Sunday, October 5, 2014

3 Don’ts When Mastering the Art of Auditioning




3 Don’ts When Mastering the Art of Auditioning

When actors come to me and say they really want to work on their craft, I know that I am not the coach for them. The audition goes against everything we are taught as actors. To me, acting is so intricate and complex that I know it’s something I will learn more about when I’m 90. Lately I have been more vocal about my philosophy that the audition must be taught as an art form and that has garnered one or two angry responses. However my job is to talk to you, the actors, and tell you what is not being taught. 

1. As an actor we strive to connect. In an audition? Don’t. “Connect!” We have all heard that at one point or another in our training. If you try and connect in an audition you will fail. The casting director observes your choices and looks at you to see if you look the part and if you have the essence of what they are looking for. If they are to act with you then that could affect or change your performance. Just this morning a new client came in fresh off getting her BFA from USC and had been auditioning for the past six months with no success. The first thing we did after talking for a few minutes was have her pretend she was coming into the room to read for me. Immediately she was thrown by my energy and affected by my rapid fire emotionless read and thus, her inability to connect. As soon as we identified this, she was able to start understanding that she is acting alone. When I am coaching actors I will act the scenes out first to find the relationship and break down the scene. I will then go into “casting director mode” and read flat while watching their performance. Once there is a wall between the actor and the casting director we are free to do what we want in the room.  

2. Rehearse…but if you do that in the room, you have lost the job. This is a final performance from the minute you walk in. You must have a perfect take on camera that can be passed onto a studio head who is making the decision to hire you. If you are fumbling or too big or not 1000 percent prepared (or 50 other things that affect the performance), then your tape most likely won’t be passed on. This has to be what I call a “cut, print, moving on” take.

3. Be honest. To me, if I had to boil acting down to one word, it would be “honesty.” The audition is the exact opposite of that and is a completely fake environment. It’s so much easier to act on a set where the love of your life is drowning and you are on a life boat trying to save him. But in reality, you would be in a boat trying to save the actor who is acting opposite you. In the room you are either standing or sitting and the supposed love of your life is looking at you with judgment and giving nothing for you to work with. So, how do you bring truth to your audition? It all starts by understanding the obstacles that you will inevitability face in the room.

So this is the start of understanding what needs to happen in a room or in front of a casting director. When sending clients off to auditions, I tell them to “kill it.” Breaking a leg just doesn’t work in the land of film and TV. If you want to truly be in the arena then get ready to maim, massacre, and kill it.  
Like this advice? Check out more from our Backstage Experts!

Sara Mornell is a working actor, coach, and Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Mornell’s full bio!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

On acting and on celebrity...


I'm just a working actor. I am still not famous as far as I'm concerned. I just like being an actor, just working...on the fame part other than getting a reservation at a restaurant or something like that, I'm just a regular guy."

-Denzel Washington

 
In a close-up what is coming out of your eyes is much more than the lines or the part or even the story you are telling.

-Richard Grere





The feeling of getting rejected, repeatedly, never leaves you. The understanding that it could happen again...that classic actor insecurity.

-Matt Damon







At the end of the day you have to have someone who is talented, and you allow the camera to capture that. Everybody in this city wants that. At the end of the day if you are a great person who can act, you will always have a chance to be relevant in this business.

- Jamie Foxx







I'm afraid every time I take a job on, every single time. There is a buzz I get before every take. I never know if I can pull off what I need to until it's all done. I am very curious and that helps. I am still trying to figure out the world myself, people around me, and ultimately part of that curiosity is probably a fear. A fear that I don't know who I am, I don't now the world, I don't know people around me. Is it possible to ever really know another human being? Is there a self? I don't know. And that is a root that we see as fear, uncertainty, questions. I am still trying to figure it out.

-Richard Gere






You attract what you fear. Positive and negative, you attract what you feel, what you are. You are in control.

-Denzel Washington





It's like the law of physics.

-Alan Arkin 






David Mamet wrote a line in the play "Edmond' that every fear holds a wish. I guess I am afraid of mediocrity. I am not afraid of being poor; I have done that and can do it again.

-John Hawks







I am an overnight success. It only took ten years of hard work.



- Arnold Schwarzenegger










People think if they do not see you you are not working. They do not know that we do theater, how much work is put in before you film and in promotion after you film, or how long it takes to make and release a project. When I started "Good Will Hunting" I was 22 and Ben was 20, when it came out I was 28 and Ben was 25...

Matt Damon





For my first 45 years acting was my reason for being alive, it was the only reason I had for being alive. It was who I am. Why I existed. When I was not acting I fell into despair, and moving from thing to thing without fulfillment. Now it is an expression of who I am, not the reason for my life. I feel infinitely happier as a result off it. It has taken the fear out of acting for me, so it is basically a joyous experience for me now.

