Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 18th Sept 2012

Amie the silent auditor.  Jim as the football scout.  Zahn the charming killer.  Casey an LA newbie insisting on a night on the town.  Andy the killer boat builder.  Cean the NPR radio personality. Chad the drugged and “damaged” night club owner. Gaby cold reading the cub reporter. And Dana pregnant and dragging her mom out of the grave.
When we have this many scenes….. the vastness of modern life and culture reveals itself.  Shakespeare’s world was limited to the wars between kings and queens and comedies of spirits and identity.  We have sports and internet and night clubs and radio and the whole spread of modern life and characters.  And don’t kid yourself…. if Shakespeare were alive he’d be writing for Aaron Sorkin and collecting Emmys.

What connected last night’s work was presence.  Where was your character and what was he doing in the scene.   It’s a mantra….. “if you know here you are and what you’re doing….. your body knows how to act.”  Of course that doesn’t mean you have to pantomime every action…. but what it does mean is that you have to allow your body to be in the scene.  My favorite definition of talent is “the ability to be in the character’s situation.”  So what we’re working on in class is your talent…. not just how to audition….  We’re trying to develop a vocabulary of things you can do that will lead your body to believe it is in the character’s situation.  It’s the old WHO WHAT WHERE ? Who are they.  What are they doing.  Where are they.  Perhaps it’s a form of self hypnotism.  With Chad it was what drug is he on.  With Zahn it was how much charm he engaged.  In each case we were searching for a key…. a moment …. a tone that would connect you to the life in the scene. Put you to the character’s situation.  Engage your talent.  Everyone present last night has talent.  We were working on a process of how to focus your talent and allowing it to play in the scene.

Picking up Dana’s classical music commentary… here we are inviting you to compose.  We exploring the tools and the elements you can use to focus your creativity.

Remember we’re working on your talent… the ability to be in the character’s situation.

I think it’s important that you not think about our workouts as audition training.  We’re engaging the whole On Camera TV and Film acting process from the moment you get a script until performance.  Everything you do in preparing for an audition is what you’ll do to prepare for the set.  Your preparation and performance in our workouts challenge you to be creative and exercise your talent.

That was fun night.  The commentary was supportive and focused and added much to our thinking.

Zahn…

Yes the “You got yourself caught” dialogue works well as a moment to switch in tone from light to dark but….. as you work on it …. be sure to try other specific moments to switch away from his charm.  You can reveal his darker side in any moment… and theoretically it should change from take to take as you play with your partner.  I’d guess that on set one specific line would recur as the target for that change.  BUT it’s a better process of discovery to find that moment through exploration rather than deciding on it intellectually.   I was unclear about his charm…. He’s charming.  Not in a slick car sales man way but a working class charm.  He runs a body shop and has all the skills of that kind of working class guy.  But he’s a” flim flam man”….and he is a thug on the side.  His charm is a tool.  His dark side is the tip of the ice berg of his soul. Ringer used only the dark side.  Here there’s more to play with.  You need never worry about that dark threatening energy…. your talent takes care of that.  You challenge is to find various melodies or tones or thoughts or feelings that add too or dress up that darkness,  It’s just a nudge to get you to keep developing characters that can play this mellifluous side of evil.  Hiding his dark side and allowing us to discover it as the story progresses is more fun for us as an audience.  this was good process… you were small and under it then bigger and all over it.  I suspect as you work on it…. it will settle into the higher end.  It entices the audience into the scene as the character evolves.  Maybe it just gives him an arch.  But it sure is more fun.

Casey…

Very nice.  You nailed it.  Pace… or maybe it was energy…… was so interesting when you leaned on it in that last take…. it muddied the waters.  And in some writing moments (where you need cacophony) it would be the right reaction and tone .  But here it muddled because this was his story(his solo) and it was better story telling to hear his voice…. a more leading man moment perhaps.  Though he’s clearly a sit com character we’re demanding a leading man tone here because he’s the alpha male in this pilot and we needed a statement of purpose when first meeting him.  Remember pilots are about character.  If we let it get too fast, too energized, perhaps a little frantic or angry if probably reflects badly on this kid and makes him a little less likable.  It’s really a nice character scene and reveals both his history and where he wants to go in the future…. good writing actually. This character is a great tool… one you can use in a lot of writing.  Of course you can do variations on him.  i see him as an instrument.  he’s a saxophone, a trumpet, a guitar which you can whip out of your bag and wail away.  I love it when an actor just brings this kind of writing into focus around an original character.  Equally important is……he’s one that writers can write for.  TV and Film writing is a collaboration between writers and actors.  Here you are doing your part by creating a character that we all know and like and want to see more of.   He allows us to see and think and feel things….. and makes us laugh.  “Intelligence is the ultimate aphrodisiac and humor is the largest erogenous zone.”  This character allows us to experience a lot thru his openness and likability.  And he’s funny.

