Kimberly_Jentzen-The_power_of_Listening

Acting – The Power and Magic of Listening

Kimberly Jentzen presents a new and dynamic series: The Power and Magic of Listening, Part One. The following is an excerpt from her newly released book, Acting with Impact: Power Tools to Ignite the Actor’s Performance.

POWER TOOL: LISTENING

LISTENING IS WHERE THE MAGIC LIVES

Listening is opening up and hearing with not only your ears, but with each of your senses. To really hear the rain or take that moment to really taste the ice cream, or allow your eyes to take in the light through the trees in the early morning; these are all forms of listening.

Listening is being aware in the moment, like when a lover listens to your body and follows its message, or when a friend picks up on your indirect cues to leave the party and together you go. Listening is not only about hearing words, but being engaged with the whole communication of another and hearing with sensory intuition.

A skilled actor understands how to listen for more than just the words, sounds and tonality, but also with an emptiness inside that needs to be filled by the other character. When you listen to others, what do you really listen for? And what is your character listening for?

Listening is the first real obligation required to carry out a believable truthfulness in the moment. It creates an honest connection between scene partners. The actor has to surrender the planned response to allow a true response that can only come when really listening. Nothing can replace it.

Early in my acting career, I struggled with listening. I was playing the lead role in a play and I couldn’t find my character. My friend told me to try to get a reaction from the other actor, some physical response, be it a smile, a laugh or even a raised eyebrow—just play the reality of attempting to get an organic, real moment from my partner on stage. This concept completely improved my work. I began to listen for a response instead of just my cues. I realized that predetermining how to say my lines gave a performance that pre-judged the experience of the moment. My lines now had a goal: to generate a response from my fellow partner. This was a major breakthrough, and I also had more fun in the process.

To listen is to put your attention on the other actor and what is being said both verbally and non-verbally. You watch, you hear, you wait; you are captivated in an active process. You can even listen to the silence of someone. Listening is taking in emotional reactions, body language, facial expressions and energy.

We live in the moment, uncertain of what
the next moment will bring.

 

You can’t “act” listening

Never pretend to listen. Sometimes actors will move their head up and down, nodding or shaking their head, acting as if they are listening. How can you know whether you can agree or disagree until the other actor has finished their thought? You have to wait and really hear the actual thing that will generate your response.

The only way to listen is to honestly engage in the activity of listening.

When you really listen, your line deliveries gain nuances and become organic. Once this occurs, everything about the work can fall into place. When you really listen, you concern yourself with receiving the other actor—responding not in the way you previously planned, but with what naturally comes forth. It is genuinely accepting and connecting to what is being given.

Your listening dictates the delivery of your lines.

 

The connection is above the communication

Have you ever engaged in a conversation in such a way that you forget what you were going to say next? The organic response that comes from that conversation is a true connection. What you were going to say isn’t as important as the experience with the person with whom you are conversing.

Sometimes actors make the written words more important than listening to what lives beneath them. The truth of life is that the communication never rises above the connection.

Another life truth is how we listen. We respond differently in every relationship. Wouldn’t you prefer to hear bad news from one person rather than from another? We have special bonds with a select few. All of that is taken into consideration as part of the real communication.

Let’s say you are playing a small role as a messenger. The film takes place during 1944 and you must tell a Midwestern woman her husband was killed by the Germans in France. Your appearance in the film might be minimal, but the connection to the information will have a lasting effect on the life of this woman. And how you take her in, how you study her eyes as you tell her the news is crucial to the delivery of the lines.

**Acting with Impact is available at Samuel French Bookstore, Hollywood and kimberlyjentzen.com

Acting: The process is the Product

A rare interview with Award-Winning Director/Teacher Kimberly Jentzen by Emmy Award-Winning CD/Teacher Holly Powell

Watch this interview — Emmy Award-Winning Casting Director, Holly Powell talks to Los Angeles Acting Coach, Kimberly Jentzen, author of “Acting with Impact” about the acting process: “Know that your performance is created and lives in the moment and can’t be fixed in place or held in time. The key is to not judge yourself but to accept yourself in the process.” Enjoy this excerpt from the introduction of Kimberly’s book!

ACTING IS LIVING TRUTHFULLY IN AN EVER-CHANGING EXPERIENCE

When you hike up a mountain you have two choices. You can enjoy the changing sky, the view below, the flowers along the path, the struggle up to the top, the breeze, the sun through the trees, the smell of pine… or, you can focus on lunch at the end of the trail and miss the beauty, the adventure and, most sadly, the actual trip.