-Alan Arkin







Any rise in visibility worries me because If I cant be somewhat invisible in a crowd an observe human behavior, if I become a center of attention, it's harder for me to be an actor. People have preconceptions of you. I have surprised people, being an unknown, when they see me on screen, but as a known you can disappoint, or they may be mad at you for not being the same character you were in something they likes you in.

John Hawkes













I love the stage, I also direct movies and theater, so I do not feel nervous about it ending. I just move to the side. A good play and a good run is rewarding enough. I am independently wealthy I can afford to do that. I got a couple of dollars so I do not have to worry about what actors do starting out. Find more than one thing you love and learn to love and do it all with passion and belief.

-Denzel Washington







The idea of liberal thinking means that you are open to different ideas. Actors should be liberal, which has nothing to do with politics.

-Matt Damon



It's not the violence in the media, it's the attitude. I feel that I am watching people who are reveling in it, and that disturbs me. 

I feel like I can feel it jumping off the screen at me when it is being loved by an audience for the amount of blood, the realism, the graphic design of it I feel like it is dispassionate. When it gets into the graphic design in it I feel as if it is dispassionate, which scares the hell out of me!"

-Alan Arkin





There is a difference between the message of a piece and what a character may think or do. You have to find humanity in a character and maybe even root, at some level, for them, even if they are the villain.



-Art Lynch






Women are in a different business than we are. It is just brutal for woman, For men, the roles get really good at forty and behold, and that is when you start to do your best work, you start to get good at it, but with woman you are old at 25 and only a few, very few, maintain a career in film or television past 30. Theater is different, but even there roles for woman are outnumbered by men, and many of the roles are young ingénues,

-Matt Damon





There is an incredible downside to being successful. There is a lot of work that goes into it. What shocked me was the amount of work that goes into doing press for a movie.

-John Hawkes







I have a publicist to keep me out of the press. I am just raising my family, raising my kids. I have four grown kids now. Coaching football and basketball and that what was important, time with the family and kids. Work is work, but fame, I do not know what that is, that's got nothing to do with what I do.

Denzel Washington




When you become famous it is not that you change, it is that the world changes in its relationship to you. Your entire reality shifts a little bit and that's a really jarring experience. There is no way you can be prepared for it. People stop interacting with you, they react to you differently.

Matt Damon

Note: security, safety, true friendship all change for celebrities when they become celebrities. It cost money, takes time and changes what you need to do to survive the pressure and be sane in your everyday life. For the most part actors will seek out other actors or those who could care less who they were just to remain grounded. They get into politics and religion to find the same real world grounding that keeps you from being a one faceted stereotype of a human being. –Art Lynch





Sources: Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and Los Angeles Times


5 Biggest Mistakes a Theater Actor Makes On a Film Set

Be on time. Be professional. Be thankful.

5 Biggest Mistakes a Theater Actor Makes On a Film Set
You just landed your first film job! Congratulations! However, working on a film set is much different than in a theater. Here are the top five mistakes theater actors make on a film set – and how you can avoid them.

1. Don't assume it will be like the first day of play rehearsal. First day of a theater rehearsal is often a welcoming experience. Even if you have a small part, you feel like part of the family. You bond. You become a cast. Being on a film set always feels like being the new kid in school. When you arrive at your call time, the set already appears to be a well-oiled machine where everyone but you knows what to do and where to go. 

Not to worry. 

Almost every person on the set is connected by headset to almost everyone else. Stop the first person you see with a walkie-talkie and introduce yourself. Tell them your name, the name of your character – even if it’s just “Reporter 3” – and ask them who you should check in with. They will likely be able to direct you to someone who will take you to your trailer and tell you when they will be ready for you in hair and makeup. You’ve gotten past the first hurtle. You’re there.

2. Don’t assume help will be offered. It is important to remember that you were hired with the expectation that you know what you’re doing. It’s rare that someone will just notice your deer-in-the-headlights expression and pull you aside to help. I have usually found that people are more than willing to help with tips and advice if you ask. However – and this is important – you have to ask. Don’t pretend to know something that you don’t. Movie sets have their own jargon. The make-up trailer is probably the first (and most comfortable) place to ask for a little advice.

3. Don’t assume you are going to have rehearsal time. In film time is money, so we don’t spend a lot of it rehearsing while a crew of 150 highly-trained (and highly-paid) artisans stand around and watch. This is doubly true in television. You will likely do one read-through of the scene, and one “rehearsal for marks” – where any physical movement in the scene is recorded and your blocking marks are delineated with colored tape on the floor. 

You will then be released while your stand-in works with the camera crew. Use this time to rehearse on your own or with your scene partner if they are willing. (They may not be.) You can either head back to your trailer and work on your two lines so that you know them backwards and forwards and sideways, or you can stay there on the set and watch the camera rehearsals. 

If you’ve never done this, it can really help to watch your stand-in stepping through the blocking and watch how the rest of the crew is working. Here is where you might also be able to pull aside a kind member of the crew and ask some questions.

