Sunday, October 30, 2011

ON ACTING: The Courage to Feel

Why do actors sometimes find certain parts easier to understand and execute than others?

One answer is that certain scripts are written better than others--the age-old variant of: 'blame all performance difficulties on the writer and the dialogue.'

However, while I have found that the quality of the script is often an impediment to actors role understanding and execution, a more prevalent reason for actor problems is that the actor doesn't understand that part of his personality that is consistent with the character portrayal that is drawn by the script.

There is an old saying: "It takes one to know one." If an actor who is approaching a part does not have a keen and honest understanding of (and subsequently performance comfort with) the character/emotional side of themselves required by the script--for example, the killer side of themselves, the lover side of themselves, the sad side of themselves--they will have difficulty understanding and executing a character that is a killer, or a lover or very sad and weepy.

Actors are limited as much by their psychology as much as by their physiognomy. Actors are more often type-cast by their comfort-zone of feelings as much as by their body-types and height-weight-thickness.

If an actor wants to play a wide-ranging series of roles at the excellent level required by a top-notch successful career, they will have to demonstrate before a casting director a wide ranging understanding, acceptance and comfortableness with execution of wide ranging aspects of themselves.

They must (always consistent to script) understand, accept, and be willing to share before an audience the multiple side of their own emotional personalities. And realize that when they limit that range of understanding, acceptance and comfortableness in performance with his/her emotions, they are limiting the range of roles that they will asked/hired to perform.

The courage to feel--and the implications that that courage implies in the analysis, understanding and the willingness to reveal before an audience--is an essential (some would argue critical) aspect of an actor's craft and technique.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Black Bxx: Haunted

I have been away from these pages for ten days directing an experimental web-based project called Black Bxx Haunted, a forty-eight hour interactive experience, an creative endeavor comprised of six determined actor-investigators committed to detect paranormal activity in an abandoned house. The anticipated are convinced the house is haunted, and and comprise a panel experts to live in the house alone, isolated, without contact with the outside world, to record and substantiate their claims of paranormal possession. (The actors have at present been locked in the mouldy, barren, abandoned home for thirty one and a half hours now, testing the bizarre happenings that have been occurring on their watch...and getting on each other's nerves.

The project, designed to create over well over 600 hours of live, real footage, captured in full detail by the sixteen cameras set-up in every room (I repeat, every room) of the house, that have been feeding footage from every corner of the house on the often tumultuous, often inmate, events and interrelationships that are being formed under the pressure of the paranormal sightings, sounds and surprises.

We will finish tomorrow, and I will be back at my regular log postings the next day.

The project is scheduled to be streamed online and available for audience interactive participation in January, 2012.

Monday, October 10, 2011

ON ACTING: Don't Put the Cart Before Horse

Good camera technique proceeds from good acting technique. I have never met a good actor that had trouble with camera technique problems, just like I never met a good cook that had trouble putting food on plates (or setting the table). Trust me, the placing of the performance food before the potential eater (audience) is very easily learned if you're a good cook.

Good camera technique inevitably follows from good acting technique; and a smart actor never puts the camera cart before the performance horse: making the serving of the meal more important than the good cooking.

The good actor first make sure their acting performance is worth the audience seeing and hearing.

I have found invariably and actor's poor camera technique generally results from the actor's lack of confidence in their acting abilities. So when they act in front of the camera's, they freeze up.

When an actor has confidence in the acting abilities, on the other hand, has honed his or her good acting technique to the point that they know they will always be good, it doesn't matter when or how someone is watching them; and whether that 'watching' is in close-up. or two-shot or master shot, or from right profile or left profile.

First learn to cook the good acting meal; learning to serve it will be a breeze.

Friday, October 07, 2011

ON ACTING: Losing Control

Actors are often worried about losing control...of the lines, of the story, and especially of their performance emotions.

When they feel their spontaneous performance threatens to emotionally or physically careen out of control (their frightened view), they put on the brakes. They pass every feeling impulse through their brains...especially the cognitive part of their brains, their conscious awareness of all their lines, blocking and other activities in the scene, including the emotions being felt at every moment in the scene. They lack the courage of spontaneity.

A great actor, on the other hand, is a brave actor, a courageous one. He or she allow their spontaneously generated emotions to originate, dictate and guide their actions...without consciousness aforethought.

They let the events of the scene happen to them, rather than the other way around. They do not let consciousness (conscious will) dictate their every action, rather than allowing--as it happens in everyday life (especially exciting life)--their perfomance to occur impulsively and spontaneously.

They are unable to live freely within the scene, trusting their emotional/muscle memory, garnered in rehearsal, to guide their performance.

In everyday life, when deciding to the convenience store by foot (the objective in the scene), we don't CONSCIOUSLY think about staying on the sidewalk when walking down the street, or looking at traffic before we cross the street. We trust our muscle memory to control us; we rely on our prior experience (life's rehearsal) to navigate us through city streets safely to get to the store. Just so, an engaged actor trusts his prior learning--his rehearsal--to AUTOMATICALLY keep him on the sidewalk of the scene and navigate through traffic (the other characters/actors and their own emotions) when crossing the street--and all this without conscious control.

Let it go, actors. Let our trained (and rehearsed) autonomic system (and its learned inner impulse control) dictate and guide our performance actions. We don't need the conscious control of the voluntary system to guide us through our every action...unless, of course, we haven't learned our lines, are resisting the director's blocking, and are afraid someone in the audience might find out our real emotions!! Laziness and fear are the real origins of an actor's desire for conscious control of a performance.

Remember: good acting is not for the lazy and cowardly. It is for the hard-working...and brave.