The adventure is the journey, and the process as it happens is the actual experience of acting. The product of the performance is being engaged in the moment without focusing on how it comes out. Your goal as an actor is to live honestly in the experience of the moment. If your attention is on the end result, you will sabotage the journey.

When you attempt a scene, many times you have a predetermined picture in your mind of how it will go. You practice in your bedroom, you give an award-winning performance and you know that in your heart, when you get to that audition, it’s going to blow everybody away! Then, in the actual audition, you watch yourself in the reading and wonder, “What is happening?! This is nothing like I rehearsed at home!”

There are two main reasons for this phenomenon: expectation and concentration.

Expectation

When you were at home in your bedroom, you were caught up in discovery. You were in the richness of your imagination and could visualize it all. You were seeing and experiencing what the character, in that moment, was seeing and experiencing. Then, when you actually auditioned, you attempted to recreate the result of that bedroom performance instead of the imagined elements that got you there in the first place. Attempting to recreate a performance always puts you in your head because you judge everything against an ideal, and you can never measure up to that kind of expectation.

Another aspect of this expectation is your unique instrument. There is no one in the world like you. And because your approach to the material hasn’t ever been done before, there is a potential shock when you observe your own performance. Doesn’t your acting always sound and look better in your head? All of those judgments in acting can take energy away from your effort.

Concentration

When you have an audience, the pressure to entertain becomes VERY real. It takes more concentration to create and hold onto your given reality in a scene. If your preparation is not strong enough, the pressure from the audience can overtake your attention, and you will then watch yourself. Great acting is participating in a given reality and not focusing on what your audience is witnessing.

Know that an audience will always have an energetic influence on the actor. This is natural. We pick up vibes from anyone in our immediate space. Have you ever felt a stranger looking at you prior to you noticing? Often we can feel the energetic pull of any attention we are getting.

Part of the actor’s job is to accept the audience without sabotaging the performance. The audience’s gaze is part of the magic of performance, and every audience will experience your work uniquely. When an actor allows the audience to be a witness, the performance improves. The vibes you pick up in the room have the potential to inspire the best in you.

Know that your performance is created and lives in the moment
and can’t be fixed in place or held in time.

The skill of acting is the ability to live truthfully in an ever-changing experience.
The key is to not judge yourself but to accept yourself in the process.

Being paid to go inside

Acting is an opportunity to work on what is inside you, a part that most other professions avoid. It can be painful or scary to look inside, but without this self-investigation, you cannot grow. It is called “growing pains” for a reason. It is in our nature to avoid pain unless we are made to change through pain. But the only way to grow artistically or spiritually is to allow the experience of life’s pain to penetrate our hearts without becoming a victim of our own experience.

To look within is to discover, accept and acknowledge your own emotional triggers, struggles and triumphs. This is the process of acting—being willing to feel, being willing to look, and being willing to seek in the moment. It is seeking, listening and discovering…and seeking again. It’s not planning the reaction in the scene; it’s experiencing the reaction in the moment. This is our climb up the mountain.

Acting with Impact and Life Emotion Cards are available at Samuel French Bookstore, and at actingwithimpact.com and on Amazon.

Acting-The_Objective

The Objective: ACTING your character’s NEED, Part 1

The Objective is one of the most important power tools for an actor because it provides a starting point in the analyzing stage of any scene.

So what is the actual definition of “the objective”?

Every character is attempting to “get” something in every script and play. It may be love, a job, recognition, money, respect, sex, attention; this list can go on and on. However, it is important for the actor to figure out and articulate what the character you will be portraying wants and/or needs, and what is worth fighting for.

The objective supports the dynamics in any and all scenes, be it drama or comedy. If no one wants anything or needs anything in a scene, if nothing is at stake, the acting becomes uninteresting to watch. All drama and comedy is based on conflict.

“We are captivated by a struggle. We are captivated when watching a game that has two strong opponents.”Acting with Impact

Think of a boxing match. If neither fighter wants to win the match it would be a silly and uneventful spar. But if both of their objectives were to let the other guy win, that would be an objective. And if they really played with that intention, because it is unexpected in a normal boxing match, the audience might even find it funny because they are taking great risks to lose instead of win. However, if they enter the rink with no need to win or lose, nothing at stake in fighting, no sense of competition, eventually the onlookers will lose interest in the fight.