4. Don’t assume you are going to receive any direction at all. This one is always a little surprising to young actors who are used to the collaborative nature of a theater rehearsal. On a film set, the director is solving a thousand different little puzzles with the help of many highly specialized artists, and you are just one small piece of that puzzle. If you can do all of your own work and replicate what you did in the audition room, which is how you got this tiny little role in the first place, do it. Your job when you’re playing a small part is to not make them do another take because you can’t say “Mogadishu” when the pressure’s on. That’s how you get to play larger parts.

5. Don't forget you're wearing a body mic. This one slips up even experienced pros. If you have been fitted with a wireless lavaliere (“lav”) mic, you very quickly forget that it’s there. However, unless you or one of the sound people has actually turned off your battery pack, that mic is live, and what you are saying can be heard by anyone on the set who’s wearing headphones. 

We are used to being able to have a little whispered conversation at a rehearsal for a play. We’re actors; we like to complain. It helps us feel smug and superior when we’re really scared and insecure. 

You may be tempted to give into this on a film set, especially if you are feeling frightened and insecure. Don’t. 

Remember, you are only one tiny piece of this big mosaic. You haven’t yet earned the right to complain.

Be on time. Be professional. Be thankful.

Timothy Davis-Reed is a veteran of more than 150 episodes of network television, including two seasons as a series regular on "Sports Night" and six seasons as White House Press Reporter Mark O’Donnell on the Emmy-winning hit "The West Wing."  Other television appearances include "Harry’s Law," "Big Love," "Studio 60," "Monk," "Desperate Housewives," "24," "Scrubs," "Arrested Development," "7th Heaven," "The Drew Carey Show," "Still Standing," "Will and Grace," "Star Trek: Voyager," and the pilot "Chestnut Hill." He made his professional debut in Syracuse Stage’s production of "Cyrano de Bergerac" with John Cullum which later went on National Tour. He’s played leading roles with Riverside Shakespeare, Manhattan Stage, Theatre at Monmouth in Maine, The New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park, Playwright’s Theatre of New Jersey, The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, and several other productions for Syracuse Stage. He is currently on the faculty of the Syracuse University Drama Department, teaching on-camera acting, audition technique, and scene study.

Friday, October 3, 2014

THE NEW WORLD ORDER AND THE SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENT ACTOR AND THE CRAFT



The Executives who now control the Industry must maintain a Secret Society with a manifesto and covenant to control all things creative and substitute them with all things commercial.

This group of terrorists of the craft of acting will here in after be referred to appropriately as ‘THE P.I.S.” (Peripheral Industry System)

What became instantly obvious to the P.I.S.  Was the commodity known as ‘The struggling aspiring actor’. There were so many of them in New York , Chicago, and Los Angeles. The hopes and dreams of these actors were the very element that will render millions of dollars to the P.I.S.. The theory was simple; Create ‘SHORT CUT TO SUCCESS PROGRAMS’ and TAKE THE SERIOUSNESS, IDEALISM and TRADITIONALISM out of the work. 

Symbols were employed to create a new image of Acting. The traditional Comedy and Tragedy masks were replaced by spotlights, and dressing room lit mirrors. Establish and promote publications known as the actor’s trade papers i.e.; SHOW BUSINESS and BACKSTAGE. These publications now became the Bible for the aspiring actor. 

Contained in these publications were auditions, and articles that never reflected the artist and his craft. They did promote the mantra of the P.I.S. that encouraged Short Cut to Success philosophy. More damaging than the articles were the advertisements printed with glamour and glitter screaming out to the reader to follow this system, take this class, don’t waste time with traditional training for the theater because acting for film and television is completely different!

Soon the trades became the only source of information available to actors. The mind control techniques of the P.I.S. were working. The P.I.S. needed one more important mission as they continued their desires for complete control of the craft. That mission was to give birth to Divisions of acting, Film and Television Actors, Commercial actors, Soap opera actors, and the dreaded theater actors. Dissecting and compartmentalizing the craft of acting into these divisions clearly meant that each ‘Kind’ of actor needed a specialized training, thus teachers would be needed to allegedly help the actors in each of the fields. 

Significant to mention here that teachers and instructors in the 70’s who were brilliant at their work and getting great results did not participate in this new revelation of acting classes. Herbert Bergoff and Uta Hagan of the famed HB Studio refused to introduce film and television acting classes into their school for decades. Dissecting the craft of acting to various divisions would prove to be financially successful for the P.I.S.;

The birth of the ‘Short Cut to Success Once a Week Class Workshops came into existence in the early 70’s. Prior to this period if a serious and dedicated person wanting to study the craft of acting he went to The American Academy of Dramatic Arts, The Neighborhood Playhouse, The H.B Studio, The Actors Studio. They studied at legitimate theater programs at the Universities and Colleges like Yale Drama School, and Northwestern University in Chicago.

