Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 30th Oct 2012

First the prep class.

Just Gaby and Susy and I.  Good workout.  I think you both saw anew the importance of story.  

When you know the story… the life in the scene….. then you know where you are and what you’re doing and your body knows what to do…… and what to feel.  So we played with some games/exercise/adjustments…….. and as we played we learned the story and the life…… and the lines.  

Once you know the story, the character, the life…. you can play.  Our work/play(the process of learning a script) should be to explore/learn the scene quickly so we play.   And when you can play you can perform.  If all you do is memorize your lines….. you are building a rut. You get stuck in the musical rhythm that you repeat over and over as you jamb lines into your short term memory.  If you picture yourself about to go to bed in “footy pajamas without flossing and wearing a mouthguard” then you can say those lines with some thought.  If all you do is memorize those lines it will have no resonance.  Our preparation should be to build flexibility and thought.  

Remember we did a subtext run thru. Exercises like that are essential to building flexibility into your prep instead of the narrow path of repetition.

Then… Casey doing a very out there odd character.  Gaby as the sexy werewolf.  Chad as the imaginary sergeant .  Andy doing “spoken word.”   Tyler winning his girl back.  Will the cocky kid.


It seems all the work tonight centered around character…. as it did last week.  Character is used two ways.  You can introduce a character who’s fully formed and the audience will recognize her/him instantly.  These characters are often cliches and we see them in guest star and co-star rolls on TV and in small parts in films.  Or you can introduce a character and reveal the character through a series of scenes.  But even here you must know who this character is and bring him/her to the set almost fully formed and let us watch them change and grow thru the piece.  We’re always seeking to answer the Who What Where?

Character is always first.

This is the article about building character by Daniel Day Lewis…..Abe Lincoln as You’ve Never Heard Him!


NOT A CAN OF CORN !  Great challenge for you.  I wonder what made you choose this material?  It was as though this was a new instrument you had discovered and you were learning how to play it.  The instrument was the energy, the voice, the physicality and most important the thoughts.  “if you get he character’s mind…. you’ve got the character.”  Something served as the key to this guy and that allowed you to drop back into him as we did more and more takes.  I’ve included a link to an article from the NY Times where Daniel Day Lewis talks about character… most eloquently.  Your first take was so twisted…. but monotone.  Your second was straighter and beginning to play.  Your third and fourth were explorations and if you had another hour on set or a day…. or a week till a callback…. it would grow and change and deepen,   But at any place along the process you might have to perform.  Artists have to be able to play in performance.  One of your gifts as an actor is your ability to get to play so quickly so that even early in process you’re playing.  That play brings a joy and openness to your persona that allows us/the camera in.  Play is essential.


Just watching tonight but your observation and comments were most appropriate.  Your training has given you a good foundation for approaching the world of TV and Film writing.   Much of the emotional training at Strasberg will  be useful to you in front of a camera and as you work on scripts.  This is a transitional time for you and the more you get up in front of a camera the quicker you will learn.  If you want to work on camera…. you have to train on camera.  This ain’t Chekov.


Solidifying character…. This is a question of stamina.  Learning to find a way to drop into character and stay “in there.”  Which implies effort…… but I’d rather think about it like slipping into a coat.  Once you’re “in there”…. it’s effortless.  But you have to spend time in character in order to build the vocabulary of thoughts and emotions and behaviors that when woven together make the coat, the cloak, the image of a different character.  Your frustration was not having established a trigger…. something that clicks, leads, drops you into that character.   It seems you found it in the Southern accent.  It can be a voice, a stance, a posture, the way you hold your hands, a pair of shoes or piece of clothing.  Some single thing that is the door to this guy.  Like we said…. it can even be exaggerated movement and talking to yourself…. and then pulling back in for the camera.  Whatever works.  Beware of frustration.  On the one hand as a coach it signals me that you care.  On the other hand it can get in the way of your work.  When you should be exploring…. you end up with frustration…. which just gets in the way of discovery.


