Friday, October 30, 2009

ON ACTING: From a Former Student

From A. V.:

"I doubt you remember me as your student. It's been a few years now. You've had tons of students since I studied with you in SF. I've been in LA for three years now and I am doing okay. I work still on what you taught me. Make it simple and make it truthful and keep yourself open for discovery.
Thanks man."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

ON ACTING: Working for A Bad Director

A student asked me one time how to solve the problem of working for a director, who, in the audition process, was asking her for fake acting. The director was from the representational school of acting. How should she handle the director’s requests when all her inclinations and training are aimed toward emotional truth is performance? I said: “Don’t work for that director.” The actor stared at me. I stared back; then said: “Would you sign on as a member of the crew where the captain thinks the world is flat? She’ll lead you off the edge of the world.”

Creating a fake performance to please a misguided director is dangerous to long term acting health. No matter how much money a misguided director is willing to pay you, no matter how badly you need the job--for money or even for ego-boosting reasons-- working for a bad director is like accepting a lousy date to get a free meal: even if the meal tastes good at first, you eventually wind up with long-term indigestion.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

ON ACTING: Transitioning from Theater to Film Acting

As an encouragement to theatre actors to drop any obligation for projection in film acting when entering film acting's more private world of behavior, the transitioned theater actor might do well to remember that on a film set there are sixty people worried about making sure the actor is seen and heard, but only one person…and one person only...the actor him/herself who is ultimately responsible for creating the good and honest acting performance; making sure the dialogue and movement to be seen and heard by the audience is worth seing and hearing; it is real, truthful acting.

The good news in film acting is that whatever truth the actor creates, whatever the size or subtlety of performance, the camera and microphone, the director and those sixty workers can and will pick it up and enhance it. No need to worry about projection.

The bad news is: any and all false acting will be also picked up also by the sixty people sending the performance to the more proximate film audience. “The camera never lies”; unfortunately some theater-transitioning actors do. They must remember, when transitioning to film, that film is rigorously revealing. Stage actors are advised to adopt the following mantra: "Lie over the phone (from the safe distance of the stage) if need be. However, in film always tell the truth. The film audience is right in your face."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

ON ACTING: "Sometimes You Have to be Cruel to be Kind"

There was a new student in class who had just finished a “camera technique” class at another institution. We were about to tape her first scene in my class.

She was glowing with new found knowledge and spoke of her "responsibility to the director and viewing audience", asking me where I was going to set up the camera in order to film the scene.

She fumed and fretted about camera placement throughput the rehearsal classes.

She was particularly unhappy with how we were filming her; said she had just discovered from camera class her left side was her best side; that the audience would get more of the power of her performance from that side.

Finally, on the day of shooting, I told her I wanted to face away from camera.

She was shocked. She said no one would see her; the camera would only see the back of her head. Afetr a long silent moment, I replied: “With the fake, unreal performance you’ve been giving, the audience will be grateful.”

Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

ON ACTING: A Repeat on Reactions

In everyday life, the exact moment a feeling occurs is not a static, predictable thing; ad good actors must respond accordingly.

German linguistic and cultural patience aside (Germans must stand and wait until the last word of a sentence to hear the verb; when I read German, that often meant I had to wait until the end of the sentence to understand the full textual meaning), next time you have a conversation with someone, be aware at what point what they are saying has emotional meaning to you; that is, when the sentence/dialogue becomes logically/emotionally impacting on you. You will find these moments very greatly from sentence to sentence. (Sometimes, in fact, you may even find your inner reaction occurs even before they begin speaking: ‘we know what they are going to say from the look on their face'; and that's when our emotional reaction to them begins).

As in everyday life, the good actor responds according to the pattern of everyday life; which means they must be truly looking, listening, touching, smelling and tasting during a scene in order to be honestly and spontaneously feeling.

Friday, October 16, 2009

ON ACTING: Creating "Moment to Moment"

Only bad actors want long scenes. Good, real-life actor's-as-characters want short scenes; quick victories. The honest actor-as-character moves through a scene to achieve her objectives with her first line; she only moves to the second line because the first line failed; and she only moves to the third line because the second line failed. Throughout the scene, no matter what the length, the good actor's attitude is “All right; one more line…but I’m sure that one will succeed.” When that doesn’t succeed, the character thinks: “I'll only have to try one more line,” etc. The actor-as-character naive optimism creates the necessary and valid "moment by moment" quality of an honest actor's performance.

ON ACTING: From John Wooden

"Failure is not fatal but failure to change might be."

"A coach is someone who can give correction without casing resentment."

ON ACTING: From Aristotle

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

ON ACTING: The Character's Past

An actor who ‘plays’ his characters as if having continual profound insights into the past, always and invariably understanding it , and even worse, all too willing to feel and reveal its emotional effect on his present conflict(s) is giving a starkly dishonest performance.

It must be remembered that a character speaks about the past only because she has to speak about the past. In real life, we think about the past only because the present lacks fulfillment. The past is re-visited only because the present conflictual stimuli have brought the (so-called) “past” emotions, the mud of our lives, to the surface. We are forced to consciously review them, to deal with them, learn from them, to modulate them, to mollify them, to operate better by learning from them--and we only do to achieve our present objective.

An actor all too willing to have their character reveal the past should consider this: If the character had been so eager to talk about the past now, why didn't she do it sooner? Why wait until now? What is it that makes it so important to talk about it now?

A character only reviews the past under duress, under the urgency of the moment, of having to win. The character reveals the past to the another character (and herself)only in order to forestall the other character (or herself) from learning even more about herself, from discovering even deeper and more expensive self-truths…and all of this only in order to get what she wants from the other character as cheaply and expeditiously as possible.