Life is about going after a goal—a want, a need, something worth fighting for… some people want a family, others a career, and some both. Some are fighting for better health, some for a better day job. We all want, and because of our want, we feel emotion. When we feel we are winning in life, we feel happier than when we feel we are losing in life our objective. Interestingly, the Objective gives us many life lessons on how we experience our journey.

If we don’t have an objective in life, we may feel lost and without direction. This is also true in acting. If you discover that you feel a bit lost or without direction in a scene or cold reading, discover the character’s objective you are playing and play their objective with all of your heart. This will give your acting a point of reference of the character you are playing and support your commitment to live into their world.

Here are some fun exercises that will serve your ability to utilize the objective:

Watch a film, play or TV show with attention on what the main characters want. Ask yourself “what do they want?” Try to articulate their objectives in terms that allow you to visualize what it might look like if they did receive and win their objectives. And take note of their emotional life and notice how they feel by whether or not they are getting closer to what they want.

Also, take a moment to look into your own life to decide what you want and what you are willing to fight for, what’s at stake for you in your life. Perhaps you are looking for a breakthrough in your acting skill, or a chance to audition for a certain casting director, or you may want to book a job with a specific director, or you may have a love interest. Take note of your desire, your actions, and the risks you take to get it. Now, knowing that every character cares as much about their objective as you do about your own, play the character’s scene objective with that much commitment. Be compassionate to the hunger that lives in any character to get what they desire.

Your acting will always be enriched when you effectively take the risks that surrender your own desire to be great, and instead play the character’s desire to win their goal. One can never watch themselves in the work when playing the character’s objective with true intention.

Be strong, believe and live authentically,

Kimberly Jentzen

For a more complete lesson on the objective, please check out my book, Acting with Impact: Power Tools to Ignite the Actor’s Performance.

Confidence and Becoming a Great Actor

Confidence… we all need it to be successful. No matter what we do in life, we depend on our ability to communicate effectively with great belief in what we have to give.

But one can’t gain confidence by demanding others to praise or approve of them. This same rule applies to anyone who is attempting to be a successful working actor. You gain confidence by demonstrating to yourself that you are worthy of it.

Confidence is something you can’t “get,” but it is something you can build.

False confidence is copping an attitude that you are superior to others. This attitude is not pro-survival for the actor because you really need to be moldable to do your job. In acting, strength is realized by being flexible and open to any criticism and notes. Great acting requires welcoming feedback and trusting the collaborative process between you and the director. If you feel you must protect yourself, your focus will be in your ego, and you will be gauging how safe you are, instead of freely trusting the process. You may even discover you are in your head, “watching yourself” as you act, and not living into the give-and-take between you and your fellow actors to deliver that great performance you so desire.

You see, often the things actors do to protect themselves are the very things that get in the way of greatness. Sometimes actors may fall apart, needing others to reassure them. Or the actor may even get angry and be difficult to work with because they are afraid of being bad. Even when their choice may be weak and there is a better choice suggested, actors can be so afraid to step outside their comfort zone that they may sabotage something good for something “safe.”

When we are focused on our own inadequacies, we aren’t being present to the opportunities being offered. There is always potential within us to discover an unrealized new strength. In every production, in every opportunity, something unknown, something extraordinary, lives within us that yearns to be ignited, if we would just step out of our own way.

Acting is a constant exercise in uncovering what lives within you, the good and the bad, and to fearlessly expose what most people would rather hide.

To be a great actor, you must be willing to step into the unknown, with honesty.

Trust is the most important quality an artist can possess. When you trust, you naturally relax and enjoy the process. When you focus on the love of the work, you open up your heart and find your creativity in it, you are an active participant rather than an observer. You begin to brave any criticism. When you invest your heart and thought into craft; when you have devoted yourself to study and have applied many, many critiques; when you know you are doing the work that all great actors do… you strengthen a believe in yourself that no one can take away.

The amazing thing is, it isn’t confidence that get’s in your way, it’s actually fear. You can work through the fear and transform it into positive energy. Your confidence comes from the execution of doing the work, over and over again. That’s how people build their confidence in class, through completing scenes and learning how to get better at script and character analysis.

