Listening Part 3: Give and Take and Raising the Stakes

Listening Part 3 – Give and Take and Raising the Stakes by Kimberly Jentzen

In this video, Kimberly Jentzen guides actors, Brianne La Flair and Roman Banfield, as they explore the acting tool: Listening. Some acting classes in Los Angeles focus entirely on this skill. Listening is paramount in acting, and understanding how to inspire the delivery of your lines through the process of listening to your scene partner is vital. Much of what we see in film and television acting incorporates the ability to listen, and then react naturally and instinctively. There are so many ways we listen, but the most important awareness the actor must have is to take note of what motivates the character to listen.

We are motivated to listen when there are consequences that matter deeply to us.

In every drama and comedy there is always something at stake; something that could be taken from the character or something the character needs that they are fighting to get. There may be news your character is waiting for, or actions, or results that will satisfy your character’s desires and what they are hoping to achieve in the scene.

To master listening, listen for what your character wants to hear or feel from the other character… Listen with a hunger to get something that is vital to your happiness or survival.

Characters have a range of desires. Some want attention, affection, satisfaction, approval, money, sex, power, control… any one of these could be the very objective played for your next audition or performance. Or, it could be order, that your character needs, or redemption, forgiveness, a meal, a friend, etc. It could be anything that is true to the script and the material you are working. Use your imagination and study the character. Eventually you will discover the character’s desire or need.

Every character wants something from their scene partner that is intrinsic; something that will help them reach their ideal life.

A chapter in my book, Acting with Impact: Power Tools to Ignite the Actor’s Performance, is dedicated to this power tool. I like to call the objective a “power tool” too, because it is one of the parameters that dictate the give and take with your scene partner. And actors, you know how important that is! And new actors, if you didn’t, hopefully you know now!

In the video I mention the performances from the film Sophies Choice, directed by Alan J. Pakula. Sophie, (Meryl Streep) is haunted by her past, which is revealed in the scene in which she opens up to Stingo (Peter MacNicol). Ashamed and still emotionally tortured by her memories, she bares the horrors of how she was sent to a concentration camp and how she survived. Sophie desperately wants forgiveness for her actions. In the scene, Stingo wants to take her pain away and to comfort and reassure her.

In the Oscar award-winning film, Forrest Gump, directed by Robert Zemeckis, Forrest (Tom Hanks) wants love (the girl of his dreams), Jenny (Robin Wright). But Jenny wants to escape and find the peace she has never known which was stolen from her when she was a little girl. Mrs. Gump (Sally Field) wants her son Forrest, to have a normal life. Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinise) at the top of the film, wants to die and follow in his family’s footsteps as a true soldier who died for his country.

Each character cares deeply for their goal, regardless of how difficult it might be to get it.

A character’s objective doesn’t change unless a pivotal event happens that shapes the character’s decisions and actions. Take note, that in most films, each character’s objectives are very unique and different from the other. It’s important to choose a strong and active objective that is born out of and aligns with your character in the script. It also is advised to know how to break down a script and analyze it to discover the strongest and most active objective. And yes, I will be bringing you an introduction to script analysis soon! Please visit often!

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.
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Bringing Your Own Personality to the Part and Making It Right for You

The biggest mistake an actor can make when preparing for an audition is that they try to figure out what “THEY” are looking for. Actors will squash their initial instincts when first reading audition sides, attempting to fit in to what they “THINK” the Producers want. They believe there must be a right choice and a wrong choice. Read more

Acting Success Now: Interview With Robert & Michelle Colt

I sat down and had a wonderful interview with Robert and Michelle Colt of Acting Success Now for I have known Robert and Michelle for several years and the best way I can describe what they do, is that they help actors “get out of their own way”.

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The Callback

The most important thing for an actor to remember in a “callback” is to be consistent. The Casting Director “called you back” after your pre-read audition, because they liked what you did in the room with them. All too often, an actor will get excited about a callback and will go home and work on it and change things. When the actor comes to the callback with all their new ideas, they are unrecognizable to the Casting Director. The actor has changed the original choices they made that got them called back in the first place. So, consistency is key.

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The Pre-Read With The Casting Director

The pre-read with the Casting Director is usually held in the Casting Directors office. You are usually being “pre-read” by the Casting Director because she doesn’t know your work or has not seen you do this kind of part before. This office is often a small room and you usually see a lot of other actors waiting in the lobby. I always say the lobby of the casting office is your first line of defense. You will see all those other actors just waiting to sabotage you. You must stay mentally focused in the lobby to avoid the pitfalls of self sabotage. You see the actor across the lobby that you recognize, you notice what the other actors are wearing, and you hear the casting assistant on the phone checking the availability of a “name” actor for the part you are auditioning for. And you say to yourself…”I’m never going to get this part. That actor has a lot more experience than me!”

Make sure you stay focused in the lobby on your own choices and avoid the chit chat with other actors. Get into the mental focus of an athlete. When your name is called enter the audition room with CONFIDENCE. This is where the audition starts…from the moment you walk into the room.

Please make sure you do not enter the room in character, but in a hybrid state of being a focused actor ready to go as well as a pleasant person open to whatever the Casting Director throws your way. If chit chat happens make sure that when chatting is over, you take your 5 to 10 seconds to get back your mental focus before you start the scene. Making as much eye contact with the Casting Director or whoever is reading with you during your audition is key. I hate the word memorize, because actors who try to “memorize” the scene usually are constantly searching their heads for the right words during the audition, instead of thinking what their intention is in the scene. But, KNOW IT. Please remember, we don’t audition you to see if you can memorize lines. We audition you to see if you are at all right for the part and want an actor to come in prepared with their own unique choices. Hold the scene in your hand in a comfortable way and glance down and grab the line if needed. The best auditions are the ones when you forget the paper is in the actors hands.

The Casting Director has been hired by the Producers to find the cast for their pilot or series. They can often be hassled, under slept, and with a lot of pressure to hurry up and find the cast. So walking into the pre-read with the Casting Director can sometimes be filled with mixed signals. The Casting Director may have just gotten off the phone with the Network Casting office saying they don’t like their choices so far. The Executive Producer may have just called and said they have written all new sides and want all the actors to have the new material in the session that starts in half an hour. So understand that the Casting Director can be pulled in many different directions between the Network, Studio, Producers and Director. The actor views the Casting Director as their “gate keeper” to getting into the ballgame, I know. But know that the Casting Director can often unwittingly be their own worst enemy by falling victim to this tug of war. Hear me when I say…the Casting Director wants you to be “IT”. They want you to be the one to solve their problem. So even if you get thrown a hostile glance or they are not even looking at you, be focused and ready to go when you walk in the door.