Welcome to my Blog!

Welcome to my Blog!
I created it so that I could share acting tips with you; things I've learned over the years, working on set, teaching classes, coaching actors, auditioning actors, etc.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Transitions & Moments of Realization

Here's a problem I've noticed and - if you can fix it - it will make a HUGE difference in your acting (and in booking jobs!).  It's a very common problem and actors that understand and deal with it, are the working actors you see all the time on TV and in movies.  If you read my last post, you know what "Invisibles" are.  Well, there are two more invisibles (things that happen in the text but are not necessarily WRITTEN in the text) that I didn't mention last time.

They are "Transitions" & "Moments of Realization".  And because they are rarely written into the script, they are completely missed by many, if not most, actors.  I am not exaggerating when I say that these are where the opportunities for great acting happen.

Let's take a look at the following portion of a scene from (an early draft of) the movie "Kate & Leopold" by Steven Rogers.  First, read the scene.  "Leo" is from the late 1800's and he's been transported into the present.  He's giving Charles advice about women:

LEO: Everything plays a farce to you, women respond to sincerity, This requires pulling ones tongue from ones cheek. No one wants to be romanced by a buffoon! Now this number rings her.
 LEO: So, ring her tomorrow.
 CHARLES  I can't, she gave the number to YOU.
 LEO: Only because I told her of your affections.
 CHARLES:  Wh, wh, what did you say???!!!!
 LEO:  Merely that you admired her but were hesitant to make an overture since you'd been told she was courting another.
 CHARLES:  Shit!! That’s good!!! Wh, Wh, what did she say?
 LEO:  She gave me the napkin.   (Charles goes to call her on his cell)  Charles, its quite late.
 CHARLES:  She won't be home yet, see, I get her machine, I leave her a message, balls in her court.
 LEO:  You're laddeling calculations upon comedy.  The point is to keep the ball in your court!
 CHARLES:  Your right, your right...OK
 LEO: Nothing need be done until tomorrow.
 CHARLES: Tomorrow!!! Then I make my move!
 LEO:  An overture, Charles, make your intentions known. Think of pleasing her, not vexing her.
 CHARLES: No vexing!
 LEO: Your intoxicated, we should retire, I'm sure Kate will be home.
 CHARLES: I doubt it
: It's nearly midnight.
CHARLES: You like her don't you ??
 LEO: Who?
 CHARLES:  Kate. You do (surprised, teasing)
 LEO:  Stop, oh stop
:  You like my sister. You made your intentions known, right?
 LEO: You've been drinking

Now here's what I mean by "invisibles"  Read my version of the end of this scene, below:

LEO: You're intoxicated, we should retire, I'm sure Kate will be home.
 CHARLES: I doubt it
: It's nearly midnight.
CHARLES: You like her don't you ??
 LEO: Who?
 CHARLES:  Kate. [TRANSITION] You do (surprised, teasing)
 LEO:  Stop, oh stop
CHARLES:  You like my sister. You made your intentions known, right?

LEO: You've been drinking

Notice that I added the bold red text, NOT the screenwriter.  In fact, writers rarely write these kinds of "acting moments" and, believe it or not, actors rarely act them!  Be it in class, at auditions, or on set, actors tend to skip over these moments or, if they do see them, they give a cursory pause and that's it.

Take the first one, I marked: [MOMENT OF REALIZATION] 
This "invisible" is an opportunity for a fantastic "moment" of acting.  Imagine for example, a long pause, during which the actor playing Charles slowly realizes that Leo likes Charles' sister, Kate.  A (very) slow smile starts to creep across Charles' face.  The slower the better.  What a great moment this could be!  And yet, most actors will skip right over it, completely missing a moment that could completely set them apart from anyone else trying to play this role.  An actor's dream!

Now take a look at the second one, I marked: [TRANSITION]

Again, this wouldn't normally be seen in the text but it is at this point that the scene begins a major shift in perspective and balance.  Up to this point Leo was the "driver" of the scene.  He has all the power and is leading Charles by the nose.  But, from this point on Charles takes over and begins to lead Leo.  Now Charles has the power.  It's a pivotal point in the scene and again, the vast majority of actors pay it no mind!  A good director will stage this scene so that the shift in power is palpable but not obvious.  For example since, generally speaking, people sitting still can denote power while people moving about them can denote weakness, a director might have Charles moving about during the moments before [TRANSITION] while Leo sits still.  As the transition occurs he might have Charles sit down and Leo rise and begin to pace.  It helps for an actor to understand these things.

Remember, the writer (often) won't put these invisibles in the script.  It's up to you to find them!  But they are the actor's treasures in the text.  They give you the opportunities to ACT!

As always, as I share these tips with you free of charge, please SHARE/RT widely, if you think them good tips.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The huge opportunity most actors miss

Coaching actors on TV shows and teaching 3 or more acting classes every week, allows me to see certain commonalities that others may miss.  One of these commonalities is that the vast majority of actors pay way too much attention to the words and not nearly enough to what I call "the invisibles".

These invisibles are, in reality, where the REAL acting can happen.  But, as I said, most actors rush through these moments and many miss them entirely.  Even though these are the moments that not only win actors roles in auditions but also win them great reviews and yes, Oscars, Tonys, and Emmys…

So, exactly what are these "invisibles" that can win actors great roles and even greater acclaim?  They are the "Beat", and "Moment" and "Pause", and "" (ellipses) that are marked in the text but are not DEFINED in the text.

Am I exaggerating?  Can these things really make that much of a difference?  HELL YES!  In fact, these things make ALL the difference.  Consider the following text from a generic medical TV series:


  • "Her airway was compromised, she was actively hemorrhaging, and she had third degree burns on her chest.  I did what I needed to do to save that girl’s life.  (a beat)  No offense, Doctor, but we don’t always have the luxury to go by-the‐book in ER".

Now I've got to tell you, most actors (not you of course), would read these lines at an audition and  would take a brief pause where it says "(a beat)".  Many wouldn't even slow down.  Out of 50 to 70 actors auditioning for this role, perhaps one to three would actually fill that beat.  Seriously, one to three! Sure makes it easy to decide who to call back…

So exactly how do you go about "filling a beat"?  SPECIFICALLY, how would YOU deal with it when you see (beat) or (pause) or (a moment) in the text of your audition scene?  What steps would you take?  My guess is that you'd either pause for a second or just skip over it, right?  Come on, I'm right aren't I?  

If you answered "yes"then Kudos for being truthful and you're going to LOVE this tip!  EVERY time you see (beat) or (pause) or (a moment) in the text, say something SPECIFIC without speaking.  Now actually write in what you would say, in words, where it says (beat) or (pause) or (a moment) in the text.  So, in the dialogue above, where it says "(a beat)" you might write in something like "Please don't fire me" or "I am NOT going to hit you" or "you dumbass!".  Then, you simply say one of those exact phrases in your head when you reach the part of the dialogue that says "(a beat)".  You must use the exact words that you wrote, but don't speak them out loud.  Only in your head.  It's that simple.

In fact, try it!  Right now, with the dialogue above.  Choose one of the examples I just gave you and read the lines.  As you get to where it says "(a beat)", say the phrase to yourself. Even better, try all of the examples I just gave you, one at a time and then make up some of your own.  Note how the (beat) changes according to which silent phrase you use!  You're taking what most actors throw away and making it potentially become a stand-out moment in the scene.

Now, every time you see, (beat) or (pause) or (a moment), in the text, you can make a real moment out of it!

As always, since I post these tips for free, IF you enjoyed this post, please SHARE and/or Retweet!