Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 2/25/18

Four of us… Michael working on a Camry industrial/commercial that was wall-to-wall copy. Janet working on a one liner for an audition. Christian working on an over privileged ex-addict young woman who’s grumping with her mother.
We talked about the biz and agents and commercials and casting before class.  These conversations are an important way for you guys to share what you’re encountering out there… and I learn from them as well. Plus two of the scenes were for next-day auditions… and we all learn from current stuff.  I love it when you guys bring in scenes… but anyone who wants material only needs to ask.  I have a good library.

Michael…

Language, diction, clarity is an absolute necessity in Commercials.  Your work of late has shown much more command of the expression of language and ideas.  Commercials take that skill to another level.  We focused on not letting the lines peter out.  That’s just the style of writing… almost all sentences/ideas go up at the end.  That provides the momentum to keep going at a commercial pace… which is almost always moving through the material without pause.  Your observation that the dialogue was hard to memorize due to the information oriented speech.  And here… there is no interaction with anyone to prompt impulses or thoughts.  So really you’re just speaking information points mildly disguised as conversation. When you had the dialogue in your head you handled it well.  The last section still needed work… and that brought up the question of improv… and I agree that improv is easier when you have the lines down pat as a foundation that you can riff off of.  My experience is that car commercials looked for word perfect performance but since this is closer to an industrial they might be cool with making the words your own.  Janet also brought up the idea of imagining the other person you’re speaking to.  That’s an exercise that really works for some actors and you should try it out. 

Janet…

One-liners.  They are so simple and so difficult.  We all try too hard when we attempt this style. I think the clearest statement was from Michael.  That these characters are not about you.  They are about moving the story along.  I call it delivering the mail.  You were most successful when you listened and reacted with the line.   If you push and underline words it becomes too important and looks like your trying too hard.  The key is to listen in character and then react with a thought… not with the exact words.  Thought first!  We just did multiple adjustments your first time out and found one that seemed centered and connected to the circumstances.  We focused on character… Type A and the direction pipes up worried. At first that made you push volume and presence but as we worked the character sank more into your body and the words just popped out.  And this Type-A girl is a cliche that you need to have as a pocket character.  You need to be able to play her in any circumstances and just drop her into the scene.  But PLAYING her is the key.  You must have her in your body as you enter the casting room and then just listen and respond as you work/PLAY the scene.  With these one liners just stay in character as you come into the room and then start the scene from that base.  These characters are established in the first moment… they are a first impression.  So my take has always been to be in character the whole time in the office.  If they see you as a Type-A when you enter… then they’ll see you as the character in the scene.  If you try and be nice and be the good actor and then switch to a worried Type A… then the first impression that they have of you is that you’re nice and sweet and that’s not what will book the job.  Now I’m sure this is a character like those you’ve worked on in improv with Michael… you improvsed in character.   And when you can comfortably improv as this type A publicist, assistant, lawyer… then she will be a pocket character that you can use in your work.  She’s a musical instrument, a tone, a melody, a character, a tool that we see in lots of modern writing.  You should be able to comfortably PLAY her.

Christina…

Boy this character is a cliche but by the end the night you were inhabiting her space and comfortable in her obnoxiousness.  And on the range of blonds that we talked about… this chick is a predictable type that you should be quite comfortable with.  She does have a mouth on her (probably written by some bitter guy just dumped by his GF). You also found moments when she was trying to connect to her Mom (however clumsily) and those moments somewhat redeemed her in our eyes.  When you are comfortable in a character’s skin (Pocket characters) they are no longer a cliche because they are specific to you. The physical looseness you found in that last take was the key.  Once you used your whole body the impulses emerged from your core.  She may be a type… but she’s you as that type… and that makes her unique.  We got there with a walk-in entrance and using the script/papers and just full body movement… Those physical centering devices seemed to relax you and let you PLAY.  First-take carefulness is something that all of us fall prey to.  That’s why I start almost all scenes with a physical move… a motivated whole body movement that brings me into the scene.  We’ll focus on that first moment in the scene in coming classes.  It’s an issue that deserves focus.  All of us are over-careful in auditions… and the cure to that is the attractive Fuck It! Just that commitment to the idea that you are showing them what you think the scene should be.  You’re PLAYING the character and the scene.  PLAY makes careful disappear.  The attractive Fuck it! … Let’s PLAY.  I hate giving that advice because it seems so full of cliche… but PLAY solves so many issues.  Its a state of mind.  Athletes refer to it as “in the groove.”  What we’re trying to do… is lead your body into PLAYING in an audition… and that’s the same tool you’ll use on a set.  It’s the groove.