Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 6/25/19

Six of us… Ariane pregnant and not wanting to hear about her father. Aaron as the online personality/shrink who’s a fake friend. Brian as a professional house breaker and a gamer trying to arrange job. Kate and Casey doing a couples scene from Catastrophe.

THOUGHTS & ISSUES:

COMMENTARY…
You guys were most insightful and supportive of Brian’s audition prep. I can’t think of a process that would be more helpful than putting a scene up in class just before you audition it. And to get supportive insight from peers… extraordinary. I encourage you all to bring in material that you will be auditioning.

LINE SCANNING…
New concept (for me). I know that sometimes I’ll look ahead in my mind and see the lines on the page as I’ve memorized them. Often we’ll see actors turn their eyes upward in an effort to remember lines. I guess we’re looking into our brains to see where we’ve stored the lines. When you feel yourself doing this or see it on tape you’ll know that you don’t yet know what’s happening in that moment. That you don’t know what the life is. But most likely, you just don’t know what the character is thinking. Get the thoughts and the words will become the tool to express them. Get the thoughts and you’ll get the mind (inner life) of the character. Get the character’s mind and you’ve got the character. When you have the character the thoughts will come and the words will be useful.

Aaron…

She’s perfectly likable and at the same time a detestable character. She was a shrink, an on-liner… not a friend ? So there were multiple identities. We leaned more into the shrink side of her… because you had already nailed the On-line persona. I see those on-liners as self absorbed and ignorant of how disrespectful their behavior is. We focused on the little things like taking notes and showing her your empty iPhone schedule which pushed her more into that shrink side and simply gave you things to do. You have trained consistently and grown enormously as an actor and an artist. Your dedication to improv has grown your talent. You’ve developed prep that explores and plays and builds in flexibility. What we see now are just little moments that we discover when we collaborate/play with another actor. That nip-and-tuck procedure hopefully should exist on the set too… and your flexibility makes that set-part of the process easy. SO… You have developed an approach that explores and illuminates the path through the material and allow you to have fun in performance… excellent ! What is gleaned is that the last step of preparation process is to work collaboratively with another actor before performance. I doubt whether many, if any, actors can deliver a fully realized performance without collaboration. The somewhat rehearsed scenes that Casey/Heidi/Kate have been bringing to class demonstrate the necessity of collaboration before and during performance. If you’re interested, why don’t you invite Mary Helen to class(on me cause I know she’s struggling with money) and prepare/rehearse some work with her a couple of times over the next month and we’ll see what we learn from that.

Ariane…

Very nice work. We talked about talent… the actor’s ability to be in the scene. And movement is a big part of that. It helps to center you in your body and dampens nerves. You were right that the pauses were too long. It was great that you took them and allowed yourself to think in those moments. Here the camera is a great teacher because it allowed you to watch and self correct… shorten pauses where needed. This is part of the vocabulary of behavior that you will learn by watching everyone’s work and taking what works and making it yours. Only by seeing your own performance on tape can you learn what works and make changes in what doesn’t. You are already focusing more on your work and not your appearance. We almost never loose our self consciousness in watching tape but that fades with time and allows us to watch our work and make improvements. Like any tool you must learn how to use it. Until we see a bunch of your work over time it’s unwise to make multiple corrections and statements about your talent. Be consistent in your effort over the next few weeks and learn from both prep and performance and watching yourself and others in class. Persistence over time equals growth.

Kate (and Casey)…

Really lovely work… and you guys took the post coital adjustment with ease. Kate there was some line insecurity in a few places. I could see you line scanning(see above note)… it appeared you were seeing the lines on the page in your head as you worked. I think this is that transitional prep time when you need to focus more on the thoughts rather than the words. However you guys put this together quickly just today so some of that is expected in a scene of this length. Now the next step in prep would be to do a speed through (just repeating the dialogue as fast as you can without acting much or at all) and then focusing on the rough parts. Also helpful would be incorporating accents and improvs and playful adjustments so you repeat the story and learn the path and the thoughts. That approach will put the dialogue into your core and allow you to listen and respond rather than scanning ahead for lines. My guess is another half hour of playful collaborative prep and the dialogue would be solidly in your body and allow you to listen and instinctively respond with their lines. Repetition is an essential part of prep but playful adjustments and improv will solidly the thoughts and life and allow you be in the scene and just listen and respond. The “pace problem” have disappeared. You’ve learned to listen and respond differently. I think that is a product of getting the mind of the character… the thoughts and emotions… and that allows you to think and feel… and allow the camera in. Continue to focus on this area of your prep. When you can’t remember lines it’s because you don’t know what’s happening(what your character is thinking) in that moment.

Casey…

So here it was. That proverbial adorkable leading man. I love that as a literary image and it does seem to be a most useful character in today’s screen writing. And maybe that’s where your talent has been leading you. You are playing someone based on YOU… (here again is Stanislavsky’s MAGIC IF)… and that allows you to relax and listen and play. You are like an athlete who’s in great shape. Set-ready work comes easily for you now with just some easy rehearsal with a partner… and this issue appears in Aaron’s notes. When you’ve rehearsed with another actor you learn the thoughts and the life in the scene and you can easily make adjustments. This kind of guy has become a pocket character that you are most comfortable with. SO… I have an instinct to see you play some bad guys. I’ll send you some sides and encourage you to find some examples that interest you. I don’t know exactly what this means except that he shouldn’t be adorkable. It will be interesting to see what part of yourself that you’ll have to explore to complete the MAGIC IF when the character is an ass. I don’t see this as an exploration of the Dark Side mostly because I think bad guys should have fun doing what they do so well… like Alan Rickman in Robin Hood in Die Hard. He proved that there is such a thing as a likable bad guy… maybe this is the area that I’m imagining as a challenge to your talent.

Brian…

This was quite good work. Set-ready…. and you have the right presence and look for this guy. The character is that hard-ass first character take( that I blew the sound on! Sorry). His vocabulary tells us who he is. He breaks into houses… for a living. Even hard-asses like on-line gaming… especially first person shooters. If he were smoking a cigarette and taking a hit of a bottle(old fashion image) or a bong then we’d know him immediately… CHARACTER. Be specific. He will become a pocket character for you. You will see him again. This is just the first encounter.

Each of the following notes are pin point moments. You have the character…

  • This is mid conversation. That’s why the Well to begin… it’s a response to what the other guys just said. You can chose other first words or sounds… like So… or Then… or Just… but that word/sound indicates your thoughts. It’s story telling with one word/sound. It’s human behavior… and it’s an actor’s tool. Don’t be afraid to add things like that and… never forget to create it. This just a classic case of creating the moment before.
  • The looking out the window has to be specific. Both how you look at it and what you see. What you did on tape was fine. Make a sound/word after the boom… to express a reaction, a thought about what it might be, or to quiet him. Not reacting there does not seem natural. You don’t need a pause to tell us he’s thinking on the “screw him” line… You can think and react emotionally and vocally all at the same time. It’s just showing him how you feel about the guy. It’s one thought…
  • Your first instinct on character was right. Trust your instincts. Sharpen your skills… Develop your talent… the actor’s ability to be in the scene. I think the lesson, I’m seeing as I write this, is about adding little sounds or words. And in past classes you’ve added little thoughts and words and moments. This is just an expansion of that idea. This all falls under improvisation. Improv means creating life… with actions, sounds, thoughts, pauses, looks or WORDS EVEN. The actor’s job is to create life… improv.

This was set ready work. You first silent takes were spot on. Slip into that hard-ass mood, create his world, listen and react. Get the character’s mind… and you‘ve got the character.