The P.I.S. through the articles and advertisements in Backstage and Show Business’ did a great deal to influence and discourage the serious training of acting by taunting the hungry young aspirant with promises of instant success without this boring and useless training. After all ‘look’ and ‘who you influence’ are the most important elements of success. This was the mantra of the P.I.S..

Above all the damage caused by the P.I.S. certainly was the introduction of the lie of all lies that ‘Look and your Image” are absolutely essential to your success. When this lie was introduced it became the most incurable element of the disease of the P.I.S. and has been the flag ship corner stone of theirs for many years. Today the casting system adheres religiously to what they consider the foundation of all requirements in the employment of an actor. His Look” is it a “flavor of the month Look” is she drop dead gorgeous? Is he a hunk?” The influence of the marketing members of the P.I.S. was responsible for this lie but it proved to become financially successful as actors were now being bombarded by cosmetology for the actor, plastic surgery for nose jobs, dental cosmetics, and numerous exercise programs to perfect the look.

The insanity was well in place. The aspiring actor was working his survival job only to pay for all things external that the P.I.S. demanded he needed to succeed. Yet with all this obvious invasion of the senses of the young actor no one spoke up against the movement and cried ‘foul’!

The ‘Look’ philosophy was created by the P.I.S.  Leaders not because it was an essential creative condition of an actor’s performance but a successful gimmick to create revenue off of the aspiring actor. The Culprits of the system knew that if they appealed to an actor’s vanity they could convince him that it was not his talent or lack there of that was instrumental in he or she not being cast for a role but his or her “Look”. The system then created a certain ‘look” that every actor and actress should strive to achieve. Talent agents who were members in good standing of the P.I.S. philosophy practiced and adhered to the ‘look’ philosophy as the only criteria for signing new actors for representation. Again is he or she like someone else in the business that is successful comes into play here with the talent agents. They certainly did not want to be out side the box when it came to ‘what the flavor of the month ‘look is.

Click on "read more" below to continue reading.

Casting Director Ken Lazer’s Audition Advice

By Daniel Lehman


Ken Lazer
Casting director Ken Lazer has 20 years of experience casting television commercials, industrials, TV shows, films, webisodes, voice-overs, reality TV, and more. Since he always wants actors to give their best performance, he is offering his advice for actors who are called in to audition for Ken Lazer Casting in New York.

"When I'm auditioning new talent, I like to see how real and natural they can be," Lazer says. "There's nothing worse than seeing an actor perform commercial copy as if they are reading it." He adds, "I want actors to do well. It's important to me that an actor is relaxed during the audition process. I'm a strong believer that we are a 'team.' If an actor gives a great performance, then I look good to my client. So I do my best to make actors feel welcomed to my sessions, to put them at ease."

Lazer advises auditioning actors to be prepared and "arrive on time (which means before your call time); make sure your appearance (hair and makeup) looks good – unless the character requires that you look like a mess; be nice to the assistants (they are our eyes and ears); and always have a positive attitude."

Here are Ken Lazer’s tips for your next audition:

Have confidence without being cocky. Don't go into an audition thinking you know it all.

Be as prepared as you possibly can. Because the next person that auditions after you will be.

When in the waiting room, focus on your audition.
Practice what you're going to do in front of the camera. This is a business, not a social hour. Your competition will be playing with your head to keep you from focusing on your audition. When you arrive to the casting, sign in, make sure you have the copy (if there is any), go to a quiet corner away from your competition, and start working.

If you have questions, don't be afraid to ask. We're here to help make your audition look its best. If you don't have questions, that's fine too.

Try not to get discouraged if you didn't get a callback or booking. Even if you feel you did a great job, maybe the director didn't think you had the right look. If you were good, we'll remember you.

Always try to keep a positive attitude. Be appreciative of what you have, and enjoy the audition process.

Read more about Ken Lazer on BackStage.com.

Commercial Casting: Danny Goldman

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DANNY GOLDMAN

Commercial Casting Director

 

   "All you can do is give the best audition you can, to please yourself" is
the advice of to Los Angeles based commercial casting director Danny
Goldman. "Work your craft, polish your skills and trust your talent while
you focus on one audition at a time."

    "You can psych yourself out of a part" warns Goldman, be positive, enjoy the work and do your best. Never feel as if you live and die by any single audition, it's only applying for a job, auditioning for yet another possible role."

    "Remember there is no rule, there is no right way, there is only what
you bring to the audition and your way for your audition."

     It is important to understand the industry, but not to inherit its
stress or problems. "They exist and you need to know how they work, but in the end they exist only to give you the opportunity to work and earn a
living."

    There is a sense of constant pressure, high stakes and heads will roll
when you work within the adversity, according. "We deal with a very nervous set of management and creative people who must live with the constant pressure of remaining hip, very smart and very successful."

