Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 1/8/19

FIRST CLASS OF 2019… Six of us. Rob sitting in as a writer/director’s voice on Coldman. Casey working on two scenes from Coldman. Aaron as the sympathetic girl friend of a vet suffering PTSD. Heidi as the ‘SHY’ shopgirl. Chris as the over-wrought father of a 4year old with a broken leg.

ISSUES… First from a WHO WHAT WHERE? analysis…

Creating the WHAT and the WHERE… those elements (mostly of your imagination/improvisation)make up the LIFE… and once they’re active we as characters can speak from the life we’ve created. Casey walking in, Heidi hanging Xmas balls, Chris leaving his wife and approaching the Doc, Aaron waking up and moving around… with every scene we created life. That grounds you, inspires you, and allows us to see you in a moment of life rather than being an actor in a CD’s office trying to get a job.

Interesting that the only WHO work or character work we did was on Heidi’s scene. With Heidi’s work we talked about physicality and creating a ‘different’ persona. But that was for a specific kind of episodic writing that moves from character to character to solve a mystery. Some shows play those characters straight and some want interesting/eccentric characters to provide a light touch. Straight provides info and character provides info with a light touch… which was appropriate for Franklin and Bash. Most TV and film will be done from a you-are-the-character approach.

BUT that you-are-the-character approach means you have to get the mind of the character! Getting the character’s mind… which we pursued through the WHERE and WHAT. We focused on WHAT you were doing and what you want and what you’re thinking/feeling and WHERE you were. This approach is the half way point between Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock… between the styles of transformation and playing yourself. Chris became the guy when he engaged the life in the scene. We instantly knew him. My teacher used to say…”If you get the mind of the character then you’ve got the character.” So we worked to get the character’s mind !

Rob…

Doesn’t matter that you had no material to work on. Your collaboration and insight made the class better especially pointing out Casey’s state of mind on his entrance. Hopefully it’s giving you and Casey insight into the writing. And I love this long term interaction with this script and how it’s helped develop character relationships and the ‘tone’ of scenes. I think the major focus has been getting a conversational musicality to the writing. This is a character piece and that realistic conversational tone allows us/the camera into the characters so we can watch them change and grow over the life of the script.

Aaron…

You had a nice light touch with this material. You just dropped into the scene and listened and reacted. We worked on that first waking moment and the last look at the Mom and added a bit more movement… but they were minor things. Your nice light presence allowed us and the camera in to your character(maybe that was just being vulnerable). But most important was that it allowed us to see the other character through your eyes. The world just kept getting deeper with each take. Good process ! and that’s clearly how your instrument works. You always seem to get better with more takes. That’s a good thing to know about you talent. Some actors are good for one take only… your sweet spot is frequently the second or third take. That doesn’t mean your first take is weak. It’s clear and certainly lets us see your talent. It’s just that you get better and deeper into the life… as most of us do ! You’re working at a high level now… Your prep is allowing you to show your talent !

Casey…

Again I’m seeing the leading man. What we did was adjust the WHAT in the scene… we emphasized the exasperation of the previous moment and the reaction to the old man skinning a deer. Most important was allowing adorkability to assert itself. Meeting someone attractive turns us all into dorks. Almost without exception… that first meeting is a huge moment. In musicals it’s lights, up music up, and break into song. In straight writing we almost always make it special like we did tonight. It produces one of those big sigh moments which we all love because we’ve all had them. Ahhhhh…. ! I didn’t think you need more bargaining lines to make it work. And directorially speaking… it’s revealing of your squeamish NYC character and funny to see you have to deal with the deer and the blood. All this work has become clearer as you get further into his thinking and explore more scenes. I’d say the character is solid and the writing is just revealing more and more of him as the story progresses. That’s what a good screen play is supposed to do.

Heidi…

Stage directions were a single word… SHY… So we explored shy and then some. I think of stage directions as suggestions, insrpitrations but not absolute directions. They’re a writer’s thought… but performance is a director’s and actors’ arena. When we determinedly pursue stage directions they most often produce results. It says she’s angry and we good actors do angry… a result. She’s SAD and we do sad. Better is to find out why she’s angry, sad, happy, shy and let the scene bring out that element. I do not think we nailed down the character here tonight. We explored. But with a physicalization you should be able to clearly define this girl and know how to get back to her in future work. I encourage actors to be bold and listen to their inner impulses and express themselves in character. Writer’s can’t create character… only actors can do that. So be bold and unafraid of exploring and developing character that goes beyond or even against the writer’s description. Use their descriptions as inspiration not as biblical dictates.

Chris…

We just put him in context. That moment of leaving the the child and the wife and approaching the Doc made it come alive. And it grounded you. It let you focus on the moment and not the words. And this was truly one of those scenes where our performance nerves feed right into the state of mind of the character… but this is easy to say and hard to do. The opening beat stumbles and frustration came from focusing on the words and not the life. The life will produce the thought, feeling and impulses and then you use the words to express the thought. The life, the WhatWhere, is the foundation of this kind of work. The more real your child, wife and the waiting is to you the more thought and reason you’ll have to say their lines. Without that effort it is just using your memory for the line. With the impulses you get from the life… you create more believable life. Be sure to remind me that we need to set up your entry to the room and your focus muscles.