Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 4/16/19

Six of us… Heidi seeing a long lost lover from a sit com script. Kate trying to do her new job while encountering a charming painter from a sitcom pilot. Rob, recently dumped and needing to crash with an old friend at exactly the wrong time, probably a single camera comedy. Chris proudly displaying his ‘man cave’ to Casey who’s a bit overwhelmed at the way-too-cool dream room and uninhibited talk about sex… from a film.

Kate…

We approached this as an exploration of being more of the B word… which is a character we see all the time.. as written for the most part by men. This character can be a man or woman and is a frequent writing device. Tonight’s variation was likable and we empathized with her… and that’s important. It means she’s less a B and more a girl with some moxy, intelligence, and with you playing it… she’s attractive. That’s a lead character description. In addition our process should have focused on two elements more. The immediate pressure of the job which is driving her and most importantly how she’s immediately attracted to him. If there is first-encounter-chemistry, because he’s cute and has a playful sense of humor… then there is internal conflict for her between the job and her hormones. In fact in their next scene she reveals the attraction and they kiss ! So that attraction should have been a center plank of her character in this scene. We leaned toward that element but…To be honest… We just missed it. I’m doing a different format for next week, but I want you to be ready to work this material at least once to see if we can rework it in this direction. And you should be familiar enough to work the second scene because it poses a big challenge with the kiss. Almost a “Bulgaria has fallen moment.” I’m seeing her as a classic lead character now and the whole scene would play differently with this approach. That will be a lot of material for next week… let it be a challenge!

Chris…

You dropped a line tonight but adeptly pick it up and continued. This effortless confident moment looks so good in an audition or on the set. It’s an instinct that you need to re-enforce. There were several moments tonight in other scenes when we saw mistakes turn into good work. Forgetting a line is not always a mistake. If you don’t break, if you stay in the moment… We most often interpret it as the character… not the actor… in thought. And indeed that’s what it is… to you it’s a moment of panic but the audience just sees thought… even if it’s just you searching your memory bank for a line or a word. As a more general comment… breaking off a scene is part of being too judgmental as you work. We’re all judgmental of our work, but you cannot indulge that as you’re working. It just gets in the way. Eliminating this stopping of scenes is a way to turn off that judgmental voice in our heads. Prep… As we discussed… your preparation has been spotty. Efficient prep is a skill and a process that we must have as actors. The old theatre/play model of rehearsing for weeks and then performing is kaput in the camera arena. Rehearsal is no longer an communal effort with the director. Actors must learn an individual prep process and that is something that our workouts challenge you to do. The more you practice this the easier and faster your prep will become. It is a skill that actors must have. Class should challenge you. Doing better prep will challenge your on-camera performance to be more insightful and consistently creative. This was a good character to work on that stretches you out of your comfort zone.

Casey…

This was a most likable character. Really likable ! I thought your first attack needed more nubby innocence to create more character difference from Chris’ Real Man. We called it the “aw shucks” factor, and pushed for that in the hand held scene work. Some of that was Chris’ responsibility to widen the gap between the two but you can’t count on that from a reader in an audition. However, there could have been more innocence in your first take too, but that’s a subtle character adjustment and looking at the hand held scene work… we saw it more but the difference was not significant because the first take really was so spot on. Now… looking back at tape… as a director I’d have said after the first take… “We’ve got a great one in the can so lets play.” Perhaps you could lean into being uneasy with the hip phrases you’re babbling as you try to be cool. Maybe we’d shoot a couple of quick reaction shots showing your take on the masturbation stuff… but the listening was very good in the two shots. Just like last week… in the ‘hundred beats of this scene’… we’re talking about a handful of little tweaks and camera cheats that would focus on a subtle character element. I’m forced to give you my least favorite critique… that was good work. I hope you’re focusing on getting 80 to 90% of dialogue in all these longer scenes. It seems so… but this extra length plus moving camera demands you’re solid on lines.

Heidi…

You did two different styles really. You knew this show so you approached the first take with on-camera-appropriate size. The first take was BIG and the second was relaxed a bit. We labeled it the difference in size between Sit-com and single camera. That’s a convenient concept but it takes us right into the recurring issue of style. Quickly adjusting to direction can lead to a shallowness. That did not happen here. You just seemed to connect more subtly to the sexual memories of their hot romance. We could have made other adjustments… like covering it with a patina of being hard-to-get… or a having a crumbling sense of loyalty/guilt to a current amore. I want you to be aware that your adjustment here was instinctive and well executed but under set or audition pressure actors often fall into result acting when asked to change size. What we saw instead was a definite adjustment in style/size based on character, physicality and volume. Which is all to say… that it’s your job to turn result oriented adjustments into internal process. Here you did it and it accomplished a style change. Well done. Working a scene like this from a well know sitcom poses a morass of comparisons, but you dodged that by bringing YOU to the work… As they noted at the actor’s studio interview… trust yourself. And you did that here. This was a bold choice of all too familiar material and you managed to make it your own. Much of an artist’s evolution is subtle and undefinable. Picasso had a blue period and then grew out of it. You had a pace issue and now we see it no more. You’re leaning into trusting yourself more. This was one of those little moments along a path that we can observe and point to… but the movement towards that goal is profound… internal… and we will only see it through subtle and small changes. At a certain level of craft just thinking about an issue begins to grow it into your talent. Maybe it’s best understood by a phrase from Avatar… I see YOU. You’re learning to trust that.

Rob…

Stage direction… we’ve noted them as suggestions rather that biblical direction that actors must follow. However when the scene is introduced by a pre-lap… “we hear him weeping” before we see him… you have to bring that direction to the scene. All the comedy depends on that element. If he’s pathetic it’s just funnier. Musically it was written in the key of pathetic weeping. Here’s a note from last week… “It’s a classic moment before that we never see but we experience it empathetically by his emotional state… devastated from having the rug yanked out from beneath his life.” Also… “This is a snowball scene. It’s an avalanche that starts the moment the door opens and the snowball starts barreling down the hill.” You saw that issue and leaned into a faster pace on the second takes Once you started from that point it all made sense. We saw the comedic results… pathos got laughs. To you as a director… I too like Heidi’s smaller approach and would have argued for it in editing. But that is ultimately a style choice and would be dictated by the writing. I’m searching my library for some bad guys you might find interesting… found some!