Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 23rd Oct 2012

Casey searching for maturity.  Chad pursuing paranoia.  Rob Looking for this grove.  Andy trying to find somewhere to spend Thanksgiving.  And Dana looking for someone to take the legal bar exam.
A night of nascent character building….  this theme wound through all the work tonight.  And it should.  Character is the foundation.  Once you know who the character is in your body…. you can be comfortable and listen and react….   This is the area of acting that’s best described as magic.  In every body’s performance we all saw takes where we could see the character…. and takes where it was muddled.  Chad found ways to contain/center his energy.  Casey shed some movement and found maturity.  Dana found her buried beneath her office demeanor. Andy found him by bringing in the emotional history of the character.  Rob found him in different ways of expressing his room temperature IQ.

What makes a great actor, director, writer?  A great musician?  A great artist?  
Talent!  

We all accept that concept.  But you must admit that is a shallow if not trite explanation.  I don’t think i’ll ever know what makes a great artist or musician because that’s not my metier.  BUT in the world of acting…… Talent as I understand it is……  “The actor’s ability to put himself in the character’s shoes.”  So we worked on your talent tonight.  We worked on how to put yourselves into the characters’ situation.  We worked on character…. and character is magic…. and talent is magic.  What a wonderful craft this is.  I suppose one could be more specific…. but somehow the glow of magic is satisfying.

What a challenging night.  Actors are always engaged in answering the Who What Where?  But Who? is always first.  Who is this character.  It answers so many scenic issues.   We can’t always answer all the questions….. but it’s fun trying to.
Thanks for a night of hard work/play.

Dana…

Yours was the most difficult challenge.  Mountains of expositional dialogue disguising what is likely a quickly growing romantic relationship.  It’s the Gilmore girls dialogue challenge.  This kind of material has to be prepped aggressively.  If you fall into the trap of immediately striving for speed of delivery by lots of repetition you loose the subtext.  We all see this kind of writing and immediately strive for speed…. because ultimately it must be delivered so.  But that approach tends to eliminate subtext and flatten out your delivery.  Rather you must aggressively use adjustments.  Go slow thru the material and build thoughts and emotions.  Like him in one take.  Hate him in another.  Be drunk in one pass, a child in another, do one pass with a physical activity, another another as if you’re waking up out of a long sleep.  You must be creative here and not just strive for speed.  Play the music of the dialogue/scene as many ways as you can…. and you’ll build a broader path thru the words/thoughts.  What do you think of “mergers and acquisitions or high end divorce?”  Have you spent way too many midnight hours working for the incompetents in high end divorce.  Did you have an “office quickie” with one or the other paralegals on a desk in a drunken late night scene of debauchery?  Find a way to enrich the words with subtext and experience and then just tell us the story.  For instance… Her first words…. “Good you’ve hit on me.”  Could easily be an unspoken thought just delivered with a look.  But that’s not the style of writing.  Here you speak the subtext.  Your character doesn’t have to spiel out her history of test taking problems… especially with this stranger…. But she decides to do so.  WHY?  The more you complicate the dialogue with thought and emotion the easier it is to remember and faster you can go because you can tell a story rather than just trying to remember dialogue.

Andy…

This scene has frustrated me.  But I think we’ve found the answer tonight.  This moment in their relationship is just another example of what must be a palpable deterioration.  They must be struggling if she’s carrying around that letter to him.  That would account for the quick 180 he does as he listens to her rant about Thanksgiving.  That seems obvious now but it took us some time to get there.  Remember when you have a “pothole”… just a moment that doesn’t work and you can’t figure out why.”…. IT’S ALMOST ALWAYS A CHARACTER ISSUE.  It’s almost always something about the character that you don’t yet understand.  Here it was the status of their relationship.  And we all know when our relationships are troubled they color almost everything in our life.  And here…. if they are struggling it brings focus.  My teacher used to say. “If you get he character’s mind you’ve got the character.”  Here we found their state of mind through the condition of their relationship and it revealed a big chunk of character.  This is a pilot and pilots are about character.  Another scene might reveal other parts of his persona…. after all you can’t reveal everything about a character in one situation/scene.  So here the revelation was how he handles this breakup…. and the other scenes(especially the spoken word performance) will reveal other aspects of his personality.  I’d love for you to do this scene again and add the spoken word scene too… I’m certain we’ll fill in a huge part of his persona in a combination of these two scenes.

Chad…

Imaginary characters !  They almost always explode onto the screen.  But we have to control and craft that explosion.  On film…. anger is a trade off between volume and intensity.  Here the tradeoff was movement vs intensity.  When you pulled him in and internalized all that movement… we could then see the character more clearly.  Reducing movement allowed us access to the character…. it allowed the camera in rather than standing off at a distance and watching him flail around the scenery.  We don’t know the nitty gritty every day nature of their previous relationship…. assuming that he’s a real character from his past.  But I’d suggest you improv and explore that reality.  If you can explore/discover/create their past it will help you define their current relationship/behavior.  I concede the point that frenetic movement helps you find that character grove… but once you find him or slip into his body…. then you have to bring him into focus by replacing some of that movement with his thought process.  You can be frenetic in movement or frenetic in thought…. for camera…. frenetic thought is better.

Rob…

Finding that comic groove !  This was process.  You did a pass…. we adjusted.  We watched tape…. you adjusted.  This was classic character building around what can only be described as a cliched character.  These characters are like a suit you have to put on…. “The Dumb Companion.”  It’s a writer’s device.  It’s a comic device.  What we did was to push the material around and try on the suit until it fit.  You are a character actor.  Some actors only play one kind of character… but you can play a range.  It’s like a musician that can play multiple instruments.  A dumb character is one instrument.  The check cashing guy was different.  Benji was different.  So just like a musician who listens to playback and adjusts his performance…. here tonight we adjusted as we saw different takes.  Maybe this is an example of working “outside in” which was “verboten” when I was a young actor….  but this is a new era and our training must adjust to the technology.  Using video as a tool allows us to approach our performance in an immediate way,  We see what works and me make adjustments.  With a mature talent like yours which is used to playback from your music experience…. using video to work “out side in” is just good process. We’re hearing tones and seeing moments and making adjustments to put you in the character’s situation.  We’re working on your talent… your ability to put yourself in the character’s shoes.  But we’re doing it using video as a tool.  It’s just good process.

Casey…

Mr Maturity.  Not unlike some of Rob’s process…… we were pushing the material around and finding the music, the physicality and YES the maturity of this guy.  It’s such a revelation to me as a coach that you’re encountering this new element.  It really is like learning a new instrument   It’s certainly a new vocabulary of behavior.  He’s…. More still.  a better listener… more empathetic.  “Damn it. Janet!”…. He’s just more mature !  I’m thrilled to see you getting comfortable with this new kind of music.  If there are more scenes just bring them in.  If not……  it’s certainly something that we should be looking to find in your workouts in the next few months. In your past work the sexuality was buried in the demands of comedy and the nerd quality of the characters you were playing. The emergence of a real sexuality in these characters is a challenge to your talent and it’s most satisfying and exciting to see your growth in this area.  Quite simply the writing we have been working on did not demand that element,  With these newer/older characters the writing demands a more assertive sexuality and that opens a whole new area of your persona that you must learn to integrate into performance.