Tag acting

3 posts

Building Wings on the Way Down (Act or Die)

I finished Act or Die today and the biggest lesson I learned (aside from great tips and exercises that I’m willing to put to use to get to know *myself* not just for acting) was don’t act, BE. Be present in the moment, as the character – feel, act on your internal impulses – listen to yourself and yourself as the character. Never stop thinking and feeling, allow yourself to be and access all parts of you and don’t judge. Listening isn’t about waiting for cues and springing into action, it’s about feeling and thinking as the character and being present in that moment, and the moments before and after your lines.
At the end, the author closed with this thought:

“As civilians we choose to function the best way we can within society’s ground-rules. As an actor we unprotect and reveal to the extremities of a character’s potential (positive or negative). As an actor we must live dangerously in our own work, be naked inside, be willing to leap off a cliff and build our wings on the way down.”

It kind of aptly sums up everything he wrote in his perfectly sized 149 page book (awesome, because thick books are daunting and take too long to read. Half the reason I never finished LOTR). I’d definitely suggest it to anyone looking to act, write, or direct – I definitely have a lot to think about with writing characters and my own (lacking) acting skills.

Act or Die Notes #2

I read another quarter of the book today – out loud. As an aside, I never really noticed run-on sentences until I read aloud, then I was searching for periods so I could catch a breath. As I was reading I realized that I (like everyone else) subconsciously use grammar as cues to pause, breathe, emphasize etc. Which I found interesting. It makes sense, that is how grammar works, but you notice it much less when you’re reading silently, than when you’re trying to put volume to the words.
This section of the book was full of great exercises for allowing you to access yourself without judging. It’s sort of a recurring theme. Anyway, here are my notes from today and yesterday:

As an actor, research your character – in depth. Practice re-creating *a lot* because there will probably be more than one take. There’s a difference between repeating and re-creating. Re-creating is more interesting, do that.
As an actor listening is key – not just for cues, but listen to what’s going on in the scene, the subtext, the vibes. You need to think as the character, basically you need to be that person, what goes through the characters head is what’s running through your head. Acting does not stop at the end of your line, you need to continue to stay in character, have a continuous conversation (in your head) as that character even after your line is up – basically, just don’t be done all of a sudden.
Note the subtext – the unspoken things, the background, the what-just-happened and how-we-got-here parts of the scene/script. It adds interesting elements to an otherwise non-elemental script.Subtext non-verbally addresses what happened before the scene – either right before or in the distant past. The backgrounds come into play and also the need the character has for the future/moment influences how he/she will react/talk/live in that moment. Like meeting someone you have a crush on, or trying to be polite to someone who hurt you in the past. You might not say “oh this is tense!” but you feel it, and that’s  what needs to be conveyed in the subtext or feeling.
The biggest question is: Who are you as the character?Act without it looking like you’re acting. Do the research, ask yourself questions, never assumer you know the answer. You have to commit to the work, the character – you have to be that person, don’t ignore the minute details.
As an actor, don’t be consistent. Be human. Read/act with different perspectives – different parts of the character. Don’t classify characters as good guys, bad guys, heroes, or villains. Every villain is a hero – go places within you that make you uncomfortable and use that as a tool, a place to draw a perspective from.
Life experiences are your source material. Ask questions from the character’s point of view. What are the obstacles and how does the character deal with them?Think. Understand. Then Act. The character should be sort of second nature, you should unconsciously learn as the character and then your acting will seem natural.
Observe people, and how they act. Always demand more of yourself and dig deeper.
Use every part of yourself – don’t judge or repress the parts you think are “bad” and only use the pieces of yourself you deem “good”. Everything is material, you need to access it and use it – if it makes you uncomfortable that’s good. The energy of your thoughts/emotions will be caught on film.
Then, use this as the character – explore all sides of who the character is – the good, bad, strong, weak, scared, valiant. Because this is how people are. Everyone has conflicting sides of themselves, to act well, you need to use and channel those bits of yourself into the character – use those emotions and thoughts, and then your character will be real.

So I think the hardest thing, is not to put your acting self in a cage, and to know yourself and not hide from yourself, but channel it. Yet, it’s probably one of the most important elements, in order to appear legitimate and not like you’re “acting”. Way easier said than done, I’m sure but good advice nonetheless.

Book: Act or Die (notes)

Act or Die
In preparation for our film, aside from getting the camera equipment and such, we also bought a book (one of a few, I’m sure) called Act or Die.
If the title isn’t a give-away it’s all about acting, but it’s also recommended for directors. It came in the mail today and I got about half way through (taking time for writing notes).
I learned a lot about perspectives – Trying to read a paragraph in different perspectives (totally paraphrasing): Think of a time when you were most happy, and read the paragraph. Think of a time you were the most sad and read the same paragraph. Note the differences in your reactions/thoughts/perspectives and DON’T read yourself into or make judgements on it.
It was interesting to see how the thoughts and reactions that came from reading a paragraph in different lights were well, different. Starkly in some cases and subtly in others. The way the paragraph made sense changed depending on the perspective or background you were bringing into it. It was a great exercise actually in connecting to an emotion or an idea or background (helpful if you’re acting) even if you weren’t originally feeling it at the time – and if you’re acting, you probably wouldn’t be, which is why it’s important to invest in the character and learn from the character’s perspective.
As I continue reading and thinking and absorbing I’ll probably post here with more things. Super great book, I think it’ll be really helpful for our film, in being able to write good characters, communicate what we’re looking for, and also, hopefully, work on our acting skills…