Confidence is effectively interpreting a script and from that assessment executing strong choices. If you know your craft, no one can deny your skill and that exhibits great self-belief that you have something grand to contribute, simply because you really, really actually do.

When you have proven to yourself you have skill, there is a calm inside.

Confidence is being competent. It is knowing that when your time comes, you will be able to deliver because you practiced when it didn’t count. You can only gain confidence from working on yourself and showing up to the work. There is nothing without it. Though it’s nice to have others treat you with respect, there is nothing like earning it because you did a good job. That’s the real deal… and that’s confidence.

The Objective-An Actors NEED

The Objective: ACTING your character’s NEED, Part 2

The Objective is one of the most important power tools for an actor because it provides a starting point in the analyzing stage of any scene.

So what is the actual definition of “the objective”?

Every character is attempting to “get” something in every script and play. It may be love, a job, recognition, money, respect, sex, attention; this list can go on and on. However, it is important for the actor to figure out and articulate what the character you will be portraying wants and/or needs, and what is worth fighting for.

The objective supports the dynamics in any and all scenes, be it drama or comedy. If no one wants anything or needs anything in a scene, if nothing is at stake, the acting becomes uninteresting to watch. All drama and comedy is based on conflict.

“We are captivated by a struggle. We are captivated when watching a game that has two strong opponents.”Acting with Impact

Think of a boxing match. If neither fighter wants to win the match it would be a silly and uneventful spar. But if both of their objectives were to let the other guy win, that would be an objective. And if they really played with that intention, because it is unexpected in a normal boxing match, the audience might even find it funny because they are taking great risks to lose instead of win. However, if they enter the rink with no need to win or lose, nothing at stake in fighting, no sense of competition, eventually the onlookers will lose interest in the fight.

Life is about going after a goal—a want, a need, something worth fighting for… some people want a family, others a career, and some both. Some are fighting for better health, some for a better day job. We all want, and because of our want, we feel emotion. When we feel we are winning in life, we feel happier than when we feel we are losing in life our objective. Interestingly, the Objective gives us many life lessons on how we experience our journey.

If we don’t have an objective in life, we may feel lost and without direction. This is also true in acting. If you discover that you feel a bit lost or without direction in a scene or cold reading, discover the character’s objective you are playing and play their objective with all of your heart. This will give your acting a point of reference of the character you are playing and support your commitment to live into their world.

Here are some fun exercises that will serve your ability to utilize the objective:

Watch a film, play or TV show with attention on what the main characters want. Ask yourself “what do they want?” Try to articulate their objectives in terms that allow you to visualize what it might look like if they did receive and win their objectives. And take note of their emotional life and notice how they feel by whether or not they are getting closer to what they want.

Also, take a moment to look into your own life to decide what you want and what you are willing to fight for, what’s at stake for you in your life. Perhaps you are looking for a breakthrough in your acting skill, or a chance to audition for a certain casting director, or you may want to book a job with a specific director, or you may have a love interest. Take note of your desire, your actions, and the risks you take to get it. Now, knowing that every character cares as much about their objective as you do about your own, play the character’s scene objective with that much commitment. Be compassionate to the hunger that lives in any character to get what they desire.

Your acting will always be enriched when you effectively take the risks that surrender your own desire to be great, and instead play the character’s desire to win their goal. One can never watch themselves in the work when playing the character’s objective with true intention.

Be strong, believe and live authentically,

Kimberly Jentzen

For a more complete lesson on the objective, please check out my book, Acting with Impact: Power Tools to Ignite the Actor’s Performance.

Stage_to_Screen_Part-2

Stage to Screen Part 2

Working your Internal Life with “Intentional Energy”

Acting is the ability to believe in an event as if it’s happening now. In film and television, it’s particularly crucial that the acting feels like it’s occurring for the first time. This is true, no matter how many takes are needed to complete the job; acting requires “intentional energy.”

Intentional energy gives the actor a focus by playing the consequences of the scene. Intentional energy puts the actor’s attention on the character’s need, and all listening is filtered through that need. A great example is in the film Moneyball, when Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill sit across from each other, juggling phone calls as they trade baseball players for their team. The intentional energy between them keeps the stakes alive.

Too much energy can be distracting. It can trip the actor up by circumventing listening skills, making random movements or being all over the room. Energy that is too low can produce similar results and cause you to deliver a dull and unexciting performance. Both energy issues disable the actor and demonstrate problems with mental focus, physical stillness and believability in the performance.

