Method Acting In The LA Times

I have gotten a lot of nice messages today from folks who read the Charles McNulty story on the cover f the Arts Section in the Sunday LA Times. They ran it with a huge half-page picture of my dad on the cover over the headline “SO METHODICAL,” and on the interior another full page with a picture of me and my mom in front of the school with the headline “TECHNIQUE STANDS THE TEST OF TIME.”  Thanks to those of you who sent me notes – double thanks to those of you who actually read past the headlines before sending me the note!

Lee Strasberg, photographed in L.A. in 1978, perfected the best-known American adaptation of the Stanislavsky "system" commonly grouped together as the Method. (Los Angeles Times)

It is an interesting experience to talk about our work. Of course as a journalist McNulty is interested in finding drama. News needs either “New” or “Conflict” so they have to search for one or the other to make the article interesting. That said, your best bet to understand our work is to study it, use it, live with it. We work better than we talk.

People like to talk about theories of acting. But we are not theoretical. My father said our work is not a theory because a theory is something which has not yet been proven. So far, no interview has ever been able to capture that element in our training. How do you explain or describe the change in your life when you gain knowledge of yourself? When you learn discipline? When you learn a new skill? These moments are not accomplished by sitting around talking. The sky does not open up, and the angels don’t sing (usually, at least).

The power of training as an actor – or as anything else for that matter – is the momentum of countless hours spent getting better. How do you capture the grandeur of THAT in a tape recorder?

You need human material to paint that picture…. Hmmmm… Maybe we need a Method movie. đŸ˜‰

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Published in: on November 23, 2009 at 5:43 pm  Comments (2)  
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Michael Imperioli Talks at Strasberg

As promised, here is some of the footage of Michael Imperioli’s talk at Strasberg. Video hosting the entire talk proved less than practical, but here is his opening that I think is very enlightening. You get a strong sense of him and his personality as well as a feel for how much his time at Strasberg means to him. Those of you who have done our exercises may get particular enjoyment from him and his first reaction to the Relaxation exercise. More to come as we get the students’ questions and his answers uploaded. Enjoy!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Published in: on November 18, 2009 at 12:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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40 Years of Making Legends | NBC Los Angeles

Here is the KNBC piece that aired yesterday. I must say that I really enjoyed meeting and speaking with Cary Berglund. Not only was he friendly and engaging, but he made it very easy to work. You can tell when someone is a real professional, and Cary was very much in his element. All in all, I had a wonderful time shooting the piece.

Since embedding the video is harder than I thought, follow the link and let me know what you think.

Published in: on November 11, 2009 at 12:47 pm  Comments (1)  
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Michael Imperioli – WPIX

See if this video of Michael Imperioli works better.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Michael Imperioli – WPIX“, posted with vodpod

 

Published in: on November 11, 2009 at 9:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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Michael Imperioli returns to Strasberg

Former Strasberg student Michael Imperioli returned to Strasberg for an informal talk with our students in NYC. He was great – genuine and articulate. WPIX in NY did a segment on it. Michael also agreed to let us put the entire discussion on-line. I will give you all a link as soon as we put it up. For now enjoy this shorter piece.

Published in: on November 10, 2009 at 12:55 pm  Comments (1)  
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KNBC interview coming online soon

For those in Los Angeles, keep your eye out for an interview my mother and I did with Cary Berglund for KNBC-TV that will be airing on Channel 4 tomorrow, Tuesday, November 10th in the 5.00pm news hour.

I was teaching a group of students while Cary watched – a delightful man who was very interested in how our students were working. As soon as I can get it online, I will post it here.

Published in: on November 9, 2009 at 4:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Namaste

I have been off the blog for a few weeks, but I am back if bit exhausted. I was traveling to New York where we just announced our plans to open a new branch of the Lee Strasberg Institute :

The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute -India

The school is planned to open in June of next year in Mumbai. I am very excited to be working with Rahuul Rawail, a prominent Indian film director, and Ahmed Ahsan who will be collaborating with us to provide training at the same level as we offer in New York and Los Angeles.

This is an exciting step for us at Strasberg, where we have a chance to share my father’s work with the vibrant and active creative community that calls Bollywood home. Our work always starts with the human being, and in that way the acting work is universal. I believe that the actors there are hungry for the best training in the world, and at the same time our community can be enriched by the incredible experience and texture of Indian culture.

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(Left to Right) Rahuul Rawail, Ahmed Ahsan, and David Lee Strasberg announcing the launch of The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute - India

Ahmed and Rahuul have worked diligently with me and with our President, Victoria Krane, to make this new school a reality. Now comes the fun part, as we put the foundation in place for a world-class institute worthy of my father and the actors who will be coming to us to pursue their dream.

I am excited to get there next year and begin to interact with so many talented actors, and I will surely share more information as it develops.

Published in: on June 29, 2009 at 1:46 pm  Comments (8)  
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Lots going on!

There is so much going on at the school right now I have had little time to blog. I was in New York and the place was humming. Students who had made it through the auditions were planning their production work for next fall already.

Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden returned to the Institute to speak with our students. She had the whole audience enthralled. All in all, the energy in NY is like no other place on earth. It is a rush every time I am there (and pretty good all-you-can-eat Sushi doesn’t hurt either!).

Here in LA, there is also plenty going on. I will be teaching as part of a Summer Intensive program for 6 weeks, starting July 13 and going through August 21- I am going to work my actors really hard and shake it up. You can’t get too complacent as an actor – or a human being for that matter.

