and see your story from different perspectives.
Tips for Breaking the Fourth Wall:
- Be extreme: This means you need to break the fourth wall all the time, or very rarely.
- Be thoughtful: Consider opportune scenes and moments within the scene for wall breaks.
- Be controversial: Don’t waste your big decision with an underwhelming fourth wall break.