We’ve all heard casting directors, directors and industry professionals speak about how important energy is and that all great actors have a lot of it. So what gets in the way? Here are some thoughts I’ve come to that I hope will aid you in harnessing intentional energy.

Self-awareness can steal energy. If you are watching whether or not you are doing a good job, your energy will be disconnected from your intention. Your intention must stay with what the character wants, not the performance you want. Often what happens when you watch yourself is that you edit your ideas and the instincts that you think are bad, may actually be good. You can’t know this without trusting your instincts as you attempt to live into the character’s intention.

Another energy issue that happens is when you attempt to play a character that requires you to go beyond your own comfort zone of emotional expression.

If you have been conditioned to censor your own thoughts and emotions—to hide yourself from feeling what is real within you, there will be energy issues.

Often in life, there are times when we can kind of “check out.” Sometimes, just to survive our youth or current situations, we may bury our emotions thinking, that it’s the only way to survive. And our cultural upbringing has great influence on us as well. We might suppress our feelings so deeply that our own passion gets hidden. And when passion is buried, energy is buried.

Eye contact radiates energy and connects you to your scene partner. It gives you your eye line. It also helps the editor give you your close-up because if you look at the wall as you listen, while your scene partner is delivering their lines to you, it is difficult for the audience to perceive the relative space. You’re close-up might be lost to a two-shot so the audience understands the juxtaposition.

However, you never want to “stare” at your partner. You want to really listen and react. You want to be engaged in the life of the scene.

Let’s explore this. Right now as you read this, stop for a second and stare and then observe what happens…. When you stare, basically there is nothing going on. Staring is “checking out,” it is the opposite of listening. Connecting with your partner requires energy to listen and react. You do this naturally when you live into the character’s intention.

In a scene, there are three places our eyes can go: 1. With our scene partner. 2. Away from the scene partner and into our own thoughts, and 3. The environment—where you take it in and then use it to stimulate the energy to fulfill the moment. Each requires the actor to live into the character’s intention with focused thoughts so that living into the reality of the circumstance allows you to be fully engaged and in the moment.

Intentional energy is harnessed through Stanislavsky’s beloved principle called the “magic if.” Living into the circumstance as if it is really happening to you. In every scene and exercise you do, attempt to live into the “magic if.”

Along with this approach you will find it necessary to discover your character’s objective. If you do that successfully, you will have the opportunity to build on a focused energy. What and how you listen will determine whether or not you are winning your objective. These simple tools can be the source of a focused energy that allows risk taking and the building of an intentional energy.

suzanne_lyons_inspire

Producer Suzanne Lyons – An Inspiring Force!

If you ever have the opportunity to sit down with Suzanne Lyons, you will quickly realize that you are in the company of a powerhouse. She is as passionate about producing feature films as she is life, and she has the essential ability to bring the most joy to both. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview her for my acting class recently and was honored that she opened up and shared about her illness as a child. Despite countless surgeries and losing the sight in one eye, she has gone on to produce nine movies with more on the way. Suzanne Lyons accomplishes because of her positive attitude, fearlessness, and business savvy.

Why I chose to highlight Suzanne Lyons in the Actors section of Master Talent Teachers is because much of life is about overcoming. Her story of triumph against all odds is what life is made of when you go after something that matters deeply to you. Actors must be passionate about the study of being human and what motivates and drives us on. All great acting touches on the parts of us that make us who we are.

Videos from Suzanne Lyons on Career can be found on the career page of http://www.mastertalentteachers.com/category/careers/.

Filmmaking is very much about overcoming odds. It’s a miracle productions get completed, especially small films.

My Experience Directing and Casting

Recently the film I directed, Reign, won the New York International Film Festival. After winning both the Best Short Award and The Audience Award I was asked what I look for in actors. So I thought I would take a moment here and share with you my experience.

When I direct a project, be it film or theatre, there are always roles that are open that need to be cast, and my producing partners and I hold auditions. I love actors who are passionate about the role and bring a perspective that is fresh. I love the collaboration process. I want the shaping of the character to live under the skin of the actor. Often that shaping is about the depth of the life of the character.

