Scene Study

An Actors Job is to Practice!

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Actors Job is to Practice

This past weekend I saw a film that inspired me and re-enforced my beliefs as an actor. The movie is "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" The film centers around a Japanese word Shokunin - an individual who embodies the artisan spirit of the relentless pursuit of perfection through his craft. It is the craftsman’s spirit.

In order to be the best in your field, to reach the top of your craft, you MUST practice, practice and practice so more. "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, Practice." Once you decide on your occupation, you have to immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work and never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skills as an actor and let that be the secret to your success.

Since I have grown more experienced as an actor, the more I practice, the more I keep coming back to simplest of choices to help me obtain success in my work. What I want in the scene and Why I want it? Why is that so important to my character?  

A Quote from the film- Ultimate simplicity leads to Purity. 

And simplicity comes only from practice. Personally, for me, I have noticed that when I work on monologues three to four times a month and work on two or three scenes in front of the camera a month, I book more work and feel more comfortable in front of auditors and in the audition room. When I practice more, I get faster with my craft. I am able to learn my lines quicker and I am able to see my character's wants and needs more easily.

Dancers practice, singers sing, artist paint and actors also need to practice. You can never practice enough and never be satisfied. Always trying to look ahead and improve your skills. I believe it was casting director Jay Binger in the film "Every Little Step" who said, the way you get to Broadway is by giving a Broadway audition!

Always, look ahead and about yourself and try to improv yourself. Love your craft so much, that becomes the goal. The spirit of Shokunin!

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Moment to Moment Acting - Monolouges

Working with my friends (Nadia, Kaylin and Annie) in our acting workshop last week, an interesting thing helped to really raise our monologues to a deeper level. 
Watch your target and react off of your target!  Moment to Moment Acting
A quote from my friend Nadia from a book she is reading. 

"A useful principle for the actor is that there is no such thing as a description. Pure description simply doesn't exist. What may claim to be a passive description is in fact always an active attempt to change a perception."

Working moment to moment can be a bit challenging sometimes as you are usually acting to a wall or a blank space, i.e, monologues.  But are you?   
You aways cast someone and be as specific as possible when doing your piece to someone because you are doing it to someone and not to a wall.  Like an old lady, someone you know really well or someone you saw walking down the street the other day that you thought was very attractive or just crazy guy on the corner of 23rd and 8th avenue who you think you can help or change. What will put you in the most trouble?   
But that is not enough?  You must watch and notice your target. What are you trying to communicate or get from them and how is that person reacting to what you are doing or telling them on each line. 

Going Moment to Moment in your acting  
And always remember that :
  • PROBABILITY is more interesting than POSSIBILITY. 
  • What is the agreement that you are trying to get and what is the best way of getting that agreement?

Every Scene needs to CHANGE!

I had an audition for a feature film and I was only given one page as my side. Nine times out of ten the roles I read for TV and film are either villains or hit man type of characters. So the role I was reading for the film "Tacoma" was again a killer.

As I prepared the scene, I started to lean on some old and bad habits like not doing any homework and not asking any questions, i.e What and WHY? Just razzling and dazzling what I think they want.

When I worked on the scene, I knew something didn't feel right. And as I taped myself and played it back, it started to pop out at me. NOTHING IS CHANGING in the scene. And the moment I started to ask the questions What and WHY? The scene started to get more depth, levels and the beats became clearer.

Plot line of the scene:
Laura is a driven real estate agent who lives and works with her mother. Her friend is brutally murdered ( by me ) in a short-sale scam gone bad. I am at the house of the girl I just killed when Laura comes over. And the WHY I crafted is that if this girls suspects that something is gong wrong, then I could lose everything I have worked so hard on. Like picking the house, picking the girl to kill,getting rid of the body and now trying to fudge all the papers so that it looks legit. And my boss is type of guy that will cut my fingers off so it is very clear that I need (WANT) this bitch to leave and keep her mouth shut now. It's life and death for me.

How do I do this? By charming her in the beginning (positive fight) then when she does not get the hint to leave and even starts to connect the dots, then I intimidate her and threaten her with malice.  This is the change in the scene!, and on camera, the scene came alive. I looked like someone so much more deseperate and much more threatening. 
When preparing a scene, ask yourself what needs to change in the scene then you immediately begin asking all the right questions like What, Why? and what would success look like for my character in this scene. 

Summary: Every scene does not end where it begins. Something must change!

Wynn Handman notes on Rehearsal

Wynn Handman on Rehearsal

These are few acting notes for rehearsals from Wynn Handman. I thought they would be worth sharing.

  • In rehearsals work on the essence of where the scene peels off for your character. The scene that gives the essence of the play is where you should be working on. 
  • Look at the culture and background from where your character comes from
  • AN OUNCE OF BEHAVIOR IS WORTH A POUND OF WORDS. Rehearsal is for discovery. 
  • Always rehearse by doing it, it’s the only way you get any thing out of rehearsals. Really do it. 
  • Make it real for yourself and you’ll make it real for the audiences.
  • Look at the culture and background from where your character comes from. 

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SOLVE THE PROBLEM in the scene!

The more you solve the problem in the scene the better the scene will go for you.

  • Keep fighting towards the common ground.  
  • Take every opportunity you can to solve the problem and get your agreement from the other character in the scene. 
  • Get the audience to think and feel that there is a chance for the scene to work out.  Even in O'Neal, there has to be glimmer of hope. 

Boy Gets Girl by Rebecca Gilman

I was working on "Boy Gets Girl" by Rebecca Gilman with Jonathan Silverstein. In the scene, my character Tony is on a second date with Theresa and he is trying super hard to get her to like him desperately.  In a certain speech he talks about pasties that his mother used to make him as a boy and how incredible they were. He then proceeds to ask the girl, "do you know what pasties are? ,  she says yes.

I took the answer as a huge disappointment, playing a touch of self pity ( MISTAKE as self pity does not work in life or on stage) that I couldn't impress her.

The scene really took off for me when I took her answer as a HUGE YES! This is the girl for me because she knows what pasties are, just like my mom did.  Solving the agreement and trying to get her closer to me and the common ground, which serve my need.

Why? because if my character doesn't get this Theresa to like and go out with him, the TROUBLE will be that he will be alone for the rest of his life and worst yet, that he will be letting down his mother that he can't be the man that she wants him to be. I crafted that his mother is planning a dinner for him and is expecting and demanding Tony to bring a girl to the dinner.   I should mention that my character is a stalker.

He has to get the girl and he needs to take advantage of every opportunity to charm her and get her to agree with him so that he can SOLVE HIS PROBLEM.

Some great questions to ask:

  • How can I get through the other character to get what I WANT? 
  • What's my problem in the scene? 


THE MOMENT BEFORE - "Audition", by Michael Shurtleff

It's true that every acting scene has a beginning, middle, and end. But for the character, there's no such thing. So you've got to create a moment before. What was the character doing, thinking, and feeling right before the scene started.

SUMMARY: What was the character doing, thinking, and feeling RIGHT BEFORE THE SCENE STARTS!

See the discussion here on Linkedin: