Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 4/23/19

Seven of us…. Jamie back for a visit doing a shop girl being questioned. Jackson working on a self submit for a kids show as the teenage henchman… overcome by a farting dog… it IS a kids show. We did lots of work on a scene from the pilot of Suits…Heidi and Aaron as the sharp paralegal and Casey and Chris as the attorneys in disguise.
Working on the Suits material was a memory and prep challenge. There was just a lot of material. And this was a pilot where traditionally there are longer scenes that let us get to know these new characters. Thankfully this was good writing that avoided an abundance of exposition Working the material on hand held camera and shooting the whole scene as a performance is also a huge challenge. It’s as close as we can get to being on a set.

A nice night of theater. I much appreciate the insightful and supportive nature you guys are bringing to our workouts. It’s allowing us to take set- ready auditions to the next level. When you as artists work at higher and more challenging levels… your performance muscles and your talents grow. It’s pleasure to be a part of this process.

GREAT NEWS!
Hey guys… Aaron booked that part of the newscaster she put up in class. Using our workouts to prepare for auditions is great. Jackson brought in a self tape he’d already submitted… good process as well.

THOUGHTS & ISSUES:

USING THE SCRIPT…
It’s a skill that will help you in your career. Ultimately we all want to be off script and confident and engage our full talents. However that just isn’t possible in this fast paced world. So being comfortable script-in-hand is something that you need to learn. Those of you with great fast memories can lean toward working off book and that is a praiseworthy artistic goal. But working script in hand is a skill… practice it and get comfortable with it because you will need it.

YOU…
Boy this is the issue for both these Suit characters… and also for what I’d call the modern lead character… particularly for TV writing. She/he is smart, likable, funny, clever and unflappable. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect… Rachel can’t take tests. Mike is running from something and impersonating a lawyer. They’re not perfect but they are attractive, and more witty than any normal human. Remember… “Sense of humor is the largest erogenous zone. And intelligence is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” This also resonates with letting the camera in and presence as discussed below and in Casey’s notes.

LEADING CHARACTERS…
They’re a new challenge. And in TV they’re superhuman in their intelligence and cleverness and attractiveness. All that adds up to a new focus on presence. This is an issue like confidence, and style/size and letting the camera in. These are the first leading characters we’ve worked on and there are significantly different issues that we’ll see as we work on them. Like most artistic concepts presence is more poetry than prose and will hopefully be revealed over time. We’ll include these concepts in our future discussions… here’s a beginning definition of presence below…

PRESENCE…
What you radiate and what we get from you… your energy, emotions, thoughts. Our human bodies are an antenna that constantly broadcasts who we are and what we’re feeling and thinking. It can be big or small, loud or soft depending on the character and the writing. When you appear on camera you are bringing your presence into the room. Our bodies… our antenna… both broadcasts and receives and our acting vocabulary must consider both sides of the performance equation. The camera allows us to see, understand and work on these issues. The camera is a great teacher. It never lies.

Chris…

Use the script ! My teacher used to say, “That sometimes those who learn it slowly learn it best.” I too envy the quickness with which some actors learn lines so quickly. But you are coming up against this casting process that demands performance on short notice. So you have to learn to prep faster or learn to use the script. I think you’re now just doing repetitions as a means of learning a script. You’d be better focusing on the thoughts and ideas and using their words to express those thoughts. Or like tonight using the other characters physical description of the offices as a mental picture that you can simply repeat with the dialogue in that long speech. But even the best memory techniques can be supported by using the script in hand. It’s just a matter of practice. Currently you are focusing on the words and stopping yourself when you forget the exact wording. If you can learn to use the script you can work around this issue. Your challenge is to allow yourself to use a script when you need to. Your talent is most obvious… when you are well prepared, but when you struggle with exacting dialogue you are blocking yourself.

Casey…

Your first take was flat, but that was a matter of being under prepped and needing to hit the comedy a bit harder and exploring the scene. Once you connected to the pressure of him being on the lamb… the scene took off. There is a range of behavior that could indicate that pressure, ‘looks over the shoulder’ being the most obvious. But it could have also been a more internal process that would have been obvious to us but unnoticeable to her. These last few scenes you presence on screen has grown. This is a difficult concept but actors take up both physical and emotional and connective(for lack of a better word) space. Example… you’re late for a class and you sneak in and take up as little presence/notice as possible. Example… you walk into a room of your fellow actors after just booking a gig. You will have a bigger emotionally connective presence in the room. You’ll be more open. You’ll take in the room and allow the room to see you. As crude a description as that is… we all have a presence and Casey, yours has grown in your last work. I see more confidence, openness… you just seem more available. Hope this makes sense. The concept of connectivity and openness is akin to the phrase… “Letting the Camera in” . You have been remarkably open and available with these last characters. That to me was much more significant than being a bit underprepared… especially considering that these were such long scenes with handheld camera and last second blocking. It’s just a sign of how prepared we need to be when we get to the set. I don’t think presence can be efforted. Rather it’s something that actors must allow… like letting the camera in. And of late you’ve allowed that to be much more present.

