Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 2nd April 2013

Five of us…. Jana the hard drinking soon to be horror flick victim. Katherine the military wife rousing “Amens” from the crowd. Lauren the shoe loving, man eating, but still lovable husband hunter. And Casey the fireman pulling people out of burning buildings…. arriving late to work on a rush audition.
Generalizing….Ladies, your random selections of material had much in common. These women characters were all a familiar writing device. They were chicks with “mouths on um”. They’ve got a lot to say…. and they do…. and that means lots of dialogue. Probably all from the pen of a man. As a pure writers’ device…. they can deliver a lot of exposition. As a character they can also deliver a lot of comedy. For the audience they bring us a character we all know and love…. or love to hate. And lets face it these were not the classiest dames.

It may seem uncreative to approach these kinds of characters as a type…. or a writing device…. (or perhaps more gently put) as familiar characters. But as a framing device for understanding how to approach them…. it’s important to consider how a character fits into the writing/the story. When you see a character like this…. they have given you a big frame to create in. They need and want a girl who can fill in a lot of space and energy. They want someone who can play.

Interesting that all of you came in careful. And all of you voiced your instincts that you thought your performance should have been bigger. And in your second takes you all achieved the size and voice of these girls. It was a similar process for all of you. AND there is a great lesson here. Being careful is the road to mediocrity. You have to be bold as an artist. You have to listen to your instincts.

The bottom line is that you will loose more jobs by being careful… than you will by taking chances. Nothing is more satisfying than walking away from an audition thinking, “I did what I wanted.” If you don’t listen to your instincts you will fail yourself as an artist. It’s not that you’ll be a bad actor…. but you’ll never be a really good actor…. by being careful.

Here is a link to a NY Times article. They discuss the absence of rehearsal in film and the process of learning a scene. It’s worth a read.

Some fun work tonight. It was great to see THE GALS! Strong women are wonderful.

Jana…

You trashy slut you. What a great character. You went from hair stylishly up to something out of the woods of Maine. She’s a deep dive back to your roots and her presence was grounded and earthy… you Mainiac you! You sped thru that first take a bit. I suspect that’s going to be an ongoing issue for you. I have multiple peers with years of experience who’s last mantra before “action” is always…. “Go slow.” I don’t think this is anything but a reminder to center yourself and have thoughts first and then the words. Here’s a note from a couple of weeks ago… “So the answer is to focus more on the thoughts…. allow them to create an impulse to speak before you say the line. So just slowing down is not the answer…. but rather the result of going first to the thoughts. and then to the words.” I think this is a process issue. You just need to repeat this performance challenge in our workouts so it gets easier in an office or on the set. Lets really concentrate on this first take challenge in your workouts and make sure you are centered and brave and thought centered….. and repeating the mantra… “Slow Down.” Loved the use of the water bottle. Loved the “slept with him adjustment.” There was such a palpable difference when you assumed that you had slept with him. Your physicalization of the character was spot on.

Katherine…

You found just a little bit of the hood in this woman. In military terms she was an enlisted wife not an officer’s wife. Loved your improv…. the cheering on of the crowd. That was such a natural instinct…. I can’t believe the writer didn’t write it in. And in a separate issue….. you actually heard/felt it when you repeated a line reading on your opening line. That self awareness is a great new tool. Whenever you feel that…… it’s a red flag and you must turn your creative attention to that moment. You must bring this into your preparation. So when you hear that tone you can change it. Make an adjustment. Create an impulse. Make sure you’re listening and responding. Find an impulse out of a different part of your body (that comes from my teacher Peggy Fuery). In general…. use more adjustments and less pure line repetition in your prep. Those amens from the crowd should have been a sign that you were interacting with them….. and you obviously had that instinct….. but you got careful and buried it on your first take. This is an area that you need to play in. If you confine yourself to just what is written on the page you not doing your job. You’re not bringing life to the writing. You stood up and you looked around and you followed the woman as she talked…. all those were choices that you made that added life. You just need to be a little braver and expand your vocabulary of things you feel comfortable doing.

Lauren…

Yeah this girl is a type. She’s a cliche. But it’s you playing this cliche so you should have the confidence that it will be different from the way everyone else plays it. You were physically exploring her (arm/hand movements)…. and those movements were new to you and had not yet become comfortable to you. They would have evolved as you rehearsed. I suspect that she would walk and dress differently (certainly she’s a shoe freak). She’s a character that must remind you of people you’ve met in the modeling world. AND…. She’s a classic TV/FILM character and one you’ll see in lot’s of comedic writing. So lets do her again. We’ll get you more comfortable in her skin so the next time you see her you’ll have a foundation to build on. You’ll already know who she is and you can expand upon her the same way you would in multiple scene study classes. This is a classic writers device…. It’s up to you to make her come alive. All your training shows. You’re learning a lot of new tools….very quickly. Keep at it. All these ideas that are buzzing in your head will soon be things that you do “without even thinking about it.”

Casey…

As a fireman? Yeah they’re gonna all be 6 foot 2. But that command tone is a great tool for this kind of character and one you should remember. Any cop. detective, soldier would have that command tone in their vocabulary. It’s a focusing tool…. back in the day you would’ve just “slapped the dame.” But….You could convey a believable fireman with all his equipment and confusion….. size would not be a problem…. but their more likely choice will be a physical specimen. You however showed them what an actor can do…. Mission accomplished ! Your first takes were a struggle…. rehearsing before you have the scene in your body is sure to be frustrating. Below is a comment from Alec Baldwin that reminds me of how uncomfortable you were on your first take. I think we found a path thru the material. I watched those last takes again and could see that your body was comfortable and knew where it was and what it was doing. Interesting that such a small scene needed so much work….