Reign can be viewed at http://indieflix.com/film/reign-34365/#festivals-tab

In Reign, I cast a wonderful actress, Sheetal Sheth in the role of Fadwa, an Iraqi woman, who loses her family during a firefight in the middle of the desert. Sheetal and I had many discussions regarding her character and the direness of her situation. What attracted me to cast her was her passion for the role, her experience and training. I knew that Reign was going to be a rigorous shoot. We shot the film 52 miles North East of Palm Springs outside of 29 Palms, in a desolate desert terrain. The conditions were pretty tough. The women had to take a 15-minute ride down to base camp just to go to the bathroom and all the women were such team players, none of them ever complained. It was in February, extremely cold without the sun and hot with it, the wind was harsh and constantly blowing the dry desert sand. Now, I write all of this with a smile because I love directing so much, I was far too involved in the gig to concern myself with any of these challenges.

We had an A-list crew (for our budget) so we were cutting corners anywhere we could. I knew that anyone I cast would have to know how to concentrate and deliver a depth of emotion regardless of the pressure of filmmaking and the challenges of the conditions. It truly was a passion project for myself as well as everyone involved.

We shot Reign on 35 mm film, which is beautiful but expensive. I knew I would have to get all of my performances in one or at the most, two takes. I had a lot of faith in Sheetal. Her process was flawless and her preparation served her in the field. I’ve worked with both non-actors and trained actors. I feel that it is more advantageous to work with the trained actor because they have invested in their skill and understand the process. But the most important part of working with an actor is that we both feel a positive connection and both care about the project. I think my favorite aspects of a great actor is their passion, skill, and desire for perfection within themselves to bring their best to the work. I think all great artists have that.

Kimberly Jentzen

Reign has gone on to win “Best Direction” and “Best Casting Director” from the Actors Film Festival, “Best Short Film” from the Louisville International Film Festival, “Best Short Film” from the New York International Film Festival, “The Audience Award” from both the Louisville International Film Festival and the New York International Film Festival and the “Award of Merit” at the Best Shorts Competition.

Videos from Kimberly Jentzen on Acting can be found in the archives of Actors

Kimberly Jentzen has been teaching actors for more than 20 years, she has won the Backstage “Best Acting Coach Award” and “Favorite Teacher Award” multiple times, and is regarded as one of the top acting coaches and teachers in Los Angeles.

from_Stage_to_Screen

Stage to Screen Acting

For years I’ve been coaching talented theatre actors as they make the transition from stage to film and television acting. It seems the distinction between stage and film acting has become an obsession for actors who want to make the leap!

The ability to adapt between the two has undeniably become an extremely important skill for any actor who wants to be a working professional. I have worked with students who have thrived in theatre, be it starring roles on Broadway or repertory companies; but found themselves a bit befuddled when it came to translating their acting ability to film.

The following is the beginning of a series of videos and articles that will continue to shed insight into this important skill and the differentiation between stage and screen acting.

The first difference is important to grasp, as the medium will determine how the story will be told. In theatre the actors relay the story as it happens via monologues and dialogue. But in film there is much less dialogue and the camera tells the story visually. So, in film, the actor will be communicating via looks, action, behavior and emotion and will sometimes simply utter only a few lines of dialogue. That same scene in a play might be executed in a five-minute monologue presented to a live audience. Also, on stage that actor can never really “utter.” In theatre the actor must be heard all the way to the back of the balcony and will project their voice accordingly.

The challenge of truthfulness

Everyone has good and bad days and in theatre an actor could very well pretend some of their emotions. As some theatre actors may not like to admit it, the rigors of performing night after night can lend an actor to skillfully execute their emotion outwardly. A stage actor understands that as long as there is a theatrical energy emanating, the audience will hopefully continue to be engaged.

In film, the emotions are intimate and raw, as the lens is recording the actor up close. It isn’t easy to pretend or even try to get away with faking an experience. In film, the actor must commit to the truthfulness of the life they are playing; the actor must be what I call,  “intimately believable.”

Rehearsal

The rehearsal process is vastly different from one medium to the next. The beauty of theatre is that it affords the actor the opportunity to develop a character over a four-week period (give or take a week or two). What a luxury to nurture character development while memorizing your lines! In film, you are lucky to get a few days of rehearsal, dependent on the budget and the director… and in television, you more often won’t get any rehearsal at all! In television, your rehearsal is the run through prior to the director and DP setting up the camera for the shot. Sometimes a series regular might really enjoy the rehearsal process and you luck out and get a session prior to the 2nd AD calling for you to be on set.

