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Four Resources Available To Actors Part 2 – Observation

Observation

One of the things I have observed over the years are the various processes American Actors and British Actors use to becoming/creating a character. The Americans tend to work from the inside out and the Brits often work from the outside in. I believe we must use everything we can to bring a character to Life for a performance.

I’d like to introduce Observation as a way of Life for any Actor of any Age. Specifically Kids and Teens, because the sooner a young actor begins to approach the work in this way, the more natural it becomes as they grow into full fledged actors and conscious human beings. Awareness must become a way of Life for the Actor.

We have exercises in our classes for younger child actors to do outside of class that are simple and fun. They begin to take on observation as a natural part of their daily lives, illuminating human behavior. One of the things younger actors can do is this.

Choose three people to study, and make sure you take notes, but don’t tell the people you are examining that you are doing this. It can be anyone, and it needs to be three completely different types. For example, a child actor can observe a teacher, a parent, sibling, the grocery store man, a homeless person, someone at Church or a Bus Stop. Ask yourself the following:

How does this person look? What do they wear? What are they doing?

How do they speak, eat, write, and walk?

What are their quirks, idiosyncrasy’s, or patterns? Do they smile easily, laugh, frown, scowl or grin a lot? Do they hide or show their teeth?

Do they twitch or have nervous eyes, hands feet or mannerisms? Do they fidget or are they calm, cool and collected? Are they direct or do they avert their gaze when addressing people? Are they confident or shy?

Do they seem happy or sad? What is their general vibe? Do they walk or run funny or normally or do they limp, use a can, wheelchair or crutches? Do they have nervous speaking patterns or are they articulate? Do they have a large vocabulary or are they limited in their communications?

Once you have observed people, I recommend taking notes and keeping a file on various types of people. You can give each different person a file title like, The cute guy in Spanish class, The nerd at the pharmacy, the Queen, the President of the U.S., the popular cheerleader, the jock. My Mom, my Rabbi, my little brother, the ditzy girl, my favorite cousin, my Grandpa, my Aunt at my Uncle’s funeral. You get the picture.

Now that you have a catalogue of characters to draw from and you find a role that you will be playing, you now have observations to help you begin to create a character that has layers. People watching is fun, creative work. We aren’t paid to guess, we are paid to make playable choices and deliver magic that is believable.

Much of what we play will be ourselves, that is always the most accurate, but for those characters that are not like us, we must look outside of ourselves, go on task, and use your Observation Files. Not only will you have wonderful details to use in your study of the human condition, you will be come a much more expanded person along the way. What a wonderful quality. This really is sacred work we are doing and it is so much fun!

Four Resources for Actors, Part 1

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Acting Tips: The Wide Shot vs The Close-up

Just when you thought you had learned everything about the emotional journey an Actor must master, we go and add another layer of technical knowledge into the mix. Camera shots! Unless you study filmmaking as well as Acting, you won’t know about shots and frames unless you spend a lot of time in an on camera class or on set, watching, learning and grasping all of those buzz words the Director and the crew are using to describe the shots they are setting up and using to shoot each scene. Read more

Adjust Script reading

Acting for Children: Adjusting your Acting Style to Different Scripts

Most Actors pride themselves on having a dazzling paint box filled with emotions that range in a number of shades, which they can use to paint their roles with and change frequently. Many imagine they have few limits, whether their sensibilities are based in Theatrical training or Film work, most of them believe they can “play anything”. However, from that idea to actual execution is another point entirely. Depending on the training and how well versed an Actor is in his or her characters, there seems to be a general misinterpretation of “Style”. Style, in my opinion, needs to be erased from the Actors language.

Once an Actor begins to think about his “style”, he usually gives up working subjectively and starts to think objectively, and that in itself is where his damage begins. Although most Actors love to make adjustments from role to role, script-to-script, I have found that the minute they begin thinking about changing their natural style, they suddenly become stiff and unbelievable. Who wants to watch that, Actors showing us their work at doing a new “style”?

