Patrick’s Acting Class Notes: 1/24/17

Eight of us with Campbell auditing after a long absence… Welcome back. Michael doing two guest star roles emerging from a super hero GAS attack. Rob bitching at this brother in a strip club in a cold read of a script that they’re developing. Aaron complaining to her boy friend as he’s being hauled away on a gurney for a showcase. Danah brushing off a date-seeking zealous car salesman. Zahn working on that movie scene seeking justice and revenge as he confronts a sheriff in the doorway to his home. Ally discussing her intentions of punishing the entire male race (ouch) over tea.
Good night of intelligent actors working together to improve performances. Often it’s a pleasure for me to sit back and just listen to the collective wisdom.

Dana…

This is class. Let the bitch out… and I know that’s a sexist term. But… Stop being careful and over thinking. This is an artistic challenge that we’ve chewed on before. Your talent must be supported by confidence and determination… most especially as a woman in this male dominated culture. The pace issue might be connected to this too as a part of trying to get all the words and doing it right. But the difference in the last two well paced takes and the first one was only 15 seconds and that’s not much but it means there’s 15 seconds of pauses that you don’t need. And as to being careful… your work as a director will be defined by doing what you want and getting results that your like. Practice that assertiveness. Embrace it. Enjoy it. Of course you will make mistakes but who doesn’t. And the gift of film is that you can do it over. There is a wonderful tone and fullness in your work… now just add a patina of confidence and pace will appear.

Rob…

Started as a cold read and progressed to some nice work. The drunk is the key. Abrupt emotional and thought changes demand a motivation… usually suspects are insanity, drugs, drink, fear or lying, etc. That kind of instability is both demanding and liberating. You have to tip toe along the border between performance and being out of control. That’s why I suggested a single continuous shot approach to this kind of scene. You as the performer have to be brave enough to be out of control in a controlled way. Every pass through this kind of scene should be unique. Any planning or carefulness will be tonally obvious. I also though the transitions could have been supported by more writing. Not a lot. Maybe just a word or a phrase but that’s why you have material read. I love this process of putting up material in class and adjusting the script to the reaction. It’s just a great use of this format. I want to hear your reaction to viewing these final takes cause the writing feels close to me.

Ally…

Here too tone is an issue. I think it was Dana who said that no matter the era… people are just talking. If you apply a tone too quickly you paint yourself into a corner and limit your expressivity. So first treat any dialogue as an outline for what your thoughts are and what you want to do and say… then look to tone. It was so interesting that several people said they didn’t hear/understand your first takes until we made it more conversational. So the tone suppressed the intention and the meaning of what you were saying. It really trapped you into a narrow vocal range and pace. In even the final takes it still could have been a bit more conversational in pace and allowed even more of what they described as chuckling. Maybe a dance comparison… a technically perfect gesture in time with the music(tone) is hollow without the desire or emotion that drives the gesture. In dance most of the work goes into the gesture(tone) and emotion comes later. In acting we have to reverse that process and find the emotions and meaning of the words and then add the tone.

Aaron…

Sorry for the sound problems last time, I’ve been dealing with Apple and I hope we’ve solved the problem. Tonight…You got there. The last takes started with a real connected but slow paced emotional base and then you added the frustration on top. That’s just good process. All those damn exclamation points and capitol letters drive actors to volume and size without building the emotional foundation. It’s no different than seeing a stage direction of she’s angry and then just showing us the result/anger. Don’t do the scene… let the scene do you. Remember Michael’s yelling? Loud it was but we couldn’t understand. When we reworked your scene the real feelings came through as well as the frustration and anger. I agreed with this kind of showcase they likely have something in mind and I think this approach will give them the hysteria/anger they want but also allow us to connect to her real feelings. In that last take I saw both her anger and her pain.

Michael…

This was confusing stuff. I want to hear what happened t the call. I included here the notes I sent earlier as they are still appropriate.That Last take you did was the best. Especially the last scene you slowed it down and spoke right to her rather than yelling. In the first take with the poet you made two adjustments. You emphasized his pride in being a poet and your disdain for his joke writing. You also increased your worry about the gas. Those moves accomplished distinguishing the characters. More than that they just gave you confidence about what you were doing. In something so confusing as this… making a definitive choice is impressive. I’m guessing that they will give you some explanation before the audition. However given the little that we were able to understand definitively about the scene… I thought your execution was believable and told the story as we understood it. So go in there and do what you did last night. This piece of advice to Michael… since you’re going in so early you might be the first one they are scheduled to see. If you can comfortably go to the bathroom or just asked for a minute to prepare and let another after go first I would do that. My thought is that they themselves we’ll have to work out how they are going to audition this because it is so complicated. If that is the case you’re better going second and letting them work out the unknown on another actor. Break a leg,

Zahn…

That last take was where you want to be. I thought the commentary was very good. There were some important ideas and you seemed to absorb them. Most important was Rob’s question of why are you talking to the sheriff. Once that element was added it eliminated the mumbling because you wanted to say something to him. You wanted him to “get it.” And it allowed us to see his sense of humor and the chuckling and looking around made sense. I’ve describe that as allowing us/the camera in so we could connect to him. Otherwise he’s just a senseless mass murderer. It also set up the loss of your wife as a devastating thing. That was a powerful moment and there were some times when we could see your eyes (extra lighting next week). I think that’s what I was trying to say by using the phrase that certain sections were “raised in feeling.” I was also looking for a moment when he decided the time for talking was over and it was time for killing… but I think that came as an accumulation.. the wife, the kid, the future… rather than a specific moment. This was a long scene and there was a challenge to get all the words but I was glad you just keep pressing on because there were some great moments that could be edited together with other takes.