Dana…

Liberate the id.  You cannot be still.  You must develop a vocabulary of movement/story telling that works in this arena…. for two acting reasons.  The first is what makes your body feel right.  And the other is how it tells story.  First the body and then the vocabulary.   You must push your comfort level from which you can tell stories.  That’s the only way to make characters come alive.  I’m sure you know what works in the scene study arena… what physically works and looks good.  You have learned that vocabulary.  Luckily…. much of that style and the specific acting tools that work in scene study also work for the camera.  BUT… Actors dull their talents by try to be the “good’ actor.  Fuck it.  Do what you want.  You’re an artist.  We want…. no we demand that you push the boundaries and explore the realms of behavior that we regular people can not experience.  Otherwise everything on TV would be “Little House on the Prairie.”  That applies to your life in the scene and in your presence in an office or on the set.  Don’t fall prey to the actors’ urban myth that you must be nice.  You are an artist!  What you do, your work, your take on a character or a scene is much more important that being nice in a casting office.  SO…. Stop being nice and start doing what you want to do when you perform.  You even said you had the instinct to move…. and you decided not to.  You “out niced” yourself away from you talent and your instincts.  Don’t do that.  Listen to your instincts and your impulses.  “You’ve talent only whispers,” and you must learn to listen to it beneath all the cultural clutter of being nice.  In your time away you have grown much as an actor.  You’ve developed depth and resonance.  It’s as though you’ve studied and played classical music and symphonic expression for the last few years.  Your talent has expanded and deepened and has richer tones and colors.  But his is ROCK AND ROLL, Baby!  You got to let it rip.  Careful is almost always the wrong choice for an artist.  Just that little moment of putting baked goods into the display case was such a nice behavior and great use of the space and the one tool that’s almost always there…. a chair.  Your challenge now is to learn to act in this new arena… without the scene study tools of rehearsal and props and costume and the luxury of time.  Welcome back.

Jim…

It’s just practice.  The process of preparing and performing in this arena is a skill that you can learn.  Nerves are an issue for every actor.  But through repetition and muscle memory you can reduce or eliminate them.  Your challenge is to find a process that starts with the way you memorize and ends with a performance.  And repeat.  We all agree that guest star 4 or 5 line parts are difficult.  But if we put your body through this process repeatedly it will desensitize your nerves and focus your talent so that performance can become play.  It’s important that you approach this as a performance arena.  You’re just preparing and performing…. but performance is play.  Music is played.  Sports are played.  Theater is made up of plays.  Movies and TV are screenplays.  One almost never completely eliminates nerves.  But it’s important that you not look at this NOT as a problem…. but rather an issue….. one of many… that you’re working on.  We’ll focus on learning to be comfortable playing,  We’ll look to replace nerves with play.

Gaby…

Cold reads…. hate’em.   You were just too early in your preparation to feel comfortable and be able to play.  I’m so glad you reiterated that you were basically cold reading because it made sense of the things we were seeing.  Character was beginning to emerge.  The relationship to the other guy was coming into focus.  I think it important to emphasize her ‘latin persona”.  That quality will allow her to clash with the douche bag very American writer…. loved the double pronunciation of Juarez.  I’d even try her with a latin/Mexican accent as an adjustment.  this looks to be a classic “odd couple” pairing.  So no matter what the specific situation they find themselves in they always have comedy and conflict across the cultural divide between them.  This would be a nice character/tool for you.  It’s a combination or innocence and determination.  And she’s sexy and funny and smart and attractive and all those qualities you bring to a role.  I find cold readings frustrating.  The more you bring to a scene the deeper into character we can go.  i think you should do her again so you can get more comfortable and playful in here shoes.

Andy…

Accents….. they’re just like just a muscle.  You have to exercise them to get them to grow.  You’re working to develop your own vocal muscle memory.  Just like you learn to play music.  Once you practice enough to get comfortable and can improvise…. You’ll be playing with your vocal mechanism just like you would with any instrument.  It’s a real challenge.  A six month plan.  An hour a day in the car.  And to strangers.  Love the “watch the cleat” comment.  Loved the rubbing of the graffiti. Loved the looking around though it could have been more specific.  Walk and talks are easy when you do them on set.  in an audition we’re trying to develop specific movement that reminds our bodies that they’re simply walking.  The more you were specific about what you were seeing and what you were walking toward…. the more believable it was and the more comfortable you were.  I can feel your frustration here and it is not an easy task.  But you are a musician and the verbal exercise you need is nothing more than a question of commitment.  You need this, Andrew.  It’s an indispensable tool if you’re going to have a career here.  I’m not about growing you talent.   You’ve obviously learned and incorporated much into your already abundant talent.  I simply want you to have this tool so there are more opportunities.

Cean…

Nice work.  You had a vision of this guy and the scene and you came in and executed it.  I think we were trying to introduce a little more play into your performance.  I noticed the miming and physical life was almost exactly the same from take to take.  Film may require you to match movements from take to take but this is too early to lock in.  However…. you took direction quite well and made the adjustments and changes we asked of you….. good process.  Your talent and training are obvious and without hesitation I’d say this style of workout would be a good challenge to your talent.  Don’t look at this as learning worried to audition.  Rather it’s a process of engaging your talent with various styles of writing and performing.  No one class can teach you everything….. but learning to prepare and perform on a regular basis would be a great way to grow your talent at this time.  I do hope you’ll come work out with us.  Let me know what you’re thinking.

Chad…

Good process.  Character developed along the Goldilocks approach.  Too big, too small. just right.  That last take the character was spot on.  This character development can also be pegged as a process of just finding the right drug to define his persona.  Speed… too jittery. Downers/marijuana …. too slow.  Booze and left over psychedelics…. just right.  When you take adjustments on set or in the office from someone….. don’t just throw the baby out with the bath water, But here in preparation process those huge adjustment can shed light on character and allow you to find different tones.  I noticed you were real loose on script.  As you solidify your script connection It should become more character specific because his thought sequence and his intentions will become clearer.  You’ll just know him better and you’ll find different impulses to express his spacey character.and the searching for words and lines and ideas that feeds into his spacryness.  As you work/learn the script…… this character will become much more specific and defined.  He’s a good tool for you also.  i think you should do him again because it’s likely you will see this kind of character in your career.  Your talent has quite a strong comedic instinct.  You’re just funny when you do these roles.  You should not disparage that part of your talent.  It’s important and fun and you do it well. It’s part of your gift though it seems you value drama more.