    Actors need to understand the pressure others in the industry are under the same or in many cases much worse than those of a struggling actor.

   "We all face the same industry trends, we are only as good as our most
recent job, and we all have car payments, mortgages and ways we want to spend our retirement."

   Creative people "care about being innovative and remaining at the top of their game", directors about "finding that hot commercial", clients about moving product and pleasing their distributors, ad agencies about "getting clients to spend increasing amounts of money" and everyone wants to have those awards in their conference rooms or lobby's.

   Goldman says that actors need to learn about how the industry works, but not to worry about the politics and pressures behind advertising.

   Goldman's advice on auditioning comes from seeing between 200 and as many as 2000 actors for each role, every week for over 25 years. He says that while there are still vestiges of the traditional ‘commercial actor’ voice and image in New York, most national commercial casting now looks for real people. While they will see actors in one to as many as four cities, most national commercials now make sure to have a Los Angeles casting session. The youth oriented LA approach is the current standard, but the image remains Americana.

   "They are looking for America, for real people. They hire actors because
actors can look comfortable and real on television and know just how much additional energy is needed to appear real on tape or film."

    "Slow down when you read. Fast says you feel unworthy. Be sincere and real, do not put on an act." Goldman explains that being a character is not the same as trying to impress by overdoing characteristics or "showing off."

    Do not sweat over your mistakes because "flubbing an audition is not as critical as you think. It can bring drive to the present moment, reality to your read."

    Casting directors hear the words so often that what they are listening to is your voice, your energy and your personality. They can tell in a few
seconds what will work right on camera and over the radio for their client.

    "Your job is to enjoy yourself. Everything else, all the decisions, have
more to do with the needs of a specific client for a specific project then
they have to do with your talent or look."

    On the tools of the trade Goldman says your photo and your demo audio are key.

    Photographs should show the definition of your skin, reflect you actual
age, not be glamorous unless that is who you truly are, and above all show your eyes and the quality behind your eyes. Goldman prefers tight headshots, but is acceptable and even desirable "if there is something about yourself that I should know."

    Goldman recommends you are at a slight angle in your photographs, not head on, and that you have a real expression instead of a broad smile, again unless the broad smile is how you are in everyday life. Make it a positive or neutral expression for commercials, "leave the doom and gloom for film auditions."

    Don't worry too much about a lack of credits on your resume, because "if we are having auditions we are looking for new people, all the time."

    Commercial producers want "experienced virgins," people who are new and fresh but know how to perform and maximize the use of their time on the set.

    Goldman likes to see theater on your resume. "It tells me more than TV".

    He wants to see the amount and quality of your training.

    List your special skills, including what your role is in real life.

   " I like to know what you did and who you are."

    The most important advice Goldman can give to an actor is "come in with a fresh attitude, do not appear to be burnt out or thinking about other things."

First posted 2-10-09

21 Things That Make Casting Directors Happy in the Audition Room

21 Things That Make Casting Directors Happy in the Audition Room

Casting directors are your advocates and your champions. 

Your work reflects on us. 

Your wonderful work makes us look good and gets that role cast. 

Your disconnected, tentative, muddled work does nothing for anyone. We need you to be great. 

We’re here to host your experience and shepherd you in, not hold you back. 
We want to share in your excellent work.

Casting directors await you on the other side of that door – the door that you can seen as a gateway or a barricade. While you turn it into a horror movie, it’s your stage, not a torture chamber. Whether it’s a pre-read for an associate or a full-blown director/producer callback session, this is your time, your experience. This is your opportunity to do exceptional work. Enter the space and do the work for yourself, for the gratification of the work itself, and yes, to collaborate with the other creative people waiting to figure it out with you. They can’t do it without you.

Here are some choices (and they are choices) to make any casting director truly happy in the room.

1. Accept the invitation with grace and enthusiasm. You were requested to be here as our guest.

2. Come to work and not to please or get our approval.

3. Enter with certainty. Don’t give up your power as soon as the door opens.

4. Play on a level playing field. We’re all figuring it out. Together.

5. Make no excuses whatsoever. 
Leave your baggage outside. Better yet, at home.

6. Make the room your own. It will make us so much more comfortable.

7. Ask questions only when you truly need answers. “Do you have any questions?” is usually another way of saying: “Are you ready?” You aren’t required to have one.

8. Know your words and understand what you’re talking about. You don’t have to be totally off-book, but if you’ve spent quality time with the material, you’re going to know it.

9. Do your homework on the project. This includes knowing all the players and the show or film’s tone and style. Read all the material you can get your hands on.

10. Make choices and take responsibility for the choices you make.

11. Don’t apologize. Ever. For anything.

12. Know what you want to do and do it. Then leave yourself available to make discoveries. Know that your homework is done. Now let your preparation meet the moments.

13. Don’t mime or busy yourself with props, activity, or blocking. Keep it simple.

14. Don’t expect to be directed, but if you are, take the direction, no matter what it is. Understand how to translate results-oriented direction into action.

