Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 4/9/19

Seven of us with Brianna doing a working audit… welcome.
Jackson as the new wave masseuse. Arron the hot preacher’s wife. Heidi and Casey doing a squabbling couple. Chris as the just-dumped old friend with bad timing. Brianna as the flare gun totting girl being interrogated.

THOUGHTS & ISSUES:

FIRST IMPRESSIONS…
When you walk in the room. Heidi said it best… something like… “the times I just did what I wanted in an audition were always the best.” (Apologies for my rendition of your words… but the idea is there.) The challenge in auditions is to have the confidence that you can show them what the scene should be. You have artistic power as an actor. They can write the words… but only actors can make them stand up off the page and come to life. That’s the artistic challenge. They give you the material and ask you to show up in their office and perform for them what you think the life in the scene should be. 20 years of casting taught me this. Casting folks start making judgments about you the moment you walk into the room. That is human nature and we all do it in life. That subtle level of human judgement is a language the we all speak with our bodies and our beings… and we all understand it. If you look at someone your human instincts are to form ideas, and impressions instantly. That’s a survival instinct built into our DNA. That human judgement of you happens the moment you walk in the room. That doesn’t mean be cocky. It simply means that you are ready to perform… to show them what you think the scene should be. You must learn to be confident about what you want to do. Confidence is contagious. Confidence is attractive.

OPENING BEATS…
Realistically there is no first beat of a scene. There is a moment before and that’s often the springboard for your work. We saw it in Chris’ bruiser scene… We hear him standing outside the door weeping… without that moment before it(the humor) just doesn’t work. All the scenes demonstrates this idea… Jackson in the middle of a massage. Heidi slinking sexily into the room. Aaron climbing arrousedly into the van. Brianna being drug into the room. Casey weighed down by the info on this phone. All of the scenes started in the middle of some moment in these characters’ lives. When you execute the moment before… when you bing that momentum into the work… we know much about who the character is, what you’re doing, and where you are… all before your first words. You just can’t start a scene flat-footed. You must be coming from somewhere and doing something. That’s the way life works and that must be reflected in your work. Scenes never start at the beginning of something .. they always start in the middle of life. Coincidentally… We’re starting to see pre-laps much more in writing. When dialogue or any sound from the next scene starts before we cut away from the previous scene… that’s a pre-lap. This device is the writers’ recognition of the moment before. So the viewer hears the next scene even before it’s on the screen. Pre-laps are the writers’ language for starting a scene with the moment before.

WORDS…
Stella Adler was famous for saying, “It ain’t about the words.” Memorizing the lines is just the beginning. The dialogue helps us understand the life in the scene. Dialogue is just one of the tools you use to express the life and the thoughts and the feelings and the character. Words are malleable and a reflection of your character. You may say YES when you mean NO. You may be lying. You maybe babbling. The dialogue comes out of your mouth in the midst of life. You have to create that life or the words mean nothing. The words are not the life.

STYLE AND SIZE…
This issue shows up a lot lately. Perhaps it’s best examined in the context of the intimate theater arena here in LA. In a large theater you have to project to the last row. In intimate or black box theater (under a 100 seats) you don’t need to project. You can whisper or simply talk to the other characters. Intimate theater allows the actor an opportunity to perform camera sized while on stage. Style can be big in an intimate theater or on camera. A realistic style can be big or small. Characters can be big or small, loud or soft spoken. Actors can overpower a small theater just like they can overpower the camera. Style can determine size. Writing can demand a certain style. This concept is critical in our prep. You must understand the style of the writing or of the show in order to determine the size of performance.

Heidi…

The switch to camera pace is accomplished. I no longer sense a slowness. I can however imagine you doing this work in a scene study class and reverting to that style. Scene study engages a different aesthetic… and a different pace… that’s both understandable and justifiable given the theater training culture. Everything about a scene study class demands a certain stye. I’m remembering the moment when your line was stepped on while working on Burn This… and the scene opened up. That’s something seldom done on stage because of the theater focus on being word perfect. But in camera work you can overlap and move quickly or slowly. That is determined by the aforementioned style issue. So this looser on-camera approach threw light on a theater piece.

Casey…

These longer scenes are challenging a different prep process and performance muscles… think marathon rather than sprint. For experienced working actors like you two, this is a good challenge to integrate into our workouts. Interesting that you focused on hitting the jokes more clearly and specific moments that felt unrealized. What that says to me is that when we analyze our performance we should focus on the moments that don’t feel right. What we do well… we do well and it needs no attention.

Casey & Heidi…

Just good work. Great listening. In the audition your preps paid off. In the duet your talents paid off.
Musical analogy… In a four minute scene… lets say there are 100 beats. You guys hit 95% of them perfectly. When first watching a 3 or 4 minute scene… by the end the details/beats/moments become blurred. When we view tape most often we focus on theses details. The adjustments we do are broader strokes like being less confrontational/angry at the top… and we pursued that. When we review tape the details appear again. That’s the process here with longer scenes. They just challenge your different actor muscles in both prep and performance. Second time thru we lowered the initial conflict and softened the beginning. That adjustment would be a director’s decision… ‘Does it make them more likable? Does it make us root for their relationship?’ But tonight… Shooting these sides as scenes with a hand held camera went to another level… and it’s a good workout process. It takes the work right onto the set. We’ll look to do more of that.