Performance is key

If you love acting you quickly realize that it doesn’t really matter what medium you are currently working in as long as you are effective in each one of them. Often working in one medium can lead to getting you a gig in another. So it’s important to keep working the skills required for each medium.

A great theatre role could lead to a television role. Years ago I witnessed an amazing performance in a play called Topdog/Underdog at the Mark Taper Forum. I was blown away by Harold Perrineau, who gave a powerful performance in his portrayal of the older brother, Lincoln. He had been in a television series but wasn’t working in TV at the time, so he took the role and went on tour. A couple of years later he booked a series regular role on J.J. Abrams, Lost. I remember hearing April Webster, the casting director of Lost, mention that she had seen him in Topdog/Underdog and remembered him.

Act with impact!

Kimberly Jentzen

Script_Analysis

Script Analysis with Kimberly Jentzen

Script Analysis has so many important advantages for you as an actor. It’s crucial to have a grasp on your character’s internal life, as that will give you an edge in what choices you will be making for an original performance.

Understanding how to analyze a script, also known as, breaking down a script, applies to every aspect of acting, from auditioning to performance—from a small role, to a role that carries the entire film or TV series. Every time you invest in an intimate study of your character, you become prepared to deliver something exciting and special. You also learn about yourself and your own perceptions in the process, and in addition, you expand your understanding of others.

The job of analyzing the script plays an important role for each and every person that has a creative decision on your set or stage; from costumes to set design—and especially for the director, who will be breaking down and analyzing your character as well. The director will have ideas that he or she will be sharing, and you will need to add those adjustments to your performance. You will want to understand the director’s input by doing your own preparation so your collaboration together is easy.

Every time you pick up a script, your approach will often change as the demands of every script differs and requires different ways of examining them. The biggest distinction is the difference between a comedy script verses a dramatic script.

Instincts and Your Preparation

When you invest time in an intimate study of a character, you calibrate your own instincts to the character’s instincts. You begin to think “in character” and you begin to have a new perspective that is a little different than your own—and sometimes very different than your own. This gives your performance nuances and specifics that feed into your creative energy in performance. This is when acting is captivating—when the actor lets go and adopts the character’s behavior, history and humanity.

Understanding the character allows you to make choices based on their motivation. The motivation is always found in the script—it’s right in there for you to discover. Sometimes it’s buried and you have to excavate it, other times it’s more obvious. The motivation delivers the driving force of your character.

Playing the Love

Characters can be similar to the interest we have in a close friend. Think of the people you know and love. When you love someone, you’ve invested time with them… you have gotten to know them. You understand the things that are similar and the things that are different from you. When you care about a character, you “play the love” of knowing them. You also play the parts that are different than you because you have taken the time to understand them.

When you feel judged or disapproved of by a friend, the friendship often suffers. You might not feel like they understand you. You might not want to spend a lot of time with them, and most likely, they won’t either. It’s the same with a character—when we judge them, we shut down our willingness to empathize with them. It’s so important to understand why a character behaves the way they do without judging them. It’s so important to understand the character you will be playing—they must make sense to you—their behavior must add up and it is your job to discover how it does.

Flexibility and Taking Direction

When you’re given direction, you’ll want to make the adjustments to change and adapt a choice for the requested result. To release attachment to what is the “right” way to say a line, you must release what we call “line readings.” A line reading is a rote way to say the line in which the actor becomes married to the speech pattern and inflection, and can’t let go of it. So you will want to be flexible by keeping the lines alive and always seeking different ways of delivering a line by exploring the subtext. Keeping the lines fresh liberates you so you can respond in the give and take of your scene partner.

Saying Your Lines Differently

Go ahead and try it. Take a line of dialogue and say it 4 or 5 different ways. See what you discover. Did the subtext change at all? You’ll know you achieved a new or more interesting reading when the subtext becomes reawakened by a new delivery of your lines. This opens the door to flexibility.

The exercise of saying your lines in different and unexpected ways is important also in discovering what lives under the surface of the words. I love to hear actors in class or on set, while working on their script, discover new meanings through playing with the words out loud.

Sometimes the director or producer will ask for a specific line delivery. You will want to be able to let go of your way of executing it and deliver the line of dialogue the way they requested it. Though an actor may dislike this kind of request, it can happen. Each actor is one part of the whole of a project. Part of being a team player is the willingness to give the production what ever they request without judging it. Often the director will ask for a specific result in the acting; know that this is part of the natural exchange between director and actor. What is important is to do your dialogue in such a way that it feels organic and natural. That’s your challenge.

