Wednesday, 19 August 2015
Method Acting is often talked about in hushed terms as if people were in church. People talk as if actors physically and literally “become the character...." through some bizarre mystical process. What is odd is that Lee Strasberg
“What all actors have always done whenever they acted well.”
Method-acting is a method of acquiring truth in character. Used well it is total immersion in a role "Getting under the skin of someone else." Becoming so convincing that the "Willing suspension of disbelief" follows for the audience and they and the other actors are able to accept the performance "as if" it were truth itself.
Hollywood is full of stories about method actors who have gone too far, the truth is that method-acting is a vital acting technique that will bring life to your performance. Method-acting examines the psychology and history of character, and teaches the actor to harness his or her own past experience in order to play the part. Sensory exercises play a huge role in stimulating the actors’ imagination. It is vital to learn how to expand your imagination so it assists you, that way you continue to develop as an actor.
Most actors use elements of method-acting in order to create a convincing performance and it is one of the most widely used acting techniques. Creating a back-story for the life of your character up to the point where the play or film begins, enables the role to be based on a distillation of truth. Ask yourself compelling questions? Where was I born? How did I get on with my parents? Where did I learn my major lessons in life? How? What happened at college? Did I go to college...etc...The purpose is to stimulate your actors mind to give focal points of history to deepen your knowledge of character.
Lee Strasberg, the founder of method-acting felt that the performance should be the climax of the character’s life and had to be seen in context with everything that had gone before.
This close association with the portrayal of a character can cause problems for an actor, especially when playing an evil role. Inhabiting the mind of a monster can have an effect on day-to-day life. Kate Winslet for example struggled for months to get back to normal after playing a concentration camp guard in the award winning film The Reader, and many actors report the same sort of experiences.
The reason for this is that the inner mind cannot tell the difference between a real and an imagined event. It is very important for actors to learn how to associate themselves into a role and dissociate themselves from it when they are not performing.
Some extreme method actors risk their health by going to great lengths to look like their characters, undergoing drastic eating regimes in order to fatten up or slim down for their role. Daniel Day Lewis famously stays in character all through a film and on the set of "Lincoln" asked director Steven Spielberg and others to address him as "Mr President"
The death of Heath Ledger has been attributed to his excessive use of method acting. Playing the Joker in the blockbuster Batman Returns, Ledger apparently remained in character over the months throughout filming and became obsessed by it. He could not snap out of the character he described as a “psychotic mass murdering clown”, perhaps this led to his depression and death through an accidental overdose of sleeping pills.
Personally I believe it is vital to understand the depths of a characters mind - but there are limits and you need to know your own boundaries, so do take care guys.
Method acting can be taken to excess but excellent actors use it all the time - all good acting requires a depiction of reality and this vital acting technique gives you insight into your role and leads towards a peak performance every time.
Learning to relax is a key ingredient to being able to stay out of the darker aspects of your character.
Nick Recommends - To my mind the most extraordinary book on acting I have ever read and still refer to is "Respect for acting" by Uta Hagen. In my opinion this is an absolute must read for any serious actor. You can check it out here. The exercises contained in here will make you a better actor. Guaranteed.
Tuesday, 11 August 2015
All you have control over is the work you do in the room.
We were talking about this in class today: how to have the confidence to drop in. And the answer is not to audition—not to show up to be evaluated or judged and not to do what you imagine is their perfect idea of the role is. They don’t have a perfect idea. They want you to move them. They want you to take their words and make them soar.Your job is not to audition for the role. Your job is to bring yourself to the story. Your job is to go to work.
Here are a few things that book jobs in the audition room. They certainly work for us.
1. Treat the audition as play. Throw yourself fully into the joyousness of the world. You love to act, so love this moment to do just that.
2. Stop acting. We hear this a lot. We say it a lot. Because it’s true. You don’t have to show us your work or pull out your bag of tricks. You have to simply drop in with ease, grace, and truth. There is no display in that—only the human experience. That’s not only enough; it’s absolutely everything.
3. Show yourself. Let us see you, your heart, your guts, your spirit. Share yourself with generosity. (And that can only happen if you embrace absolute vulnerability.)
4. Understand the difference between preparation and exploration. You cannot recreate your practice; you have to do that work, know that it’s in you, and show up ready to make discoveries. That means making bold choices that are unique to you and then trusting that this is where your preparation gives you the confidence to be fully in the moment.
5. Get messy. Get human. Yes, know your lines (however that happens for you). You’ve done the work. Now it’s time to allow your humanness to happen.
6. Get personal. How is this piece personal for you? It might hurt your heart, make you angry, or be really uncomfortable. Terrific. We want to invest in you. And if you’re deeply and personally engaged, we’re gonna root for you—even if you’re doing terrible things.
7. Live in the other person. Sanford Meisner said, “Acting is not talking. It’s living off the other fellow.” Even if you’ve got a “bad reader.” We talk about the gift of a bad reader in this audio blog.
8. Get intimate. Film is an intimate medium. The camera perceives everything. So why not get close? Sometimes the room encourages you to stand or sit 10 feet away from the reader. But if you can, get closer. Create intimacy. It changes everything.
9. Offer yourself with generosity in the spirit of collaboration. We’re all there to do our work. You have as much right to be there as anyone else. If you bring yourself to the room with generosity, offering something rather than wanting something, your work will be stronger and our hearts will open.
10. Give yourself permission. Whatever works in your freest times of performance is what you’ve got to bring into the room, so give yourself permission to trust your instincts and exercise your point of view. We’ll see you take leadership and it’ll be a relief that you’re in full creative command.
11. Let go. Surrender. Since you cannot determine the outcome, why not give that up? Give up doing it right (whatever that is) and surrender to the work itself. Inhabit the world of the play. Throw yourself into the scene (with whomever you’re working) and see what happens.
Just relax! (Don’t you hate when people say that?) But you have to be open, relaxed, and available.
Not caring about booking helps. Focusing on the work and not the job helps. Being in the pure spirit of the work helps. Making what you want in the scene more important than getting the casting director to like you helps. Knowing that you’re far more important than any audition helps even more.
You can’t please anyone. You can’t give them exactly what they want because they don’t know what that is. And even the most anxious writer wants you to bring voice and humanity to what she’s written. She wants you to inhabit her words. And most of all, she wants you to affect her.
So what if you didn’t try to “book” anything at all? What if you just did you absolute most incredible work? Aim for that. Aim for immersing yourself so fully in the work that you become undeniable. Aim for deep, personal, intimate connection—a power that comes with being fully engaged, boldly, without apology. That is the rush of being an actor. And that rush will take you, and us, to the promised land. And that, well, that books work.