Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 3/26/19

Eight of us (including me)… BIG class, lots of different material. Working with eight actors is max size that guarantees everyone gets to work every night.
Casey as the survivalist doing a long rant at a family dinner. Aaron revealing herself as a witch… not a bitch. Chris as a sheriff interrogating a guy who shot and killed someone. Heidi working on Burn This for a third callback to the Actors’ Studio… the silent film version. Sharif as the playboy bartender confronted by the police. Jackson getting cake delivered in the middle of a frantic housekeeping disaster. Jack as the flare gun shooting party boy.

THOUGHTS & ISSUES:

IMPROV…
For our purposes IMPROV means creating life. It can consist of added words or actions or looks or pauses… like all the movement and activity we saw last night. Such as… Heidi messaging her feet, brushing against him… Sherif working at the bar, Casey with the butt look, Jackson frantically sweeping. None of that was written but without that creativity the night would have been a series of actors reading lines. What we saw instead were the characters’ lives in different moments. Without the creation of life in the scenes it is boring to watch. Don’t be boring.

COMMENTARY…
Everyone was respectful and insightful last night. Your aim should always be tell us what you saw and thought. It’s always best to bring forth things that you like and then raise questions. Each of your POVs is part of a collective wisdom/intelligence. The camera has an opinion, you have one and I have one. Collectively there is insight.

PROPS…
Verboten! Bringing props seems unprofessional. You can use anything that you normally carry on your person. Bag, purse, phone, keys anything that you’d have on your person. This is a hard rule but rules are made to be broken.

PHONES…
Always work with sides… not from the phone. It takes too much focus to be able to glance at a screen and get a line. Sides are an industry standard. You’re expected to work off sides. And no phones in class. This is a phone free zone.

Heidi…

I hope our work did not make your voice worse. I don’t know how to approach this except to quote the note to Casey… “Work at this level means I often have no answers.. only questions and exploration… and hopefully discovery.” And truth be told you should be working at a very high level since you’ve done it so long. My reservation is that, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” You’re getting notes from the Studio people, your partner, the class and me and friends… My head would be spinning. But these notes are only the smallest of tweaks and discoveries. The knees touching, the pause, the looking at him. We were basically just enriching moments. And to do so requires the luxury of time which we allow for on stage and in those rarer slow paced films. Maybe that’s a way to think about the issue of pace. And all or none of these insights/notes will work… depending on… your partner and whatever adjustments they give you. Too many cooks. What is solid… is your talent and your work in this scene. You have conjured magic and deep emotional notes. I want you to have the confidence of being able to jump into the life and swim your way through it. It’s the Jane Cameron quote, “Leap and the net will appear.” Your talent and craft have built a solid net… just throw yourself off and fly… the net will appear.

Casey…

He was your good ole boy… but still a trace of a bully/danger/dark side…. and that moment was underlined with the line to the wife. It could be played also by just a look… no need for the words. The lean into those asshole lines could be subtle too. This kind of moment will crystalize in the watcher’s mind. It also could be spooky or clownish… there are lots of choices that will be defined by character and style. And like Aaron you made a style choice and executed it well. Work at this level means I often have no answers.. only questions and exploration… and hopefully discovery. This was set ready work. The first take rocked and they all had elements that were perfect. Missing only was… playing with an actress on a set. The character was very strong and easily available for you… in your wheelhouse. All those good ole Texas boys you grew up with. Stepping on Heidi’s line was brilliant and the adjustment to Jackson was spot on… the moment he turned to the door was perfect.

Jackson…

When you used your script as a broom handle that was brilliant. Your script can be lots of things. You can only count on a script and a chair in a casting office. Imagination creates the world. Like last week’s looking at the turd… the activity/sweeping was the core of the scene. Without that freaked out action/focus nothing makes sense. Casey’s note about how frantic it was made the scene come alive. The moment you turned to the door was perfect. There’s an old acting adage that the elements of the scene should be important, urgent, absolutely necessary. Here that was true… as was all the other life we saw created tonight. It was not enough to be sweeping. It had to be urgent. And using that element was improv. You added that life and the scene came alive.

Chris…

The ease of power. That cool, been-there done-that, laid back power is so strong. And so right for the guy. He’s seen this kid or even knows his family… small town. Working the Southern accent and that ease of power made it come alive. Confidence is attractive and he had every reason to be confident. You know what you want from this guy and that he has it. You have him over a barrel. So trade the volume of the stage for the intensity (in this case the confidence infused intensity) that the camera likes. Yelling rarely works. It pushes us away… especially in a small casting office where it’s so easy to overpower the room. The camera just doesn’t like it. It’s not part of the style/size of acting that we focus on. However, it’s great exploration. So when you feel that urge to overpower someone verbally… look to intensity instead. Either that attractive ease of power or that steely “just the facts, Ma’am” approach… both can work here. Because of the small town aspect the ease of power seems more connected.

Aaron…

You really killed it. This seemed so easy for you. Sorry for the first take… I really am a bad reader. That fully alive young woman persona was just so cool. She’s modern hip intelligent funny… and based on YOU assembling all those different parts of yourself into this character. She is the evolution of how sitcoms see women from I love Lucy all the way to Two Dope Queens. The improv work you’ve been doing has solidified your comedy chops. Not only are you getting kudos and discovering characters (the hippy chick) but you’ve developed an openness and approachability that the camera really loves. So we immediately understood how these two characters loved each other. These are elements of your talent that you’ve earned through your consistent hard work over the years. Lovely work.

Sharif…

Welcome. Very strong work… and with the pressure of the first class, strangers, expectations… well done. Now, from our chat… You’ve taught/coached young kids, but that comes from the logical side of the brain. Acting is the creative playful side… taking this class would focus on play, and discovery and creativity in front of the camera. I define talent (we saw yours tonight) as the actors ability to be in the scene… in the life, the shoes, the circumstances. These workouts focus on your talent. There are three teachers… the camera, your peers, and me. I loved the life you brought to these scenes. I define improv as creating life… we did that tonight. We adjusted a few lines… we found whispers, pleas, smart aleck choices. Good exploration. This character is right in your wheelhouse. He’s a cliche…. but cliches are story telling tools that come to life with each individual that plays them. When you invest yourself in the character there is simply nobody else like that. And thus the work transcends cliche and we see a unique believable character.

Jack…

First class… welcome. Like any sport it takes work…. sometimes years of it… but certainly lots of daily doses of it. Acting can be learned… but you must work at it like you would any sport. Talent is the actor’s ability to be in the scene. We saw your talent when you took the adjustment to make him a more cocky guy. That seemed to allow you to move through the life. Most of your first takes were focused on getting the words. You were struggling to memorize words and find your way through the scene. Cold reads are like that. We saw the work improve over the night, but there is much learning and practice to be able to get to a professional skill level. Modeling is solely about the look. Acting is much more about your soul and how you reveal that through the craft of acting. That comes with practice and consistent work. For some people it comes easily. It took me a good two years of hard work to know what I was doing. My teacher used to say that sometimes those that learn it slowly… learn it best. At any rate it takes a year or two of class and experience to absorb the biz and the actor’s life. Tonight was your first class. There will be many more.