Dear Friends, Film Makers & Fans,
Every Starlet must maintain a host of photographers as friends!
Thanks for networking…
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An actor’s resources and mastery over technique may be identical on or off stage. However, would you use the same tool to hammer in a nail as to cut a piece of rope? Certainly not! What if an actor gained a reputation for consistently blowing-out their voice during the run of a live show? It is not likely a producer will risk having to cancel a sold-out show for an actor who lacks this basic understanding! When performing on stage both projection and preserving one’s vocal chords are paramount. While on the other hand, acting for the camera requires unassuming intention easily readable on film or video. Training and preparation for stage acting mirrors acting for a sitcom or soap opera. How so? Acting for a multiple camera set-up and acting towards an audience both require an intact and consistent performance of a scene score over a length of time. However, performing on stage mandates a certain bravado while acting for the camera requires controlled and modest choices. Ability to meter one’s own performance is a career sustaining skill for any working actor.
It is an actor’s obligation to make his or her inner life accessible to the camera through preparation. You may glean from your study of introduction to acting that relaxed readiness and the “Magic if” are essential to preparing your mind, body and spirit for performance. Professor Wendy Wisely helped me to appreciate that the most effective actors have a wealth of real life experience in which to draw on past knowledge. Metacognition enables continuity from take to take. Working actors must constantly adjust their attitudes to avoid mewling, the martyr routine, or pontificating. To keep our choices “clear and strong” actors must follow certain guidelines. Team-building by preparation of a full scene score will yield a more unaffected and quotable performance. Chemistry may be deceptive while charm may be fleeting from take to take. Concentrate for a moment on an actor portraying a character obviously motivated by love. If an actor seeks to win the admiration of their scene partner using charm this can be compromising to the integrity of the production. Choosing to amuse your scene partner by playfully engaging in flirting between takes may get them to drop their guard and be silly. But when selecting charm tactics, mindful actors “validate, open up, and stir” the cast and crew. The aforementioned is in arrant contrast to green actors who playfully try to appear “wittier, smoother, stronger…” than they have ever been, to gain the esteem of their peers, without doing any actual work.
Nonverbal communication is a skill powered by control of the body in connection with the mind. Nonverbal communication on camera often speaks louder than arbitrary dialogue! Therefore, an actor may deeply enrich the landscape of the scene by depicting the center of their character with forethought. An actor may create the physicality of a character in order to project readable action to the audience. To illustrate this point, imagine responding with sarcasm to your scene partner. Thus, redirecting the conversation with a question and task avoiding conflict resolution. Mindful talent considers how to express this in action, for example eye rolling versus selecting an exaggerated breath. For the camera a monotone vocal score would also be an appropriate choice to tie into actions that express sarcasm. Ability to portray a strong head or chest center would be appropriate when orchestrating your performance for the enjoyment of a live audience. I may ask myself “Where does my character live?” in her head? Do I wear my heart on my sleeve? Perhaps I choose my lovely lady lumps as center for a character that uses sex appeal in an advantageous way.
Certainly, the stage actor must have a mastery over performance continuity scene to scene, closing with the same intensity of opening night show after show. Acting towards a live audience vs recording audio for a scene contrast dramatically. Lines may be emphasized by cutting to the reaction shot. On stage enthusiasm may be naturally expressed by volume, tone, pace and/or diction. When vocally scoring an on-camera scene, actors must be cognizant of their objective(s) as well as matching rhythm and tempo. Take for example “Stranger than Fiction” a satirical comedy directed by Marc Forster (Finding Nederland). Upon rehearsing a comedy scene, with student director Brianna Rene Dinges (Santa Rosa Junior College- Theater Arts Department), I was encouraged to bestow lines at a steady and threatening pace. I was redirected to exhibit craftsmanship at the beat change. This wise instruction was in response to an unmet super-objective to take command. I failed to change the beat, from scrutinizing to seizing the moment, in order to grab leadership and authority. The scene is written to end on “Penny” taking over or interrupting “Kay” by bulldozing into her work-space. During the editing process where to cut back and forth between perspectives was easy to identify using gestures as reference points. Maintaining a heightened awareness of one’s own breathing and posturing are quintessential to continuity when utilizing stage training on camera. This requires dialogue with the director, a controlled breath and continuity between even the smallest gestures.
Robert Benedetti, author of Action!, helps us to appreciate that not unlike a sitcom, “Soap opera actors must have both excellent memories and an almost improvisational way of thinking on their feet, repeated mistakes are not tolerated.” While we don’t want to be a kill joy, an effective actor must be present, prepared and pliable. A large frame of reference is an invaluable resource that may be utilized when scoring a scene. An effective actor can analyze text and meter a performance on behalf of their audience. Acting for the stage requires the quality of having a strong, vivid, or clear appearance. Director & SRJC Professor Vincent Sassone (Tail of two Pizzas) asks,
How may any film/video actor incorporate the dramatic architecture of the scripted character into his or her own performance?
Simple, prepare for work. Preparation of the actor through a successful scene score enables the editor free choice of which shots and which takes to select when assembling the scene. There is a saying in Hollywood among assiduous workers: “Hard work beats talent when talent refuses to work hard.” Dame Judi Dench is known to have said “Acting is play, sometimes quite heavily disguised as work.”