The One Thing You Need To Know About Acting: There Is No Formula

By Keaton J. Evans

 

One of the biggest temptations for actors, when they begin their creative journey, is the desire to have everything figured out as quickly as possible. Which is completely natural. I did this when I first started learning how to act, and I still find myself doing this.

 

Thing is, I like to make formulas for problems I find in my life and in my acting. The classic A+B=C right? Well, mathematically yes, but not in other areas of life. Especially for any problems you face as an actor.

 

With acting you have so many things to think about and work through. You gotta break down a script, learn about the story, your character, your relationship with the other characters and emotions and everything else under the sun. And while there are things you can do which will help, there is no formula.

 

One reason for this is because of how different techniques work for different people. I mentioned this a bit in another article I wrote, which you should check out. The basic idea is an acting technique which works for someone else may not work for you. You may find certain acting tips don’t work, while other ones will. The point is don’t rush to find a system. Know it will take you awhile to figure out this whole acting thing. When starting out, patience is key.

 

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The second case for no formula is this: art is fickle as well as acting. And an approach or technique which may work for you once may not work again. And if you stick to only one approach, especially early on, you’ll get stuck in a single way of doing things, instead of exploring all the techniques which exist.

 

There’s a “Creative Spark” starring production designer Rick Carter where he mentions how he never knows how he’s going to do a movie. He doesn’t go in with preconceptions. Carter is a major production designer in the film industry and his words surprised me at first. Surely by now he would have a system for making a movie after years of doing so many films. But in fact his openness and acceptance of his own limited knowledge is exactly why he’s so good. He understands it’s not about figuring it out.

 

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You gotta let go of what you think you know. As counterintuitive as it may seem, it helps to be completely clueless and open when approaching your craft.

 

Curiosity should beat out needing to have all the answers in a nice formula. If that makes sense. Just like Rick, you should always be searching for answers. There is no one method which covers all. If you think you’ll be able to find some formula or something that works each time, maybe you should try openness of mind and asking more questions.

 

You can’t have all the answers, and you’re not suppose to. My third point is exactly this. Have questions instead of answers. You’ll find answers when you ask questions. So ask away! There are answers to be found in the script, and you’ll be able to answer them. It’s the same as not going into the script with preconceptions. You come at it with a clean slate.

 

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There are definitely things you can do which will help you in acting. Little tricks and tips here and there which will help.

 

But needing to have a consistent overarching formula and approach won’t really help you here. Which is totally fine. Grow your curiosity, ask questions, and be free to be completely clueless especially at the beginning. That’s acting and that’s art folks.

 

As actors, we need to learn to let go of formula and embrace the journey.

 

Wonder Woman: More Than a Feminist Icon

Motivated by compassion and love is Diana of Themyscira, the Wonder Woman who is the latest superhero to grace our cinema screens. We all know her as the powerful goddess who answers to no man and seeks to defeat Ares, the god of war, thus saving humanity and making it pure again.

If only it were so were so simple.

Wonder Woman stands as an empowering testament of female capability, yet it masks itself in the desire to make life mean something. Men and women alike can relate to her character because of what she stands for: the desire to ‘make a difference’ in a suffering world, and the desire to continue doing so even in the realisation that the world will always suffer.

Before the age of disillusionment and cynicism rises to meet us, young adults often face a wonderfully powerful Messianic phase in which desires of finding a ‘cause’ to cling to come to fruition. Many times these desires are enacted upon and take many forms, whether it is through education, donating to charity or placing oneself in the midst of the trouble, it is common to give a damn.

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Perhaps this is why we see so many people entering fields such as medicine, social work and law enforcement – these are practical ways of enacting this Messianic phase.*

As someone who never had to care before, who didn’t even know there was a world to care about, Diana instinctively latched onto the idea that the world needed her. She was not aware of the power she possessed, and she was never told the purpose of her creation was to save the world from itself.

A powerful scene towards the beginning of the film shows Diana sneaking away from her home in the middle of the night to embark on her journey of Ares’ defeat, when her mother finds her and warns her that she may never be able to return. “Who would I be if I stay?” she replies. She became aware of a cause, and as a result felt responsible to do something about it.

