After a Harvard education and years of training, I was lucky enough to become a working actor in TV, Film and on Stage. Like most actors I had to take a day job. So for the last 25 years, I worked in casting.
Very few teachers have worked that much on both sides of the camera. It has given me a unique point of view and added much to my knowledge and approach to teaching.
However it was not until I began incorporating the camera into classes that I found a truly functional approach to coaching. The camera is a great teacher. It gives you immediate feedback, and it never lies. You watch your work and you know how well you’re doing. If you want to work on camera…. you have to train on camera.
The Key to a Good Scene
If you want to learn to act on camera, you have to learn to Play. It’s like Jazz. We take a melody/story and we play/perform it. Every time we do it, it should be different and inspired by all that is happening in the moment. That means that if you stop listening and just play the music in your head, it doesn’t work.
Leonardo DaVinci spoke about “liberating” his sculptures from the stone. There are numerous examples of his unfinished pieces where you can literally see the figures trying to come up out of the marble. We’re lucky – we don’t have to spend hours and hours pounding away with a hammer to liberate our character from the stone. Rather, we must pursue the process of play and exploration that allows the life in the scene, and the characters, to emerge from the writing. Leonardo’s craft was the process of pounding away. Ours is the process of play.
We are lucky to be artists in media at this time. It’s the most creative and challenging of the crafts. We have the opportunity to inspire and enlighten – and, of course, entertain. We only have to work at our craft. Fortunately, most of our work is play!