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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Should I have opened my big mouth?

Well, I did.

I launched into an answer to the Ten Reasons I Hate Method Acting post. I couldn’t resist.

Nice to see that there is still so much passion for the topic. In fact, Method Acting has encountered these same critiques for more than 50 years. It seems many folks simply do not agree with what we do. I can live with that I guess. My father said that if it doesn’t work then we shouldn’t be doing it, and if it does work, then what is there to argue about?

As usual, he was right, of course. We choose techniques that show themselves to be successful and drop the ones that have, as Lee  would often say “no value for the actor.” It is not about being thought right. The battle has always been to train great actors.

On that site I addressed points #1 & #2 of why this Scotish acting coach – inspried by Mamet (of course) – hates Method Acting. You can look there in the comments for that answer, but I would like to take on his reason #3. he writes:

“THREE:  Unnecessary Focus on Emotion
Acting is not emotion.  Acting is action.  The incorrect focus on emotion comes through an embarrassingly arrogant view of Stanislavski’s work that was developed by Lee Strasberg and called The Method.   We do not have control over our emotions.  We have less control over them when we’re under the kind of stress that actors feel on stage.  If we could control them, we’d be robots and no longer need therapy, counseling or Prozac!  You can fake emotion (badly) and you can force out some tears, but that’s not much of a basis for acting.  Truly great acting moves the audience, not the actor.”

This is one of the most common misunderstanding about our work – that we focus entirely on emotion. So why do people believe this? Doesn’t Strasberg use Emotional Memory? We certainly do… sometimes. There are many actors who never need to do the affective memory. They don’t need it! But for those who do, it is a god send. But our approach to emotion is often overblown. It is not the goal of an actor.

I often see our newer actors try to push an emotional result into a scene. That is almost as bad as a superficial line read where the actors indicate their emotional state with melodramatic gestures. We don’t want that.

Yet to exclude the subtext of an action – the emotional content of the moment – is to deprive the story of its living, beating heart. So I do believe that we need more than action. In fact, action without emotion looks a lot like those robots our Scotish friend mentions. But we also don’t need anguish in every moment, and sometimes a stoic response is the best one.

My dad said that “work for the actor lies in two parts, the ability to create a reality and the ability to express that reality.” What that means is that I want an actor to generate a reality that he or she chooses, inspired by the story. From that simple truth, they must live out the natural consequences of the moment.

We ask our actors to create a reality that they can experience. When they do, the audience finds themselves sitting right there in the scene with you. They feel the pains, the joys, the failure the triumph, as much as or more so than the actor themselves. In fact, the beauty of The Method is that we do not decide what the audience should feel and then give it to them. We simply live out truthfully under imaginary circumstances and the audience is moved each according to their own sensitivities.

We do not dig for emotion. We do not dredge it up. We do not push it or pull it. We simply encourage an actor to relax their self-conscious habits for a moment as they focus on a simple physical truth. Then, gently, almost magically, emotion bubbles up freely and organically of its own accord. You don’t stuff it into a scene, you immerse yourself in a moment – any moment – and the emotion finds its own way out.

Published in: on February 12, 2009 at 5:02 pm  Comments (2)  
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