Similarly, in our society, once a social issue is brought to light, it becomes our responsibility to do something about it. Ignorance is no longer blissful, and if one so chooses to do nothing, it becomes wilful – and who wants to be guilty of that?

Wonder Woman urges us to fulfil our perceived duty as human beings: to realise our common purpose, to live for something bigger than ourselves and to leave our comfort zone when doing so, even when it seems like nothing will change.

The themes of compassion, justice and ‘making a difference’ in the world is pertinent in the film. More insightful, though, is Diana’s journey from being the ‘saviour’ to realising she is actually powerless to change anything in a world that is self-destructive – in a world not wanting her help.

How do we, as those who do want to have an impact, respond to this? Furthermore, why should we even care? Why should we, like Diana, keep on fighting for humanity even as we watch humanity make the same mistakes? Diana’s partner in the film – American soldier and spy, John, insightfully outlines his motives for his actions. He says he can “do nothing or do something… I already tried nothing.”

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This is a statement I believe resonates with many people, yet the perplexing question for me is: Why do we even feel like we want to do something? For Diana, it was the purpose of her existence – her “pre-ordinance”, she called it, and so it makes sense.

Is it also our pre-ordinance? What is our motivation and why do we persevere even as the world continues in its suffering? Interestingly, superhero films, such as Wonder Woman, all carry these similar themes of responsibility, duty and ‘saving the world’. They are the highest grossing films of our time.

It seems like a collective fantasy we have as a human race: to make our lives count for something great. Perhaps we project this ideal onto films such as these. They make us question our own pre-ordinance, and if we don’t have one, then we crave it. They call us to action. Ultimately, they are representations of what we could be.

Wonder Woman, albeit an empowering female figure, is a picture of the human purpose – a motivation to contribute to the common good of humanity. She calls into question our desires and motives for making a difference in our dark world, and challenges us to continue doing so even when nothing seems to change.

Written by Hayley McGarvie.

 

*Going into medicine is one way for people to enact that Messianic phase.

Why Angelina Is One Of The Most Remarkable People

BY ANNETTE LANGE

Angelina Jolie is one of those actors who would have the ability, means and even the excuse to withdraw from any work or the public eye if she wanted. She could be satisfied with her success, after being deemed one of the most beautiful and rich women alive by the media, and having won the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

She is an extremely busy and recognised woman, and I have no idea how she manages to balance everything. But all the awards and successes don’t seem to be enough to make her slow down.

Ever since shooting Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in Cambodia and her exposure to the worldwide humanitarian crises, she hasn’t stopped being involved in humanitarian causes.

Hollywood actress and Oscar winner, Angelina Jolie, looks at an Afghan refugee making bricks at a bricks kiln in the outskirts of Islamabad

Upon receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, she shared in her speech:

“[My mother] was very clear that nothing would mean anything if I didn’t live a life of use to others.”

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Sure, Jolie didn’t always have the best reputation or set a great example. She’s always been considered a bit of a wild child. She’s been divorced three times, was accused of being a homewrecker, and the list goes on…

She doesn’t deny any of this, instead she recalls:

“I came into this business, young and worried about my own experiences and my own pain. And it was only when I began to travel and look and live beyond my home that I understand my responsibilities to others.”

She has gone above and beyond to take her mother’s advice seriously. She knows at the end of the day, what matters is not how good you’ve been in what you’ve done, but how you’ve used what you had to do good and love those around you.

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It’s such a common trap for one in the entertainment business to be self-absorbed and see a powerful performance, recognition or fame as the end goal.

When talking about her past, Jolie recalls being “absolutely self-destructive.” She continues, “I think a lot of young people in this business lose their way. You don’t know what is of value. You don’t know where you are. And you know something’s wrong, because it isn’t life as it actually is. It’s like living in some warped reality.”

She’s been exposed to the ‘real world’ with its cruelty and injustice, and she’s thrown herself right in to do something about it.

Her humanitarian efforts include the fight against the refugee crisis, conservation and community development, child immigration and education as well as human and women’s rights. Rather than just donating money and raising awareness about the crises, she’s determined to go there herself, visiting the respective people groups and taking time to hear their stories and giving them a voice.

