Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 10/23/18

Five of us… Chris and Heidi doing working audits. Chris as a philandering bartender and Heidi finally accepting a rather clumsy marriage proposal. Rob watching as Casey closes an investment deal and the possibility of a promotion… from their script.
Great workout. Supportive and insightful commentary. A good night in get theater.

So, Heidi/Chris, this class is an on-camera workout. Everybody works every week. We try to duplicate the casting process… Get a script. Prepare a scene. Perform in an office… or on a set. Auditions are a style, a performance craft… so actors, like athletes have to constantly practice to be in PLAYing/performance shape. And there is the key. You have to learn to be confident enough to go into an office and PLAY. By the end of the night you guys had made great strides. But were you ready to perform ? I didn’t think so. There was still a lot of work to be done but you had gone far down the path. Learning to do that. To prepare and then perform a piece in a 24 hour period is the challenge. You have to practice and learn a process. You have to develop a muscle memory of prep and performance. Our workouts challenge those muscles.

Issues…

Talent… Defined as… The actor’s ability to be in the scene, in the life, in the character’s shoes. That’s what we focus on in these workouts. We’ll work on a preparation process and developing the performance muscles that allow you to be in the scene. That is… we work on your talent.

Cold reads… You guys both plunged in and did them. They are to me a shallow dive. Actors tend to show/push when they are forced to perform before they’re really prepared and able to be in the scene, in the life. I suppose there are professional situations where cold reading is used but it is a minor skill that is used in mostly in plays, student and non budget movie… and in lazy acting classes.

Script use… When you’re constantly looking down(by necessity) you can’t be in the scene. Ideal is to hold it in your hand and never use it. Though some actors have an ability to use it and still be in the life… probably because they’re great listeners. It is also a legitimate artistic choice to perform off script. We all perform along this continuum.

Physical life… As you work on camera you’ll develop a vocabulary of movements that allow you to tell a story on camera. Like looking down at him kneeling, looking at Tricia in the distance, playfully punching your fiancé or your stall mate. Scene study class teaches you how to be on stage… on camera workouts teach you how to be on a set. There is an ever present actors’ fable that you can’t move in auditions or on the set. It’s just wrong. You need to know how to be comfortable and alive in front of the camera and tell a story. If your body knows where it is and what it’s doing… then it knows how to act.

Process… Get a script/sides learn it, prepare it, and perform it in an audition or on a set in 24 hours. I intentionally don’t say memorize because that is too word oriented. Preparing and performing in 24 hours is a process that you must have to work in the modern acting profession. Classic scene study does not address this challenge. Analogy… the stage and scene study are marathons. On camera work teaches you how to sprint.

Pace and overlapping… We instantly saw the life that emerged when you guys got away from the actors’ trap of my turn/your turn . And you guys allowed those sounds and reactions that instinctively appear in conversations. We tend to edit those because they are not written and sitting on those impulses makes you wooden. In life when someone is talking we most often understand them and have the impulse to respond before they finish. When you guys found that pace of thought and impulse all the work came alive.

Personal notes… (but read everyone’s because issues overlap.)

Heidi…

Hate cold reads ! However. We pursued character. She’s defined by the punch and the “Ryan.” If you can’t execute those two moments then the character isn’t there. The New York accent adjustment was perfect. It’s moxy, attitude, confidence instantly. It’s the key to developing that part of any character. Adjustments… like drunk, as a kid, British accent are great rehearsal/exploration tools and should always be a part of your prep. I’d love to see her do this scene tipsy. Using adjustments as you learn a scene is good process. Loved the fast talking. That’s a nice skill to have. I encourage actors to be physical in performance… like walking in, doing the slug, grabbing at the year book, looking down where he’s kneeling. Those things center your body into the scene, and tell the story. Holing still is not creative or good for the camera. Careful is the opposite of creative. Feeling alive is what’s good. Your first take felt vocally a bit too theatrical/big. On camera we trade off volume for intensity.

Chris…

Hate cold reads ! None the less… Everything hinged on getting off script and listening. As soon as you were off script you were in the scene. Listening is primary. It’s thinking It’s immediate. It’s life. If you can listen and HEAR as the character… then you are in the character’s shoes. Your talent is then working. That’s a future prep marker for you. As you’re preparing… When you can listen… you are in the scene. The statutory rape line… was clumsily written… and would never have made it to the set. I’d have just committed to my own more speakable words that communicated the idea… or just read it off the script(which works for medical jargon). But the issue was that the thought in the line wasn’t clear for you. It was just words that didn’t coalesce into a thought. Once you were off book you could listen(think) and respond with thought. Lines should express thoughts but in performance thought must come before the lines. Nerves are always an issue. I always found that when I was auditioning regularly the nerves decreased. That’s just repetition and familiarity. And working out those performance muscles regularly will make you stronger and more confident and allow you to PLAY… Play the Character. Play the scene. Perform the screenPLAY. Having the confidence to play is inspiring and creative.

Casey/Rob

I’ve just thrown up some character thoughts below. The work was very solid. Loved the pace and overlapping.

Rob…

No need to characterize more. His transition will be more believable if you start him here… close to you. I think all these characters are realistic and grounded… that’s the style of the movie, the writing. The punching Casey and the ’sure thang’ quip are great… and they’re character… but you’ll need to lean into the cafeteria line to set it up better. I think it’s important that these two seem like really good friends. I believe you taught Casey everything he knows. I think you’ve got great investment intuition and Casey follows your path to advises all his clients. I think you guys talk about things at lunch regularly. But Casey does have that charm. It’s just later that you bloom and succeed… and it might be because of him or his not being there somehow. I need to read the script again.

Casey…

No one saw him as an ass hole… just lean into the relationship with Rob and we’ll see him clearly. He’s just the classic guy who looses his way in the whirl of modern life. I think the relationship with Rob’s character is important… he’s his anchor and sounding board. His sensei. His neglected core is obvious to us and Alaska allows him to change… the arc. The motivation for the gentrification line wasn’t clear. Maybe he should be a little conflicted about not wanting to go camping…? I missed that moment when he looks at the phone and decides not to take a call from his Mom. That might cause him to feel even more guilty at this Dad’s death. Stronger choice about shopping for an apartment… either hate it or love it… probably hate it. You’re tapping into a leading man approach. It presents itself as the character’s presence. He’s not a Mensch yet but Alaska will bring it out in him. Presence… a leading man concept… is essential for carrying a movie.