Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 11th Sept 2012

“It’s so nice to have a woman around the house.”
No offense guys.

Ariana as the erstwhile ever so innocent soap chef.  Casey and Ari as the guy (read “dick”) who get his comeuppance.  Chad the busy Assistant Director pulling wooden hangers out of his ass.   Tyler as the Jock we all love to hate (I’m having 8th grade flashbacks). And Andy as the American accented funeral director who’s having too much fun on the job.  
Writing for Film and TV provides such a variety of characters and situations… from a club late at night. to a break room, to a production trailer, to a funeral parlor, to a house in the middle of nowhere…..  and it’s a creative challenge for you to find a way for your body to be in those specific circumstances.What a fun night!   We explored.   We worked on character and style,   There were cliches (horror, soap, gay, comedy, metro) that led us to more specific choices.  Sometimes we can use strong character choice almost as an adjustment.  Sometimes we use the broad stroke of “character” as a blunt instrument to carve out more specific choices.  What is important is that each of you would and should play the same cliche differently.   So even if you approach a cliched character or a style that is as definitive as soap opera….. The results would all be different.  We used the cliched gay character to explore a couple of the scenes. It’s just another tool.

In the entertainment part of our culture we pay a lot of money to watch people play…. the olympics, all sports, music… are all play.  It is a magic ingredient.   It makes good work possible and great work look easy.

Great commentary tonight.  Supportive. informative, insightful.  And you guys are learning to stay open and listen and adjust to feedback. This is a great element for you to have on a set or in a rehearsal.  Ours is a collaborative craft…. and listening is half the battle.

Thanks for a fun night of theater.

Arianna…

There was a girl tonight ! And what a girl.  And she nailed the cliched maleness of that Jake character.  Cliches….  funny how style can be a cliche.  I guess I’d describe the soap style as careful…. almost holding still so all those lonely people can peer at your soul through your beautiful shiny face turned ever so slightly upward.  But I think sincerity and innocence won the day.  I thought the comment that the acting in the first take was almost “too good”  was interesting.  Perhaps the progression was from being in awe…..  to “Aw shucks, you’re so nice,”  To “Ahhhh. I’d love to go home with you.”  But clearly the guys were moved by her innocence.  When you add a little fishing to that it rounds out the character in a more active way.  Manipulating the guy was too much, but fishing gave her something to do.  We’ll see what they come up with for your workshop but this was a typical “talk about your relationship” soap scene…. a little innocence, a little fishing, a little lust and you have a soap scene.  “I can;t wait to see what happens tomorrow.”

Ari…

Welcome …. Yeah you hit the nail on the head… It’s just a matter of getting in shape.  Your muscle memory of performing in this arena will return…… and grow anew.   As in improv…. PLAY is an essential element.  And in class you’ll engage the muscle memory of how to play on stage…. and use that memory in our workouts, and then in auditions, and then on the set.  Easy.  Really you’ll just be learning to improv within this structure in a casting office or on the set.  And that was so obvious as you got looser and more playful in your takes. The challenge was bringing your body into the scene with movement, and interacting with the environment….. and what you were seeing and of course what you were feeling .  A body holding still because an actor thinks that is correct audition behavior communicates that to the room and the camera.  Even if you chose to stand or sit without moving your body…. you still must have a feeling for where it is in the scene and what it is doing.   Only when you’re immersed in the circumstances of the scene does your body communicate to us.  I’m sending you an article from the LA  Times about unconscious communication.  The gist of the article was about “subconscious environmental cues like a physician’s subtle body language.” So your body must have the feeling of where you are and what you’re doing to connect us to the scene.

Chad…

Metro then homo…..  cliches.  You’ll know in the process of the call back if it’s right to show them your gay character.  Trust your sense of play.  You made bold choices tonight!.  You had too because it was a comedy.  But every time you choose boldly it has worked.  And in the original audition that sense of not caring and just throwing the shit against the wall allowed you to relax and play.  And that’s what we saw tonight.  You were playing.  You weren’t being careful and compressing your talent.  Remember he’s an AD and that sense of power that they have allows them to play…. perhaps be a bit inappropriate….. but he probably kisses the directors ass.  You have a brave comedic instinct and it’s great to see you bring that talent to this kind of material.  You think of yourself as a more dramatic actor but you can have confidence that your comic chops are there too.

Casey..

Your effort was to find that emotional maelstrom.   Out of that came that last lovely take.  I’d guess as long as you find that emotional note…. as long as you throw yourself into that void….  it will play differently every take.  So in multiple takes you just run up to the edge of the cliff and…. ‘Leap and the net will appear.”  If not….. there’s always another take.  I realize this is magical thinking but our craft is best when it’s magic.  An emotional hurdle like this is a little piece of jazz that every actor would play a little differently each time.  I love when two actors attack the same scene because we get to see the difference that individual talent brings to a take.  What I see developing in your talent with the tears that welled up last week and the anxiety of that bank robber and the tonight’s vulnerability….. is the emergence of you emotional sensitivity.   It’s about fucking time, “Casey You Dick.”  Your talent is maturing and allowing those elements to emerge into your performance vocabulary.  It’s confidence.  It’s an ease.  It’s a growth in your presence.  It’s risky throwing yourself into the whirlwind of emotions…. but when it works it’s magic.

Tyler…

Don’t plan how you are going to move or how you will say a line.  Focus on how you listen….. and respond to the circumstances.  Once you were reacting to the lights flickering it was all easy.  You were thinking and responding out of your thoughts and feelings…. the feelings were as simple as WTF…. but they were real because you were reacting to the scene.  Once your body knew what was happening you knew how to act.  He’s definitely a sarcastic jock…. and you know these guys.  Here the cliched horror style of this character was apparent.  You have to create a character that makes us want to say “Die.  Die.  Die.  You smart aleck jock.”  You have to hit that tone for the writing to work and your talent allows you to do this well.  It’s a style.  Remember on film it’s intensity not volume.

Andy…

You should never try to do the same thing twice.  But you can.  Just recreate the impulse and your talent will react.  It can even be a little different each time…  cause I loved the “vibrate” ad lib.  It’s the classic actors’ challenge… how to make it fresh each time. But the mantra is repeat the impulse not the result.  We found some interesting stuff about accent.  For your prep routine… first in your native accent so you find the internal linguistic/emotional connections of your culture.  Then the american accent on top of that.  And going fast feels right… but speed produces stumbles and mumbles.  So never go faster than what is comfortable.  In some ways Casey is right…. you can’t be thinking about accent you just have to speak and trust your ear for language…. which is luckily quite good. Just as exercise you should speak Gringo in your every day interaction with strangers… It will eliminate any fear of sounding “right” and just let you talk.