I’m fascinated by her not stopping her involvement in film entirely. Now that she’s been exposed to more pressing matters, she could have seen the film industry as less important, but no.

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She is still doing what she loves. She acts, directs (shedding light on other actors), writes, and tells stories which challenge and encourage her audience, while being dedicated to her many humanitarian efforts.

Jolie isn’t perfect. She knows this, but she’s  trying to be the best she can be. Let’s cut her some slack, and use her as a source of inspiration instead of a target of criticism.

Are you living in a warped reality? Is it possible that you’re focused in achieving something that doesn’t matter at the end of the day? What legacy are you leaving behind? Is your life/art/craft of use to others?

Even though you probably won’t have the same means and resources as her, there’s always a way to invest in the lives of others and get a shift of perspective. Use Jolie’s willpower and drive as an inspiration.

 

What is it You Really Want? Finding Your Objectives

BY ANNETTE LANGE

If you’ve had any training in acting, you’ve come across the idea of objectives. While I’m not a master in using them effectively, I’ve improved and found principles I thought I’d share in order for you to act as believably as possible.

Laura Bond, author of TEAM For Actors: A Holistic Approach to Embodied Acting, has a section in her book on objectives which helped me immensely. If you want further explanation, check it out here.

Objective – Something aimed at or striven for

Synonyms – aim, intention, goal

People are governed by what they want. Every human being has desires and acts accordingly – they are our driving force. The same applies to our characters.

Determining the objective of a character is a bit more complicated than thinking what your character wants in a scene. It’s easy to choose ineffective and weak objectives. Below are some guidelines to help you determine effective objectives:

Where are your character’s needs rooted?

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First of all, you will need to understand your character’s basic needs and motivations.

Is your character seeking to fulfill basic physiological needs (hunger, thirst, sleep, physical comfort) or is your character desiring security (shelter, order, stability etc.)?

How about their social needs? Is your character primarily seeking love, acceptance and relationship, or is he/she really looking for ways to satisfy his/her ego (achievement, independence, prestige, recognition)?

Is your character driven to gain more knowledge or striving towards beauty? What if your character can’t be bothered by beauty, but ultimately seeks spiritual fulfilment?

Try to determine which of these needs your character is primarily seeking after, bearing in mind their needs and values might contradict your own.

E.g. “My character wants to be loved.”

Are you referring to your character in first person?

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Rather than talking about your character in third person, identify with him/her as soon as possible by talking about your character in first person. This obviously applies to your objectives as well.

E.g. Instead of saying “She wants to be loved”, embody your character, bridging the distance by saying “I want to be loved …”.

Does your objective call for your partner’s participation?

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This is straightforward. Don’t forget to involve your scene partner(s). The other character(s) is normally also the reason for conflict. If there’s no conflict, you will not captivate your audience.

What is your character’s relationship to the others in your scene? What do you want from them?

E.g. “I want him to show me he loves me.”

Are your objectives focused on what you want?

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An easy trap to fall into is focusing on what your character doesn’t want. First, understand what he/she wants before you focus on the obstacles.

Figure out the positive aspects of your character’s journey.

E.g. Instead of saying “I don’t want him to fall in love with her”, say “I want him to show he loves me.”

What is the desired outcome?

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What would be the perceived victory of the situation in the scene be for your character? What could the other character possibly do or say in order for you to feel victorious?

Make sure that you have a clear picture of what that would look like. Be specific.

E.g. Instead of defining your objective as “I want to be loved,” try “I want him to say ‘I love you’.”

Is your victory difficult to attain?

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Creating a sense of urgency in the scene will aid you as the actor immensely.

Actors normally call this ‘raising the stakes of the scene’.

We have previously talked about imagining the perfect victory for your character. Let’s take it up a notch and make sure you’re selecting a victory extremely difficult to attain.

You might set them so high, the victory will never happen. Allow for the possibility, that way it doesn’t become unrealistic.

E.g. “I want him to say ‘I love you’ before the end of our date.”

Does your objective sustain the scene?

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In other words, do your objectives motivate your character throughout the duration of the entire scene? If the victory happens in the middle of the scene, your character would have nothing left to fight for.