What is also important is to do your homework, which involves script analysis and the discovery of understanding your character.

For more tools on script analysis, owning your character and playing the love, check out my book, Acting with Impact, available at Samuel French Bookstore in Hollywood, at Amazon.com and at my website at kimberlyjentzen.com

Acting_with_Billy_Damota

Inside the Industry with Casting Director Billy DaMota and Kimberly Jentzen

Billy DaMota has depth. He’s the kind of casting director that really cares about the actor. My class spent a few evenings with him and we really enjoyed his take on acting.

There is a Stanislavski knowingness inside Billy. He loves the fantastic magic of honesty in the moment and the emotional ride in the work. He’s not afraid to admit that he was moved by a performance—in fact—he celebrates it. He appreciates masters at their craft by rewarding great talent with opportunities to be cast in his projects. So, if you ever have the opportunity to work with him, I think you will be as inspired as my actors in my class were.

Billy is very forthcoming in helping actors navigate their advancement in the profession. Here he shares his wisdom:

Demo Reels

“First of all, the reel has to be concise. It can’t be 7 minutes because you love yourself… but I get them every day. It’s gotta be your best work always up front. The general attention span of a casting director in Los Angeles is that of a gnat and you want to grab ‘em. So put your best work up front, even if it’s a small thing.

The problem is if you’re sending a reel, you’re probably not at the level that your agent can pitch you and just get you a meeting. So you’re goal is to get a meeting.

You want them to see that you can act.

There are a lot of people who put together these reels now that you can have made at some studio and that’s a part of seeing an actor’s work, but also seeing that you can book a real job is important. So to see that they are in a movie, to see that they are working with Dustin Hoffman or Meryl Streep, or someone on a TV show, is also important. So even if you have some small stuff, some good stuff, that’s professionally produced, network and feature stuff, you put that on there too. And it can be a really great student film or a really great short film.

But the quality that I see now-a-days… the fact that everybody can buy a 7D or a 5D camera… If the script’s not good or the acting’s not good, if the production values aren’t good, it’s not worth my time to look at. So, I think you have to be concerned with that, too.”

Mistakes Actors Make

“The big mistake that a lot of actors make when they come to Los Angeles is that you have to be really particular in the projects you chose. Which means, you’ve got to read the script and you’ve got to know that the writer, producer, and director know what they’re doing. Be specific and particular about the kind of projects you chose while you are putting your reel together.

You have to be really specific in what you want. I always tell actors – focus. Find the directors, the casting directors, the projects that you like to watch, and I don’t just mean the movies that make you laugh or cry, but the ones that effect you in a way that you say, ‘I want to work with that director, I want to work with that producer, I want to know who that casting director is, I want to get on their radar.’ Too many actors are scattered. They are not looking for what’s specific and right for them. Target and focus is always really important.”

What do you look for in an actor?

“It’s really getting close to the same thing I look for in human beings I like to hang around. You tend to be attracted to people that are funny and sensitive and creative and attractive. Actors always think they have to be assertive, and sometimes I like the shy and the reserved because it makes me want to reach in and find out more about them.

It’s always a challenge for me when it comes to casting, and that challenge is the most exciting part. It’s like going on a wonderful fishing expedition. Where you learn and you grow and you find new things you never knew were out there. I think what I look for primarily is something that attracts me. I look for that energy that connects with me, and what I’m trying to do. That initial energy. It’s like love, if you create barriers, or filters—I’m not talking about mystery or intrigue—I’m talking about, not connecting, then you probably are not going to work on a project that I cast.

It’s an energy that I’m attracted to when you walk into an office. And then there’s the talent. You don’t have to be Olivier, but you have to be connected to the material. And I think a lot of times actors walk into my office without ever having read the script, or not knowing what their character is, or not having created choices… real strong choices. And they don’t have to always be the right ones. When an actor makes no choice, it’s like a ship without a sail.

An actor walked into my office the other day and asked, ‘How do you see the character?’—No, I don’t see the character – you see the character. It’s your job to interpret the character. It’s my job to evaluate your interpretation. So you have to come in with something. You have to come in with choices… strong, palpable choices.

So… I look for an energy, a certain quality connection, a commitment to the character and their talent.”