15. Don’t blame the reader. Make the reader the star of your audition. According to my teaching partner Steve Braun, you should engage fully no matter who’s reading those lines. Likely your reader will engage – at least somewhat – if you show up.

16. Make specific, personal, bold choices. We want your unique voice to bring the script to life.

17. Stillness is powerful. Understand how to move and work in front of the camera – eliminate running in and out and getting up and down.

18. Require no stroking, coddling, or love. We’re there to work. Don’t take it personally when we’re not touchy-feely. Know that we love actors and that’s truly why we’re here.

19. Understand that you’re there to collaborate. You’re being evaluated in terms of how you serve the role and the material. It's not a verdict on your personhood. Judgment is something you can control.

20. What you bring in reflects how you’re received so bring in joy, conviction, and ease, and our hearts will open.

21. Share your artistry above all else.

Remember that we’re all human in those rooms, and you can affect us on an emotional level. It’s what we all really want. That’s your job. You being fully present, truthful, personal, and vulnerable is going to give us the ammunition we need to champion you with all our hearts. We all desperately want you to do great work. We’re rooting for that every time you walk into the room. You show up and do your fullest, deepest work, and we’ll slay dragons for you and follow you anywhere. And man, we’ll be so happy doing it. You have the power to make that happen. For you. For us. For the work. Hallelujah!

Risa Bramon Garcia runs a Studio for Actors in L.A. with partner, Steve Braun, The BGB Studio - Bramon Garcia Braun (link), dedicated to actors’ whole journey, connecting craft with career. New summer classes and workshops are starting in June. http://bramongarciabraun.com/
For the past 30 years Risa has worked consistently as a director, producer, casting director, writer, and teacher, collaborating with some of the most groundbreaking artists in the world. Having directed two feature films  the cult classic, "200 cigarettes," and "The Con Artist" in Canada - Risa’s also directed for television, including multiple episodes of "The Twilight Zone" for New Line/UPN, and shows for HBO, Lifetime, and Comedy Central. She’s directed dozens of plays in New York (The Ensemble Studio Theatre, Second Stage, Manhattan Theatre Club) and in Los Angeles. Risa’s casting resumé includes more than 65 feature films, classics such as "Something Wild," "At Close Range," "Angel Heart," "Fatal Attraction," "Wall Street," "Talk Radio," "Jacob’s Ladder," "Born on the Fourth of July," "JFK," "The Doors," "Sneakers," "The Joy Luck Club," "True Romance," "Speed," "How To Make An American Quilt," "Dead Presidents," "Twister," "Benny and Joon," and "Flirting With Disaster;" and numerous television shows, including "Roseanne," "CSI:NY," "The Cape," and most recently "A Gifted Man" for CBS and the pilot "Rewind" for Syfy. She’s currently casting the new Showtime series, "Masters of Sex." Risa served as a producer on Oliver Stone’s films "Heaven and Earth" and "Natural Born Killers," which she also cast.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Steven Soderbergh recuts Raiders of the Lost Ark as a silent movie

To show the importance of staging in filmmaking, the director reworks Steven Spielberg’s classic adventure into a moodily black and white silent film.

