TO KNOW wisdom, you must first know ignorance.

So allow me to help you with the latter. I wish to discuss something I know nothing about (reader: "There's a first"). My subject is acting.

I've a fascination with actors. Haven't we all? How could we not? Most of us watch them every day of our lives.

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They influence us in our looks, walks, talks, clothes and even philosophies. Well, at least their characters do.

The point baffling me is this: how is it that, in the behind-the-scenes shots you get in DVD extras, where the filming of the filming is filmed, the acting — seen in the raw — always looks so, well, rubbish?

They just look like they're saying stuff no better than a man or woman off the street could do. And it all seems so lackadaisical.

You hear them saying to the director. "And I just go over there and say this, do I?"

And they do. And that's it. And by the time it's on the screen it looks brilliant. And they get paid a fortune.

It's a piece of nonsense. I was going to say anybody can do it, but since I can't even pose properly for a still picture, I guess there must be something more intangible to acting in a film.

I'm not making a point, despite deploying the arguably controversial word "nonsense".

I'm just bewildered and wondered if you'd noticed this too. I suppose actors' charisma must interact with the lens in a chemical way. Or something.

The music will help too.

They don't even look that great in the raw, a bit common-or-garden, even with make-up, but by the time it's down on film they're all shiny and godlike.

What you need for screen-acting, it seems, is to have a face that can look potentially good or interesting, if the camera takes to you.

Theatre is different. For that, your biggest asset is a voice.

There's the whole question of emoting, of course. But, even there, I say again: when you see it filmed informally, it looks unconvincing.

Then by the time it's on screen it goes straight to your heart.

I love actors and worship them. They are, effectively, our gods.

But I confess: I have no idea what they're doing and how they do it.

And thus I have taken the first step towards wisdom.