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Monthly Archives

March 2012

What To Bring to Screenfighting Workshops

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I’ll be sending an email out to all registered students… but thought I would post this first to let you know what to wear and bring to the screenfighting seminar this weekend.  (If you haven’t registered, click here to sign up).

Weapons Classes (Saturday)

First of all, do not bring any actual weapons to this workshop.  Our weapons master, Doug Williams will supply all equipment.  And especially don’t bring any live ammunition whatsoever.  If you have a concealed carry permit, please leave your weapon in your vehicle, locked.

Next, you will need to wear pants and a shirt you can tuck in.  This includes both male and female students.  You will need a solid belt you can clip a holster to.  And wear shoes that you can move around in.  Think about the role you might audition for– is it a police detective?  Wear what they would wear.

Screenfighting & Special Effects (Sunday)

Wear clothes you can easily exercise in.  You’ll be throwing punches and moving around.  And for special effects, for those purchasing a squib hit, you need to have layers– if you want a upper torso hit, wear a tee shirt and then a shirt you don’t mind throwing away over that.  And then bring an extra shirt and towel to change into after the hit.  Or you can wear the fake blood home, but don’t have the police officer who pulls you over call me.  (And it’s happened, btw).


Looking forward to seeing you this weekend!

Theatrical Truth

Theatrical Truth

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(This is for all my actor friends… one film director to actors.  I see a lot actor to actor, but very little from directors to actor.  BTW– we’ve got the screenfighting workshop coming up in a few weeks– click here to make sure you get your seat.)

The Quest

Theatrical TruthConstantin Stanislavski– often referred to as the father of modern acting, defined acting as the quest for theatrical truth.  I believe this is a great starting place for the craft you’re working in.  It all boils down to this– is your performance as close as possible to theatrical truth?  Personally, I believe that truth cannot be achieved in a theatrical performance (you’re performing, pretending– it’s not truth, but theatrical truth).  Does your performance ring true with the audience?

Sure, many factors go into you achieving theatrical truth in a film role.  The writing can be decidedly “untrue”.  The directing.  The production value.  The editing.  All these have to work together to achieve theatrical truth.  but as the actor, you can’t control many of these other factors.  You can only strive for theatrical truth in your performance.

Does this ring true?

The question as a director I ask myself constantly when watching the take… does this ring true?  The best demonstration of theatrical truth in an actor is when it comes across as not acting.  That it’s real.  And having acted as well, for me, I can usually tell when something felt real– mainly because it’s rare.  I think as I become a better actor, it becomes less real.

The bottom line to the question above is when you as the actor stop acting and simply become.  To Be, not to Act, is the answer.  And “to be,” requires a heavy study into the backstory of the character, the environment, the story.  Maybe researching people that are like your character.  When we hired Tom Wright to play “Popeye” in The Keyman, he went and studied homeless people.  He told me later some of the things he observed… homeless people were very respectful of other homeless people’s blankets and carts.  He looks for the “walk” of the character.

Costuming, make-up, props and sets– these can all help you get to the place where you can “be” and not act.  Theatrical truth.  Method, substitution or other acting styles and philosophy don’t really matter– only in the sense of what tool helps you get closer to theatrical truth.  For some, Method might be the route they need, others find another way.  The path to Theatrical Truth isn’t a solitary lane– I believe there’s many routes.

And yes– Theatrical Truth is largely subjective.  Look at it from the science of communication: the actor is the sender, the audience member the receiver.  To “ring true” it needs to touch on the reality of the receiver.  But reality is based the individual’s experiences.  So yes, theatrical truth can be a bit akin to nailing jello to a tree.  But there are some universals.  So just because your research into the character brought you to a link to the Weird and Rare Instances– your receiver may not have that knowledge or experience to relate to your performance.  For them, it doesn’t ring true– it’s not theatrical truth.

In the audition room, theatrical truth is an extremely difficult thing to achieve.  The audition room is incredible unnatural– “un-true.”  Your training needs to be focused on the methods you need to get to the place of “being” as quickly and seemingly effortless as possible.  On the set, you’ll have more time– in some regards, it’s a lot easier to shoot for theatrical truth.

So my actor friends– what tips and techniques do you employ to achieve theatrical truth?  I’m curious.

In the audition room

One Director’s Biggest Advice for Local Actors

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If I could say one thing to local actors to immediately help their performance in film and give them a much better chance for landing that role in auditions, I would say this:

Big is Bad.

My advice to feature film and television actors is to bring it down.  In some cases… way down.  Now this advice is not without controversy.  I’ve had one agent tell they think I’ve got it wrong… that it’s better to be too big than too small… that a director can bring a performance down to the right level more easily than bringing it up.  Not in this director’s experience.

You see, in the audition room, using a 0-9 scale on “bigness”, I have many local actors coming in at 7, 8 or 9.  I’m looking for 1.5.  Now we have to go from an 8 to a 1.5?  Sometimes on the second read through in the audition, they come down to a 6.  But you see the problem– I don’t have time to keep this up.  However, if the local actor comes in too low (a 1.0), it won’t take much to bring them up.

I think the bigness comes from the actor’s desire to show the director everything he or she is capable of.  But may of the roles available are dayplayer roles… it might be “here’s your coffee sir.”  And the local actor puts everything in it to show what an outstanding talent she is.  Too big.  Or even if it’s a principle role or a lead, film acting is so much different than theater acting… and theater is what’s available locally a lot more than film.

There have been moments in the audition room where I think if they just read the part flat with no emoting, it would be better than what they’re delivering.

Having said all that, please do remember that every director is different.  And that especially with low budget indies, often first time directors– so you can throw out the rules.  One director might be from a theatrical background and be looking for you to project to the last row in the house (heaven forbid!).  But alas, it’s the reality of what’s out there.  Do your homework before you go to the audition.  Check out the director’s background.

I believe local actors have every bit the talent of the NYC/LA actors.  What they lack is simply experience.