Aaron…

Congrats and Kudos for the booking! Loved your take on this paralegal Suits character. You were right that she could have been more likable, maybe a little more sense of humor and the confident superiority of intelligence and having seen this ‘guy show’ before. It’s that old phrase ease of power. She is the best researcher, smart, attractive and used to hot shots making passes. So this is nothing new. And he is cute. So this is a woman completely at ease with herself and what she’s doing… That’s a good definition of ease of power. She doesn’t have to assert her power. She simply has it and uses it with skill and humor and intelligence. Presence is in our zietgist at the moment. I loved your presence as the Newscaster. You filled up that space with character and intelligence and she had ease of power. Clearly she turned her ease off and on in your improvs but there was never a moment when we doubted that you were a hard hitting competent intelligent character. Confidence was the foundation. Confidence is attractive and contagious. We feel it when it walks in a room. Perhaps it’s part of the concept of presence that has been in the notes today.

Jackson…

This was a kids show… and the defining element of that genre is BIG. It’s just the style of writing and acting. There’s no way you can play dog farts realistically. You must play it big but the contradiction is that it should still feel real to you as the character… and you seemed to accomplished that here. Remember size and style are similar concepts. Here it’s both the kids show style and also he’s a big character… seemingly a bully with his chest out and showing off his ‘guns/muscles’. So the more inflated he is the farther he has to fall when he gets farted on by the dog. We talk about this all the time. If your character is going to take a fall, get his comeuppance, then you need to set him up for the fall… cause it’s funnier. You were much more active and physical in this scene. Great ! That’s you learning to incorporate life into the scene rather than just standing still and saying the words. The missing element here was the cacophony of the moment. Everything was happening at once and our poor incompetent strongman was being overwhelmed by a little dog. When we pushed the moments all together it came alive. Writing on a page is sequential. Your line then my line. But that’s not how life happens. Here it was all happening in an explosion of farts and energy and retreating all at once. That’s hard to get into a self tape but we found a way to make it happen tonight. The challenge is getting it into a self tape.

Jamie…

Cold reads are a challenge but here tonight you performed with ease. The takes progressed from a rather barren first read to a believable young woman in the given circumstances. We worked on grounding your character into the life of the store, and you created a shopgirl’s life that we could relate to. The activity at the top and reference to getting the boss and indeed the first ‘Can-I-help-you’ line… all connected to who you were, where you were, and what you were doing. That’s a classic WHOWHATWHERE approach. These were all subtle small notes/adjustments but they allowed us to engage our imagination and empathetically enjoy the scene. If you imagine the scene and your body reacts and relates to that imagination then we will engage our empathy and experience those circumstances. If your body radiates “I’m in a casting room trying to get a job” then that’s what we will see and feel(see above antenna note). You cannot stop your body from radiating your thoughts and feelings. But you can convince your body to relate to your imagination of the setting, and have the thoughts and emotions of the character… and it will then project that out to us. Simply put… we will see and hear and feel what you are doing and experiencing. The arc of our workouts is to train you to engage your imagination and connection to the world of the scene. I sometimes think of it as self hypnotism. If you concentrate your focus on the thoughts and feelings and physical surroundings then they can become more compelling and real than the office or set that you’re on. My teacher used say… “If you get the mind of the character… then you’ve got the character.”

Heidi…

Drop the damn script!… when you can ! You’ve got one of those minds that easily absorbs lines… USE IT ! You handle script so well I didn’t notice but watching tape I saw some hand movement/gestures that got baked into the performance that comes from holding a script. That’s a lot like just using repetition to memorize. It can build in patterns we’re not aware of. When you get to the point that you can be off script… trust your prep and know that working off book forces you to listen… and think. And if you drop a few words just improvise through it. Holding on to it is being careful… and careful is the opposite of creative.

The Artist’s Way says, “Leap and the net will appear.” So this will take a brave act… but it is an artistic challenge for your talent now. We’ll pressure you to drop the script in the next few classes so you will get the habit of it. Now that’s not to say that I want you to give up on holding the script. You’re the artist here and you set the standards for your performance. But it is undeniably more artistically exploratory to be off book, and you need to practice that leap. We put you guys under casting conditions and set conditions to build up your performance muscles. And like weight lifting or any practice session… we have to lift heavier weights and do the more difficult things in order to get stronger and grow our abilities. End of lecture. I loved that moment where Casey and Chris both forgot the “office” line. Now this is murky water… but when your partner goes up you can throw them a hint. And here if you’d have said with a little smirk, “How do you life my office?”… it would have been entirely within character and a great moment of humor. It’s what we’d do on stage and here I think it’s appropriate. It also forces you out of memory and into the moment. But bottom line of late your work has been very good. It’s been consistently set ready and all that’s missing is putting it on the set… without the script. We found interesting little moments to bring in character notes… how you focused on the documents you were working on, how you used the “rickety argument” line, the hesitation before she admits her testing problem. As we worked we found the little details that effortlessly allow us to see who this character is.