"I must by intuition grasp the characters, and by study reproduce them with a semblance of truth. I must become capable of identifying myself with one or another personage to such an extent as to lead the audience into the illusion that the real personage, and not a copy, is before them."
"I'd watched other actors working and saw how little they had to do externally 'register' on the screen...The camera, I concluded, is a microscope, which reveals what the eye does not see. It also penetrates into a person, under the surface display, and records thoughts and feelings--whatever is going on." (Kazan)
for help directing actors
Anywhere you see people, watch them... what is their body doing? How important is the topic of discussion to them? What effect are they trying to have on the person they are talking to? Even when they are on their phone, you can ask these questions. Is that person trying to get help from someone? Are they flirting or seducing?
Are they talking to someone and trying to get them to laugh?
Are they trying to get a point across?
Is it life or death?
Where do you see the communication in their body?
Who are you?
Where are you?
Where were you before this?
Why are you here?
What do you want?
How badly do you want it?
What is your character's bottom line need in the script?
and in the scene?
On set: where is the light?
Do you get tense in front of the camera? Can you reveal your humanity in front of the camera?
The super objective, or overall objective is a visceral choice about what the character wants from the beginning to the end of the script, and it involves bringing change to their lives. What do they really need? It might be unconditional love or power over their own lives. Once the choice is made, you can look at each scene and find the scene objective. If the character wants love overall, how are they trying to get it in each scene?
The pursuit drives the character and also moves the action of the script forward. The choices you make may be weak choices or strong choices. When people say, 'No acting please,' they are not saying make no choices, have nothing going on and no sense of purpose. They are saying Don't just emote, pursue something, and they are also saying, don't act so hard that it shows you're acting--don't show the seams of your work.
You do your homework, your preparation and when it comes time to act, let it go, enter the moment and bring the character to life.
Director Sidney Lumet wrote:"The talent of acting is one in which the actor's thoughts and feelings are instantly communicated to the audience. In other words, the 'instrument' that an actor is using is himself. It is his feelings, his sexuality, his tears, his laughter, his angst, his romanticism, his tenderness, his viciousness, that are up there on the screen for all to see. That's not easy. There are many actors who can duplicate life brilliantly. Every detail will be correct, beautifully observed and perfectly reproduced. One thing is missing, however. The character's not alive, I don't want life reproduced up there on the screen. I want life created."
--Edward G Robinson
Keeping an acting journal is a way to start creating structure for your acting.
Work on your instrument daily. Work on monologues, scenes, read books, exercise. Do vocal warmups each day, develop your voice. Watch film with the sound turned down, and see what the actor is communicating, did the actor make a choice or not. Study tight shots this way. You will know if they made a choice or are just 'winging it.'
Start an acting journal and fill it with everything you love about acting, everything that inspires you, write down your questions. Search. Follow your passion, train your instrument. Other actors are doing it, so you can too. Whatever your goal is, create structure and commit to it daily. For an hour, a half hour, 15 minutes every day.This can help create an instrument that is accessible, an emotional life that is available, and an ability to stay truly present take after take. And work to get off of yourself, help others, volunteer, save animals. Avoid getting too self involved.
Stanislavsky paid a great deal of attention to relaxation in acting. This is a great tool for the actor in film. Breathing is a key to relaxation, as it is in yoga and in mindfulness. The breath can bring us into the moment, or if we forget to breathe or even breathe in a shallow way, we can get tense quickly. Fear and anxiety are a part of the actor's world at some point. There are tools for this. Fear and anxiety involve adrenaline and cortisol being released into our bodies, as part of the fight or flight response. Daily relaxation, meditation, mindfulness as well as regular Pilates or yoga can retrain our bodies to lower the adrenaline level and create a new baseline, with less anxiety. Exercise is a key, as well as diet. I do believe that fear is something that actors need to become more accustomed to, and accept its presence at times. It is just energy and if we can allow it and coexist with it, we get better at it. Woody Allen used to vomit before each stand up performance. Laurence Olivier developed stage fright when he was the most respected actor in the world. Ethan Hawke has spoken of his stage fright in his documentary Seymour: An Introduction. He also speaks of needing a deeper meaning to his life and his acting than just praise and awards. When fear comes up I believe it can teach us if we allow it to.
One way we can stay simple and at ease on camera is listening. We tend to focus on our lines as the main point. But whenever other characters have lines, we can truly listen. It can get us centered and back in the moment. All fear and self consciousness literally take us out of the moment, away from what's right in front of us.
But breathing and listening, even in an audition, reveal us ease, and fully present.
Ease is important in front of the camera, including at auditions.
The best work can happen when we are engaged in the moment and what's right in front of us. The camera watches our relationship to whatever and whomever is in front if us, in that frame.
"On set I’m an actor like every other actor. Most times, for every part I play, I can think of other actors who would be better. I worry from the moment I take a job. I worry about how I'm going to do it, if I can do it. I try to work out what I have to do on set and how I do that. I get extremely anxious. I panic. I can't get it. It happens every time, and I get myself into this state, and then I walk on set and the director says, 'Roll', and all of a sudden all of it disappears and it's all happening, and I relax and I'm doing what I do and I'm not even thinking about it. And I relax up until the moment they yell 'Cut'."
Meryl Streep attended Yale Drama School
.Humor on the set can lighten things up, bring play into it when things get tense.
Ultimately, technique can be seen by young American actors as a straight jacket. But technique is for the moments of difficulty. You can work in any way you choose, and if you get stuck and wonder what to do, there are limitless techniques that can help you become more proficient, more flexible and more confident. Search for the actors who inspire you and find out whom they studied with. Technique is not about checking off a to do list, it is about freeing your talent and allowing you to become more of who you are, empowered in your work.
Martha Graham said, "The aim of technique is to free the spirit."
What do you need to work on as an actor?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
What muscles do you need to strengthen?
"People often say that an actor 'plays' a character well, but that's an amateurish notion. In acting, everything comes out of what you are or some aspect of who you are. Everything is a part of your experience. We all have a spectrum of emotions in us. It's a broad one and it is the actor's job to reach into this assortment of emotions and experience the ones that are appropriate for his character and the story."
Film: rehearsal is optional. Some like to flesh out the work, some want to shoot the rehearsal.
Mike Nichols rehearsing The Graduate
with Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft
In rehearsal, you can block out the scene, ask questions, try possibilities. What would the character do there?
What is needed to serve the scene?
Questions don't need to be answered by the left brain. Questions can be asked and then allowed to simmer.
Notes: any result oriented acting note can be translated into process work. Susan Batson, Nicole Kidman's acting coach tells her that when a director gives a note that is a result, more angry, more happy, more sad, to translate this into a verb. A doing. This is the heart of Stanislavski's work--what are you doing in this script, in this scene, in this shot, in this moment?
"The better you know yourself, the better an actor you'll be."
"Playing to the Camera"
edited by Bert Cardullo, Ronald Gottesman, Leigh Wood
"Figures of Light"
"Acting for the Camera"
"Dream of Passion"
"Art of Acting"
"Sanford Meisner on Acting"
"It Would Be So Nice if You Weren't Here"
The Ragman's Son
Uta Hagen Acting Class
Sanford Meisner Master Class
Inside the Actors Studio (Dustin Hoffman and Al Pacino)
Searching for Debra Winger (focuses on actresses)
This So Called Disaster
Pina (on creativity)