(Note: This posting is for educational purposes only.)
I’m assuming the phrase “staging” came out of the theatre world, but it’s equally at home (and useful) in the movie world, since the term (roughly defined) refers to how all the various elements of a given scene or piece are aligned, arranged, and coordinated. In movies the role of editing adds something unique: the opportunity to extend and/or expand a visual (or narrative) idea to the limits of one’s imagination—a crazy idea that works today is tomorrow’s normal.
I value the ability to stage something well because when it’s done well its pleasures are huge, and most people don’t do it well, which indicates it must not be easy to master (it’s frightening how many opportunities there are to do something wrong in a sequence or a group of scenes. Minefields EVERYWHERE. Fincher said it: there’s potentially a hundred different ways to shoot something but at the end of the day there’s really only two, and one of them is wrong). Of course understanding story, character, and performance are crucial to directing well, but I operate under the theory a movie should work with the sound off, and under that theory, staging becomes paramount (the adjective, not the studio. although their logo DOES appear on the front of this…).
So I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is. To me. Oh, and I’ve removed all sound and color from the film, apart from a score designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect. Wait, WHAT? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? Well, I’m not saying I’m like, ALLOWED to do this, I’m just saying this is what I do when I try to learn about staging, and this filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day (for example, no matter how fast the cuts come, you always know exactly where you are—that’s high level visual math shit).
At some point you will say to yourself or someone THIS LOOKS AMAZING IN BLACK AND WHITE and it’s because Douglas Slocombe shot THE LAVENDER HILL MOB and the THE SERVANT and his stark, high-contrast lighting style was eye-popping regardless of medium.
- See more at: http://extension765.com/sdr/18-raiders#sthash.AKY24AVR.dpuf
(Note: This posting is for educational purposes only.)
I’m assuming the phrase “staging” came out of the theatre world, but it’s equally at home (and useful) in the movie world, since the term (roughly defined) refers to how all the various elements of a given scene or piece are aligned, arranged, and coordinated. In movies the role of editing adds something unique: the opportunity to extend and/or expand a visual (or narrative) idea to the limits of one’s imagination—a crazy idea that works today is tomorrow’s normal.
I value the ability to stage something well because when it’s done well its pleasures are huge, and most people don’t do it well, which indicates it must not be easy to master (it’s frightening how many opportunities there are to do something wrong in a sequence or a group of scenes. Minefields EVERYWHERE. Fincher said it: there’s potentially a hundred different ways to shoot something but at the end of the day there’s really only two, and one of them is wrong). Of course understanding story, character, and performance are crucial to directing well, but I operate under the theory a movie should work with the sound off, and under that theory, staging becomes paramount (the adjective, not the studio. although their logo DOES appear on the front of this…).
So I want you to watch this movie and think only about staging, how the shots are built and laid out, what the rules of movement are, what the cutting patterns are. See if you can reproduce the thought process that resulted in these choices by asking yourself: why was each shot—whether short or long—held for that exact length of time and placed in that order? Sounds like fun, right? It actually is. To me. Oh, and I’ve removed all sound and color from the film, apart from a score designed to aid you in your quest to just study the visual staging aspect. Wait, WHAT? HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? Well, I’m not saying I’m like, ALLOWED to do this, I’m just saying this is what I do when I try to learn about staging, and this filmmaker forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day (for example, no matter how fast the cuts come, you always know exactly where you are—that’s high level visual math shit).
At some point you will say to yourself or someone THIS LOOKS AMAZING IN BLACK AND WHITE and it’s because Douglas Slocombe shot THE LAVENDER HILL MOB and the THE SERVANT and his stark, high-contrast lighting style was eye-popping regardless of medium.
- See more at: http://extension765.com/sdr/18-raiders#sthash.AKY24AVR.dpuf
 http://extension765.com/sdr/18-raiders to view film in B&W Silent.

Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark silent
A still from Soderbergh’s cut of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Photograph: Paramount/PR
Having semi-retired from the directing game, Steven Soderbergh is now free to tinker in his garden shed – and his latest work is an inspired riff on a classic adventure story. He’s recut Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones tale Raiders of the Lost Ark, turning it into black-and-white silent movie.
Writing on his own website, he wrote that the experiment was “for educational purposes only”, to illustrate the importance of considering the staging of a film’s scenes. “I operate under the theory a movie should work with the sound off, and under that theory, staging becomes paramount,” he writes. He replaces the sound with a pulsating electronic soundtrack, with various bits of it lifted from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s compositions for The Social Network.

Soderbergh praises Spielberg, writing that the director “forgot more about staging by the time he made his first feature than I know to this day (for example, no matter how fast the cuts come, you always know exactly where you are—that’s high level visual math shit).” He also highlights Douglas Slocombe’s cinematography, saying it works in black and white as well as colour because “his stark, high-contrast lighting style was eye-popping regardless of medium”.

It works remarkably well, and is indeed instructive. With just a placid soundtrack placed behind it, the composition and immaculately building tension of, say, the fistfight around a Nazi fighter plane pops out of the screen all the more.

To view the film and read Steven Soderbergh's blog on film click below...

http://extension765.com/sdr/18-raiders
 The lesson appears on Soderbergh’s website, Extension 765, which sells Polaroids from his film shoots, T-shirts, clapperboards and other ephemera. The director made hits like Ocean’s Eleven, Erin Brockovich and Magic Mike over a 25-year career before announcing a shift away from feature film-making. His TV miniseries The Knick is currently airing on US network Cinemax, and he directed an off-Broadway play starring Chloë Grace Moretz earlier in the year.He has also recut other Hollywood films and posted them on his site. He spliced together Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho with its shot-for-shot remake by Gus Van Sant, and also made a snappy 108-minute cut of Heaven’s Gate.

The One Thing Actors Must Know About Taking Risks


The 1 Thing Actors Must Know About Taking Risks

Have you ever competently crossed a tightrope without falling off? Are you able to ride a unicycle, or expertly juggle nine balls? What about all three tasks at once? And what if I strung the tightrope across the Grand Canyon, lit the balls on fire, and loosened the wheel?

Though rarely as demanding in terms of strength, balance, or outright danger, the mechanics of acting can be just as taxing on your memory, concentration, and reflexes as circus skills, and yet actors attempt to (and are often encouraged to) take on multiple risks simultaneously, and are then left scratching their heads as to why they failed at every single one of them.

Regardless of how quickly you master physical skills, it is highly unlikely that you have ever taken two or more genuine risks simultaneously and immediately succeeded at both—not without a great deal of luck. But luck isn’t technique, and although random chance occasionally produces pleasing results, only practiced technique is consistently reliable.  