I have chosen five Teen Actors who are training with me at my various locations in the L.A. area, all at various places in their careers and training. They have been asked to not only demonstrate their different styles, but also to offer you their concepts of how adjusting their styles on a script to script basis lands with them when asked, whether it be for an audition, a role that they have booked or a role for class. I thought their answers were poignant and interesting.

Miranda May (15) was asked, “What happens to you, a stand up comedienne, and often cast in comedic roles when you get a Disney script?”

Miranda states, “When I look at a Disney script, I think ENERGY, I think HAPPY. As opposed to say and ‘E.R.’ audition which is more real”.

Mason Alexander (15) was asked, “Since you are a Nickelodeon Actor on both iCarly and Bucket & Skinners Epic Adventure, what do you do when you get a Soap Opera audition?”

Mason says, “When I receive contrasting scripts, I ask myself, ‘ What do I need to do personally to find that character in myself?’

Zach Callison (14) was asked, “What do you, a Disney Actor, do when a Feature Film script comes in from your Agent?”

Zach offers, “Having done a lot of Disney, I’m now excited when I get to adjust and tone down my work for a Feature Film role.”

Dani Jacoby (18) was asked, “Since you are primarily a Host and busy commercial actress, what do you do when you get an episodic or dramatic script?”

Dani states, “I love episodic because you can show your range and go deep and expand yourself.”

Marcus O’Dell (15) was asked by Diane, “I know you love doing sketch comedy characters and impersonations, but what do you do with a script from a big Feature Film like “The Social Network” in class?”

Marcus said, “ Never copy a celebrity’s performance in your scene study, always find your own interpretation, make it your own”.
All of the Actors had intelligent approaches to this topic of adjusting your style and that has a lot to do with their experience and training. They are smart actors. However, I have this to offer any actor approaching something out of their comfort zone, or some style other than their natural style. Shift your focus from the ‘style’ of the script, which you need to be aware of every time you pick up a script, to the ‘behavior’ of your character in each script. Consider these behavior choices as you approach your character:

• Posture – How does my character stand, walk or move?
• Speaking patterns – What does my character sound like or say?
• When does this particular character internalize and when would they express things outwardly?
• Work from the inside out and from the outside in.
• Find the vulnerabilities inside the Life of your characters and inside yourself.

It is important for the actor to understand why the characters chose to behave as they do. They have chosen based on their life style in each script, whether it is a modern day character or a period piece. Style then becomes very simple.

In The Moment with Joey Luthman

Rarely do you see a four page resume and a mile long list of awards at the age of 14. However, if your name is Joey Luthman, you do. This prolific young actor embodies the same belief system as the late, great Lucille Ball, who’s motto was “Do Everything you can “…as an Actor. Joey lives by the same rule. Prior to making his mark as one of Hollywood’s most promising young actors, in between bookings, would go back and do another student film for USC or UCLA, just to stay in work mode.

He certainly didn’t need another credit on his resume. He simply loves the Actors work. He is such a bright young talent as well as a bright beam in the Universe. He is what I call “The Package”. He has talent, a great all American look, a huge heart, a great team and a wonderful family as well as an abundance of ideas, goals and humility. Pretty great combination platter I’d say.

Not only does Joey work in every medium the Industry has to offer, he also maintains a healthy level of “giving back” to the community. Talk about being “in the flow”, Joey really gets it. Lately he has participated in the following Charities that he is dedicated to, such as; “Nutts 4 Mutts”, “Kids 4 Kids 5K Run/Walk”, “Karaoke with Homeless Shelter in Van Nuys”, 5K Run/Walk for St. Jude Children’s Hospital and Ronald McDonald House in LA, “A Star in You”, with ‘A Perfect World Foundation’.

Joey claims his dream is to be like one of his inspirations, Ron Howard one day and to someday work with Tom Hanks or Jim Carrey. We have no doubt that in his rise to Fame & Fortune, that he will do just that. Joey always keeps his word and when a young man can do that with his schedule, I predict a lot more success coming his way. It has been such an honor coaching this gifted young man, I feel fortunate to be on this path with him.