Jackson…

You were thinking like an actor tonight. You were seeing both the character and the life. You moved beyond the words. Like we talked about tonight… “The words are like the footprints on the dance floor”… but the dancing ain’t happening when you’re looking down at your feet or thinking about the words. Focus on the story the character, the WHO-WHAT-WHERE not the words. The more you work, perform, prep, rehearse… the stronger your muscles will be and the easier it will be to play a scene. We do plays and screen plays. We play music, instruments, sports, even the radio. Play enhances performance. Our work is to play and you are learning how to play.

Repetition is a great teacher. Persistence over time produces growth. You’ve chosen this path but it’s not about an accomplishable goal. It’s about being an artist and constantly growing your talent. You’ll never get “there.” You are always there along this acting path. I’m glad you’re doing a commercial class now. Two classes a week should be enough to support your growth. Three would be better. Learning to act is a process. No single night or class is going to produce a breakthrough where you’ll suddenly understand everything and be a great actor. If you started now to become a potter it might take you several years to become an artist in clay. But along the way you’d likely throw some beautiful work. And as an actor even now you can do fine work… BUT over time as you pursue classes you will simply grow and become a more consistent creative artist. That’s the path you are on here. Last night’s work marked a realization in you. Congrats. And keep at it. There are many more realizations along this path.

Chris…

This was really good work. I watched tape and was rocked by how good the listening and the relationship to him were. Your talent… the ability to be in the scene… was on display. This was the best work yet. I credit better prep, good writing and it didn’t hurt to see and talk about the scene last week. But having said that… tonight was reinforcement of the fact that when two actors do the same scene their individual talents make the work entirely unique. You played a character from your YOU that was clearly different than Alex’s take on it. But here tonight, I think I just had a different take on the style. I think the writing demands a bigger style through a bigger character… more exaggerated, less socially aware, more ham-handed. I see him like a Shakespearean character… as a “Hail fellow well met.” He comes off the page as socially unaware and a bit baffoonish. Again, your work was excellent. My reservation is that I think the writing/comedy was better served by this bigger sized character.

My teacher used to say that intelligence is the hardest thing to hide. In last week’s notes I commented about your talent and intelligence and how we can see your thoughts and feelings. I just don’t think he’s a smart and sensitive as YOU. You’d have to find a way to shave off 20 points of IQ and the aura of compassion that is so prominent in your persona… to find this guy. Also last week’s notes to Alex apply here… This is a snowball scene. It’s an avalanche that starts the moment the door opens and the snowball starts barreling down the hill. 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.

From a casting POV… I’d bet they’d look at this audition and say…”Chris is a really good actor, we’ll remember him… but not right for this role.” Or they’d give you a big character adjustment. Sometimes that’s the best you can do in an office. As opposed to my “stage directions are a suggestion” approach… If the scene opens with us hearing a character weeping off stage… you better hit that note or the rest of the music that follows will be in the wrong key. I must say again though… this work was really good acting and a display of your talent. If you want to work this character again and bring in a more fully developed “hail fellow.” I think that would be a good exercise. You can think about it as a character exploration and a callback. This baffoonish guy is a stretch for you but it might be one that is good for growth.

Aaron…

The tapes are as you requested… the first shot was your take on the material and the second was how they directed you. I really don’t see how they got to the adjustment they gave you because it certainly isn’t in the writing. But tonight’s work executed their direction and as you played it got much funnier Given the looseness of their interpretation… we just pushed it further. Could it be played with you as a sex-abscessed sweet preacher’s wife(Sadistic, or nymphomaniac or prudish)… Yes ! And the prude was my favorite. Their looseness invites the actor to improvise and expand the character and the writing. It resonates with Chris’ work last week on that Bulgaria has fallen moment. They expected Chris to create this huge internal epiphany moment that would carry the audience believably through this personality change. Here they are looking for you to create a character that will propel the us through this rather vague writing. I would suggest that they don’t know what they want. In actor terms they are still exploring and hoping to find a solution in casting. But this plays into your strength. Your improv work is expanding your talent nicely and allows you to take adjustments and run with them. This is a Movie… and scripts almost all demand an ability to improvise… and your improvs were brave and hilarious. The only issue was all the space work that you wound into the scene. I think it helped tell the story and you did it well but that much space work seems our of place on camera. However when you’re in this kind of audition where they’re still exploring you should not be afraid of letting it rip. Indulge all that comedic instinct and physicality you’ve grown into from your improv work.

Brianna…

Very first acting class. Welcome. Like your early dance years… the learning curve is very step in the beginning. Everything is new… vocabulary, movement, eyeline, and of course words. Much of what you learned from the dance world will act as a foundation for the camera. We’ll talk about style, character, preparation, performance all concepts familiar to dancers. But… This class focuses on talent… The actor’s ability to be in the scene… in the circumstances, the character’s shoes. All the takes, the direction, the techniques, the commentary are all focused on allowing you to be in the scene. We could see your talent most clearly when you took the adjustment and gave her more attitude and added movement/life. You then felt more ‘in’ the scene. And we believed you more because we were empathizing with you. We feel what you feel, and see and hear everything. That’s the essence of all theater and film and performance crafts. Your talent allowed you to be in the scene. And we shared all that with you. That process is what you need to work on. Grow your talent. Make sure you read Jackson’s notes as they apply to you also. I posted all your takes so you could view them.