Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 5th Feb 2013

Wow…. BIG CLASS. Just the 12 of us…! Stephanie as the CIA agent. Aaron on a blind date. Zahn the SEXY COP….. yes I did say “Sexy”…. …. at least that’s what ALL the women said. Ashley the apprentice fairy. Will having a hard time in the hospital. Rob in the confessional. Dana packing up the office. Casey in Zombieland. Elizabeth giving a tour of the office. And Campbell as a bevy of audition nightmares.
First of all the commentary was much more focused. Thanks!…. but with that many people we still went long and your patience was appreciated. We got into a discussion about what you can do in a CD’s office. The answer is a whole lot more than you think and a whole lot more than “THEY SAY”…… I’m not advocating that you ‘moon’ the CD! BUT we are all too timid in the office and on the set. You all have way too many voices in your heads telling you that you have to be the good actor in the office and be careful and not offend the CD. That’s a load of BULLSHIT ! Think of what you see in our workouts. We stretch the boundaries…. but we never see anything that’s over the line. If you want to work as an actor….. In the words of that famous 1970’s philosopher…. “No more Mr Nice Guy.”

Being careful…. is not being creative…. it’s the opposite.

Too many thoughts. Too many notes. Lots of good work.

The take away from tonight was for me the idea of doing what you want to do in the audition room. The performance pressure of auditions is something you can work on. Our workouts are a great structure for confronting that challenge. Though simplistic… the answer is play. If you can go onto a set or a CD office and play….. “Leap and the net will appear.” You build the net in your prep. You build the net in your consistent pursuit of your craft. You build the net in our workouts. You build the net when you challenge your talent. The “net” is your ability to play.

That was a nice night of theater.

Zahn…

That was different than anything we’ve seen from you. Break through is not my favorite phrase, but….. It was like you were playing a different instrument. There was an openness and approachability that we’ve not seen. Maybe that’s why you felt nervous. You let this guy be open. That’s different than most of your characters who are usually cold and closed down and threatening. This guy was open and warm and inviting. And consequently he was a much more chilling bad guy. His presence was somehow bigger… you actually seemed physically bigger to me.

Dana…

It’s amazing what a little activity can do. And it’s amazing what you can do in an office. The purse packing just allowed you to express character. And it looked good on camera. AND it’s not too much! So what you have to focus on is playing… not being careful. I’d love to see this girl again. This is a great character. Like the Zombie we worked on privately…. this requires commitment to a character. She a girl with an attitude and a mouth…. and yet she’s loyal to him. I love that back story you built for her. I think you should bring her back and think about her as a classic character. In some ways she’s the more working class version of the paralegal that Liz was working on. These are smart, attractive, witty women that work for lawyers.

Ashley…

Welcome. It was good having you in class. You seemed most comfortable here tonight. Your talent and training are obvious. And this scene was perfect for you…. in your wheel house. Your nerves made you speed the first take, but your instinct slowed it down nicely. It was playful…. and fun to watch. I hope you’ll come back. Whether with me or another coach…. you should do some on camera workouts. The camera is a great teacher.

Campbell…

Or whoever you are at this particular moment. Best work yet on this piece. Characters were much more specific…. and they have to be in this kind of fast switching. Only the Latino and the Scott needed sharpening and we talked about some different approaches for them. You were containing your energy and focus…. good. That’s an issue you seem to be confronting. Staying relaxed and not allowing yourself to get torqued up into performance energy is a big hurdle with this kind of material. I have a question about energy…. Is their audition presence who they really are. Each of these guys is challenged by the audition arena. Who gets nervous, or calmer, or freakier?

These questions occur because they’re all going to be nervous and nervousness can tend to homogenize distinct characters because the are first and primarily motivated by fear or nervousness about the audition. .. make sure that you distinguish how they each react to it. Maybe an exercise would be to visit their last minutes in the waiting area before they enter… the room. Perhaps I’m just looking for more structure that will support distinct characters.

Aaron…

What a lovely cooky girl. This girl is close to your core. You’re allowing her a nice vocabulary of behavior. You seemed much more comfortable and relaxed. You were listening much more….. so your impulses to speak were stronger and clearer…. and they seemed less planned. Remember as you work on material you’re building in flexibility too. Don’t try to repeat what you’ve done in rehearsal. You must just listen and respond…. impulse. Listening creates impulse. Perhaps this is just a “guy thing” but you were not only more open and approachable but…. ‘Dare I say it?’… you were prettier. Being relaxed and present will do that….. it just lets the camera in and allows us to see you. You saw this scene clearly and you executed it well. Let’s look for more of this kind of close to your core material and see challenges you can find. Within close to your core writing… you will still find lots of different characters. Your approach is based on the question… “What would I be like in that situation? My teacher used to say… “Focus on the things that are different. The things that are the same take care of themselves.” Bring in some more of this kind of material. It’s modern writing.