Sexuality.  Is it putting something out?  Or is it allowing us/the camera in?  Turning on a motor?  Or maybe just allowing yourself to be turned on by something or someone.  There’s that old cliche about movies that didn’t work… “the stars had no chemistry.”   This is one place where reality is required.  You can’t fake your sexuality.  It’s either on or off.  There’s chemistry or not.  For recent characters you’ve worked on… sometimes it’s an essential element and sometimes not.  The cub reporter… not.  But the paralegal and this bar maid…. definitely.  You’re a young attractive woman…. most of the time your characters will be more well rounded if you weave a sexual presence into your characters.  You took the adjustment to add a sexual presence quite well and it began to be fun for you and allowed you to play.  This is not an element that comes naturally to you…. and for most actors it requires an effort.  But seeing this appear in your recent work has been a revelation.  These last characters seemed to have a bigger presence and an openness that made them seem both more attractive and even smarter.  I don’t know that I can justify or explain this more expansive quality….. but I want to see more of it.


So generations of actors will thank you for solving this scene.  We meet him in the last argument of a deteriorating relationship.  She’s likely right in leaving him cause this appears to be predictable “man who can’t commit” situation.  That doesn’t mean he doesn’t care…. and the spoken word images are a brilliant way to see his angst.  He fights it with sarcasm but he can’t hide the pain.  Your listening was outstanding, funny and effortless.  Your last takes felt like you over committed to the idea that he was angry/hurt about the breakup so that in their discussion there was no sense of humor or what we called sarcasm. There was no written stage directions of “He’s angry.”…… but there might as well have been.   It seemed to push you back into a sullen corner and produced a monotone of hurt/anger.  Just remember in your prep if he’s sad…… play the opposite adjustments.  Find his sense of humor.  You yourself have a very fluid almost ever present sense of humor.  I think you need some of that here.  In general it’s a great element to weave into your characters.  Your first take on the spoken word was certainly your best and very funny…. a likely “print” on a set.    I have the feeling that sometimes in a second take your driving commitment is that “you won’t do the same thing again” and therefore you strike out in a totally different direction and it sometimes throws “the baby out with the bath water.”  When we’re early in prep and playing with adjustments those big swings are necessary.  As you refine your approach smaller adjustments around the central core of your creation become more appropriate,  Be sure you’re hearing what a director is asking before you throw out the baby.


Cocky.  Interesting that cocky in douche bags is different than this kind of youthful privileged cocky.  The scene with Dad was more of a revelation than the scene with her.  He learned cocky with his parents and likely practices it continuously and then he takes it out into the world.  I want to address your walk.  Impulse should make you walk.  You move into the room because you want something……. you’re going to something.  You must have the thought first…. then move to fulfill the desire. Back peddling into the room was good because it allowed you to stay connected to the escape from the crime….. so it was motivated.  We’ve touched  on this issue before… make sure you’re creating the impulse to move rather than just deciding where and when to move.  You shouldn’t plan to walk across the room….. like this….. at this time.  But you should plan to create the impulse to move toward her for any number or reasons.  One creates the reason to cross with no plan on how to do it.  The other says “i will cross to her on this line and do it like this.”  One is a result the other is a reason to move.  It’s easy to say this….  But to do this you have to challenge yourself to work without a net.  You will have to play.  “Leap….. and the net will appear.”   Great performance can only occur when you play and when you play you don’t know the outcome.  After all our prepping you have to play….. not plan.


Welcome back form the wilds of Minnesota.  No wonder you like Ron Paul.  This was a classic case of underprepared.  Not a big deal though.  We all have a life and sometimes it gets in the way.  What seemed to be missing was a car salesman core.  Those guys are relentless.  They’re salesmen and they can’t take “No”  for an answer.  Something made you choose to be so serious and closed off… almost angry.  Gaby was right when she said you really didn’t seem sorry in the first take.  This is a pilot and pilots are about character.  He’s the lead and he must be likable.  If he doesn’t really care about her then we won’t care about him. As to SCRIPT-IN-HAND…..When you work off script and you’re not prepared it makes it so difficult and frustrating cause you know what you want to do but you can’t execute it.  Which is why I suggest that it’s a great skill to be able to work with the script in hand…. cause there will be those times when you’ll need to have it in hand.  If you have time to memorize….. great.  If you don’t…… you need that script in hand skill.  Your first takes have been consistently pushed of late.  It’s a form of showing.  Maybe it relates to athletics in that frequently players are so jacked up that they over exert early in a contest.  Maybe something like that is creating a push in your early takes.