In the last 4 years, Joey has won every coveted award available to young talent in Los Angeles. His accomplishments include:

30th Annual Young Artists’ Awards 2009 on March 29, 2009

Nominated for 3 Young Artists’ Awards, for WEEDS, Stars & Suns and Private Practice…

Joey WON 2009 YOUNG ARTIST AWARD for Best Performance in a TV Series ~ Guest Starring Role ~ for Private Practice, ABC.

“Weeds” Episode 4.4 on Showtime

“Lil’ RockStarz” Album NOW available in stores: Best Buy, Target, Walmart

“Last Meal” @ Palm Springs Int’l. Film Festival June, 2009

“Forget Me Not” in Theatres November, 2009

“The Father” available on DVD February 2010

“Private Practice” Episode: “Worlds Apart” on ABC aired May & June 2009

“The Diane Christiansen Annual Scholarship Award” 2007

Audition Tips: Mock Auditions for Kids and Teens

Mock Auditions are the most preparatory portion of on camera training and although I am not a firm believer of being on camera every week, I feel adding mock auditions for kids and teens once a month is perfect for fine tuning the young Actors audition technique.


Today we will concentrate on what happens once the Actor is in front of the camera and ready to begin the audition. We will discuss the eight critical steps in front of the camera. They are:

  1. The Slate & Camera Frame
  2. Eye Contact
  3. Comfort with script
  4. Readjusts
  5. Taking Direction
  6. Collaborating
  7. Props & Miming
  8. Moment before & moment after
  1. The slate is the way you state your name & age. If over 18, you do not state your age. The Actor must gaze into the camera lens as if their funniest friend is there and just said something funny that only the 2 of them share. Then say “Hi” (warmly), smiling, then first name, (pause) last name, going down on the end of last name. This clearly gives the viewer of the audition tape the chance to really hear the Actors name. Then say “and I am 11 years old” (or actual age), smile. No Agencies, unless asked.
  2. Eye contact must be established with the “reader” which is sometimes the Casting Director. You must always connect by memorizing your first line.
  3. I compare being Comfortable with your script to using a video game controller. It must be out of the way with very little focus on it, keeping your focus on the reader so you can listen & react when their line is spoken. Remember, you are also being filmed listening.  Being memorized helps. Regardless, you must ALWAYS take the script into the room with you and hold it.
  4. Readjusts are notes or suggestions the casting Director gives the Actor once you have read. This is how they find out if you can take direction. NEVER argue with this, just show them you can understand what they ask for, make the adjustment in your head, then deliver the new read with their note.
  5. Taking Direction is the most important thing you will do in the room. Simply take the notes the CD offers you. It is the CD’s job to see if you are easy to work with, now show them you are.
  6. Collaborating is so important and the way you collaborate is what separates the pros from the green rookies. Once the CD offers you a different way to do the lines (readjust), acknowledge that you heard it by saying, “Got it”. If you did not understand what they wanted, ask again. They want you to do well, or they would not have bothered with the redirect. Communicate clearly and simply.
  7. Props and pantomiming at an audition are considered a bad habit. The only time you will ever mime something in the audition is when it is absolutely critical to the read. Never touch, kiss or approach the CD, remember to stay in frame.
  8. Your Moment Before and Moment After establish your character and give you a few seconds to settle into the scene and to stay in it after the scene, when the camera is still rolling. Ask yourself, what is my character doing the moment before the scene starts? After the last line, make sure you stay in character and react to what has just happened as the character would.

Follow these eight lessons in the audition room, and you will appear to be well trained. When we do Mock Auditions in class, I have each of your scene partner’s act as the reader when you are on Camera. This helps you understand that this is your time and what better way to arm yourself than with knowledge and preparation for your 1 – 5 minutes in the room that can change your life forever?