Liz…

Confidence seemed to be the fulcrum here. Both as a performer and as this character. The psychological gesture of that “look that can kill” is the center of her character. This idea of a gesture being the core of a character is a Michael Chekov tool…. and maybe reading that would be inspiring. It’s a bit old school…. but a physical/psychological gesture can be the key to a character. However the “sexual”…. and by that I mean anything having to do with attraction between characters…. side is liable to be an ongoing battle between these two. As we worked on the “look” we moved away from that connection. So the process is to lean heavily on the sex in one run thru and then heavily on the tough look element of her persona. And then try combining them both. I think you’ll find that the same moxey that supports that look….. would be a large part of her sexuality also.

You seemed less confident in your work this week which I think made that look more difficult to accomplish. Lets move on from her and see if you can find similar character challenges in some other material. She is definitely a character that you can and should play and as we work on other material we’ll continue to build the muscles that will make her more accessible.

Rob…

Looking for that grove. Your first takes were riddled with guilt and insecurity…. and that created character. I pushed you to do one less guilty…. and probably didn’t help. Your last take you were in more of performance mode. Not exactly showing but there was some effort that we could see. I would expect that your next take would drop down into the life/character a bit more. This was early process and we were exploring. It felt like the character had not yet locked in. This is one of those characters that is perfect for you. That’s why you chose it rather than the priest. But even when it’s in your wheelhouse you must be specific. This click is something that we’ve discovered as you worked on other characters. It’s just your talent’s path as you work on material.

We were looking for that click… Your talent seems to be comfortable pulling character out of writing on piece by piece basis… each new audition you create a new character. They seem to emerge from that pool of geekdom and become specific as you work on a piece. The other choice is to create several specific geeks and apply them to the material. Both will work and produce respectable character work. Just be aware(and I think you are!) that as you work on this kind of material your effort is to define character more and more specifically. But some of that was really funny.

Casey…

You’re ready. Just go in there and play. Loved the opening moment with the book, the slow rise into Bubby and Pew Paw, the backing away. All those are specific moments and in different takes you’ll find others. But the key here is to play. As you play you’ll make other discoveries. You are just where you need to be. Go in there and play and have fun and they will too.

Stephanie…

Strength can be effortless. Just as we saw with Zahn… presence can be strength. This girl walks and talks and exudes a CIA presence/strength/power. This is a huge character lift for you. Power is always a challenge for actors who get to experience so little of it in their lives. With each take we could see your strength and presence increasing and that is to be expected. We’re practicing. We’re rehearsing…. and accomplishing more with each run thru. You had trouble eliminating the hand shake because you are repeating that gesture every time you do a run thru…. and you’re were doing an arm shrug every time you say, “cream sugar coffee….” Be careful with attaching gestures(hand shake/arm shrug) to specific lines. As you prep be sure to explore and not try and repeat the rehearsal experience.

Remember that when you flub a line not to deflate…. A great audition displays character and life. A great audition does not have to be perfect. A great audition displays your talent and your professional presence. It let’s us experience your confidence and gives us a window into how you’ll behave on set. Start practicing this now. Be confident. Do what you want to do as an artist. “Leap and the net will appear.”

Will…

Watching someone beg for their life can be fun. Just ask George Bush or the CIA… or anyone who’s seen Zero Dark Thirty. This is a despicable guy. We have to love seeing him tortured. This is your first trip to the dark side. Good! Great ! More of this. We’ll beat that nice guy out of you yet. The obligation to achieve a believable panic is almost irresistible to us as actors in this kind of scene…. and you nicely, believably met that emotional challenge. Here tonight….. What we were looking for was specific impulses. You found it by looking at the IV and reacting to the cops as their questions forced you to reveal more and more….. Until you had completely cooked your own goose. Humor from torture.

This is a classic example of not doing the scene but “letting the scene do you.” The scenic events certainly exploded you from “cocky to crazy with fear” but there were beats along that crescendo of panic that you could have made good use of. Once panic starts it’s almost impossible to listen. This too was a character challenge. It’s not just that material is emotional…. but every character express emotion differently. That’s what we’ll be looking for as we explore this darker side. Let’s find some more material that explores these darker characters and see where it leads you.