Plus, we just finished casting for a short film project, “Past Meets Present,” that I am developing with Sasha Krane here at the Institute. He and I will be shooting in two weeks with the help of Conor Gass, and Herb Berraza (our in house production SWAT team). We are delaying production in order to finish a photo shoot that will be happening these next two weekends, but while we wait, Sasha and I are planning the next short in the pipeline.When I have some clips to share, I will post them here and you will see our actors at work.

Speaking of actors at work, I will be judging on a panel for my friends at ActorCast. This is one of the biggest things you have probably never heard of. They run the actor database system for some 90% of the major studio TV & Film casting. That is a big deal. What that means for an actor is that they are THE best of the actor sites because the 500 casting directors who tap into the database daily are the ones who run the casting world. Strasberg students can host there for free, but others should check it out as well. I will post more after I review the actors who submitted their audition reels for a special showcase.

On top of that, we are preparing for a screening of one of our student’s short films – a half hour piece that was developed in our screenwriting class and shot over the last semester. I will provide details of that as well as we get a little closer.

All that to say that I have not left the blogosphere. There is lots in process, so that means there should be plenty to talk about over the next few months. Of course, I am still here to talk acting and answer questions about anything. If you have a question, don’t be shy. We can talk Strasberg, Stanislavsky, Mamet (if you are brave), or Meisner (or sushi!).

Be brave. Bring your questions.

Published in: on May 6, 2009 at 8:25 pm  Comments (1)  
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¡Concentrar!

I’m here in Mexico supporting a former Strasberg Student, Alberto Sosa, who has put on an arts festival, and “Concentrar” is a Spanish word I have used more in the past the past two days than in my entire life prior.

Our challenge has never been to find talented actors – there are lots of them – but rather to train, convince, cajole those actors to really focus.

In the comments section of the prior post I said that concentration is THE tool for the actor. OK, most people would agree. It is a good and necessary thing, but it begs the question, “what do I concentrate on?”

This is where my father, inspired by the work of Stanislavsky, made a great contribution. If you teach acting, you will notice that most actors think a lot about their scene and what is going on. The idea of given circumstances is fairly widespread at this point. But that is where most actors stop and settle for mediocre or uneven work.

You need to do more. To be more specific and more detailed (especifico y con mas detalles, for those scoring at home). I train actors to concentrate on one small aspect of their circumstances. Don’t worry about the argument that is about to happen – you only know it will happen because you read the script. That is not part of the circumstances. Don’t worry about what you think you should be feeling. That is territory for discovery rather than decision. What you DO need to do is to focus on the small details of LIFE. Pay great attention to the little things that make up the act of living.

Richard Boleslavsky [see the recommended books] described the way in which a human being struggles for everything. You wash your face – you struggle with the cloth, the water, the soap. These challenges are much smaller than, but essential to, the greater struggles and conflicts of a story. It is here that an actor must do his work. The writer may work with grand ideals and concepts, but the actor must supply the essential ingredient of life. And life is made up of all of these minor struggles.

So this is where you must concentrate. Don’t just go and randomly take action. Put your attention, your full focus on something as you work. Where are you? Where are you coming from? Where are you going? What are you doing there? If the other actor did not enter or never started the scene, what would you be doing? These are the small realities of life that unlock your humanity.

My father said, ‘you don’t need to give me the whole ocean, just a few grains of sand.” Take it to heart. Don’t give the whole story. Don’t give me the scene, and don’t show me what it all means. You just find those few grains of sand that you can experience and you are on the road to great acting. 90% of a movie is all about that. Only in very few moments do we need a heightened intensity (the waves crashing on he shore, to continue the metaphor).

As an added benefit, if you are directing yourself as most actors do for auditions and scene work, this concentration often leads to behavior and activity that will block much of the scene for you.

By the way, if you want proof, just go and watch the Godfather films (either of them). These are well-trained actors across the board, and you will notice the scenes are quite simple. My father greets Pacino while they are watching a game and eating lunch, or cutting a cake at a birthday party, or brothers eating around a table, or guys cooking or playing cards. The entire movie is made up of these small moments – each one of them a minute struggle for an actor – that all add up to some of the richest and most captivating stories ever put to film.

Method Acting Works

I was laid out with the Flu recently, and it gave me a little time to search the internet to see what is out there on Method Acting found this article written pre-Oscars, that suggests that Method Actors are more likely to win in Oscar season.

Specifically, the writer does a tally that concludes “more than 100 Oscars have been won by Method actors…..” Further, it offers the following statistic: “Since 2000, around 75 per cent of Oscar winners have been Method actors….”

I will admit to not having done the research on those numbers, but intuitively they sound about right. So does that mean that classical training (the preferred option in much of the UK and the rest of Europe) is no good? Of course not. A great actor can come from anywhere, and our work only ADDS to the technical skills that a classical training can build.

What it does suggest, though, is that the kind of connection to your work that Method Acting encourages makes for a strong bond with the audience. I mention this because some people mistakenly believe that an actor’s focus on their own reality somehow takes them away from the story and away from the audience.

In practice, we see the opposite. The more focused you are on what you are doing, the more the audience watches, understands, and connects to you and your character.

Have you ever watched a room of people with a baby crawling around? Eyes are immediately drawm to the small creature. We are fascinated. The baby couldn’t care less about us or what we are doing. It is completely immersed in its world, and we cannot pull our eyes away. That kind of focus is powerful, and it is a skill we actively build.

I once ran an audition where an actor brought her young golden retriever puppy into the theater with her. Big mistake…. The director and I could not stop watching the dog! Every time she would speak, the dog would move its head slightly or wag its tail and we were mesmerized. It led to the director suggesting that we cast the dog instead!

Concentration is the muscle that we begin to exercise in the very first class, and it leads directly to the kinds of results that move audiences.

Published in: on March 10, 2009 at 2:23 pm  Comments (5)  
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