Enter, my +1 theory of risk.

By risk, I don’t mean taking several tweaks or adjustments to your performance, like “Pick up the cues” or “Be angrier in that moment.” I mean actual risk. Risk with the potential of hurting, embarrassing, or losing something you hold dear, such as your physical safety, that great acting job, or simply your pride. 

Remember how risky it felt as a teenager to ask someone out on a date? Imagine doing that with English as your second language, and in front of the high school bully and his gang.
Doubling or trebling the risk doesn’t increase your chances of success; it actually makes failure and humiliation that much more likely across the board.

It is a growing trend for acting tutors to advise their students to eschew learning lines perfectly because when they try to it makes everything else that much more difficult. But would anyone tell a high-wire performer in Cirque du Soleil to pull back on a triple somersault because it’s too hard?

This is the difference between the Good and the Great. Master the risks, and then make it look easy. Don’t just make it easy by lowering your standards.

Extremely wordy procedural or scientific dialogue and legalese, complicated blocking and prop use, or even detailed character transformation work and unfamiliar emotional turns are all comparable to the difficulty levels of performing circus skills. To some, learning lines is a risk, and to many, standing in front of network heads for a final callback or chemistry test is definitely a risk. Since the combination of risks increases the likelihood of failure at each, stick to one at a time, and then add another one when you’ve mastered the initial challenge.

I once shot a TV commercial in Australia that was to be broken down into several 15-second bits, with my lines comprising only 10 seconds of each to be sandwiched between title cards and voiceovers. The dialogue was tricky and dense, so I rehearsed it like a demon. During the first on-set rehearsal I churned the dialogue out perfectly, and in record time, only to see the director literally click his stopwatch and ask me to shift two of the lines around, truncate the middle section, and cut four seconds off my overall read time.

Not three, not five. Four.

Adding to the degree of difficulty, the direction was intricate and counter-intuitive to me. I had to squat down on a particular line, pick up a UV light, and wave it over stains on the ground. I was to hit the ground on line A, then I needed to pass the light over the low-angle camera in time with line C, with my head moving in the opposite direction to the light (to suit the DP’s penchant for “visual opposition in the frame”). All the while, delivering rapid-fire procedural dialogue, hitting an imaginary three-dimensional “mark” for the focus-puller, and splitting my (re-ordered) lines on both sides of the camera in order for the boom-swinger to reposition between them; whilst balancing on the balls of my feet and not falling over. In 10 seconds.

Breathe…

Happy with the technical side after four or five takes, the director asked why “the freshness had gone” from my performance. Not feeling it was the time to school him in the intricacies of my +1 theory of risk, I kept quiet and focused on the task at hand. With the technical aspects down pat I could now focus on the performance.
I requested a couple more takes, gave the director different options, finished the shoot in half the scheduled time, skipped the catering, and went home early. The TVC ended up netting me over $50,000 for less than five hours work, including time spent sitting around.
I could never have done this had I not at first mastered the dialogue.

For me there were three risks in this process:
1. Learning tricky, rapid-fire procedural dialogue (and changing it on a whim).
2. Mastering specific blocking and prop-handling (to multiple departments’ satisfaction).
3. Dealing with a whole new crew (each member with their own time and budget pressures and egos).

Suggesting that technical skills in acting are less demanding because they aren’t stunts or high-wire work would be to say that playing Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 3” isn’t as demanding because failure at it is less likely to result in death. The fact is, risk is relative, and a child riding a bike for the first time would be as “risky” as Jimi Hendrix playing “The Star-Spangled Banner” on a right-handed guitar

There are two main reasons why I warn against multiple simultaneous risks in rehearsal, auditions, or performance:

1. Without practicing one risk to the level of proficiency, it’s highly likely that all attempted risks will fail, and
2. If multiple risks are employed and the result is a success, how is one to know which risk actually made the difference?

Master one risk at a time, and then add one more (+1). If it fails, try again. If it succeeds, add one more.

If you are playing a character with a different accent to you, a different physicality to you, and tricky technical dialogue, blocking, or prop handling, commit to one risk until you reach proficiency (or at least very close to), and then add just one more until you reach proficiency at both. Keep doing this until you are able to maintain several simultaneously.

The +1 theory of risk is not to prevent you from dying. Hopefully no actor will need to be in the position where that kind of risk is required. But with multiple simultaneous risks the likelihood of failure by far outweighs the slim chance of success.

One risk at a time succeeds.

You’ll see, with enough dedication and focus, you will be juggling flaming balls on a tightrope over the Grand Canyon in no time, and your only concern will be the wobbly wheel…

Like this advice? Read more from our Backstage Experts!
Paul Barry is an L.A.-based Australian acting teacher and Backstage Expert. For more information, check out Barry’s full bio!

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