This goes further than the individual scene.

E.g. The previous example “I want him to say ‘I love you’ before the end of our date” only works if the scene ends when the date ends. If the above victory happens in the middle of the scene, the objective does not sustain the entire scene.

Do you have main objectives and scene objectives that carry your character through the scene/film/play? What are the general unsatisfied needs your character is wanting to fulfil, and what are the scene-specific needs in need of fulfillment?

Are your scene objectives in line with your main objectives?

Know the story.

Of course you need to have a good understanding of the story and its intention in order for you to be able to choose strong objectives. Your objectives have to be in line with the intentions of the script and your character’s given circumstances.

Practice.

If you need to practice more, watch and analyze scenes of movies and other actors that were particularly engaging and see if you can find out what the objectives of the respective characters were.

I hope these guidelines help when you’re stuck and need a little inspiration.

How to Find Royalty Free Music That Doesn’t Suck

If you’ve ever been a film school student or a no-budget independent filmmaker, then you know the pain. Finding high quality music to fit your movie for free is darn near impossible.

God bless Kevin MacCleod, but if I hear “Sneaky Snitch” in one more short film I’m going to throw something.

Before you get started on the journey of including royalty free music, be sure you understand the laws surrounding creative commons and licensed music. Every artist may have different stipulations for the use of their music in your film; many of them refuse it for commercial use (you would make a monetary profit from the video) and almost all will require you to credit their work.

“Royalty free music” does NOT always mean “free to use.”

Please have a firm understanding of what is required of you in using the artist’s piece before including it in your film. When in doubt, contact the artist and ask them directly.

Here’s a list of resources for your own short films and videos to help fill it out and bring it to life.

1. Incompetech

I literally warned you about “Sneaky Snitch” two seconds ago, however there’s no denying Kevin MacCleod’s music is iconic to the fledgling filmmaker. It can also be a great introduction into the world of royalty-free music for film. If you’ve never used any of his music, check it out!

However, don’t be surprised when you hear it in every other student short film known to humankind.

2. Free Music Archive

With a wide variety of music, some with lyrics and some without, this is a great one stop shop for all your royalty free music needs. All the music is free to download and easy to use. It has a great search engine to better find the kind of music you’re looking for.

Also, if you’re an up-and-coming composer, you can upload your works to this website for filmmakers (or whoever) to download.

However, like every royalty free music site, you really need to invest some time in separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of quality.

3. Bensound

Another website similar in style to Free Music Archive, but with a more limited library, Bensound is filled with royalty free music by French composer Ben Tissot. There is some great work on this site, but much like Kevin MacCleod’s works don’t be surprised to hear it in several other short films and videos.

4. YouTube Channels

Currently, YouTube provides me with the best royalty-free music on the internet, particularly if I’m looking for anything remotely resembling trap/club music.

You can find music one of two ways:

  • Look through the audio library and download the song you like directly from YouTube
  • Search YouTube the old fashioned way, find a channel with great royalty free music, and follow the channel’s instructions to download the track you like. Channels like RoyalTrax, AudioLibrary, and Argofox are great places to start.

You’ll find some familiar faces hanging out on YouTube as well (Bensound & Kevin MacCleod). The only downsides to using YouTube as a source are:

  1. It can be a complicated process downloading the track you like.
  2. Finding the specific style of music you’re looking for can be a bit more complicated than some of the other sites.

A FEW MORE OPTIONS….

Now before you start a download frenzy with the above listed resources, here are a few more options to think about.

5. Hire a Local, Up and Coming Composer For Free

Of all of the roles in film production, I’ve never had a group of people literally throw themselves at me like film composers. 60% of the messages we get as a production company asking for an opportunity are composers. I’m not kidding or exaggerating (if anything I lowballed the percentage).

There are people out there who are looking for a chance to score a film. Ask for their samples of previous works, and if you like what you hear, then you’re able to help them out as well as yourself.

6. Ask Your Musically Talented Friends to Help You

Other than downloading music from the interwebs, this is my go-to for finding music for my projects. Being a creative, I have no shortage of friends who are musical geniuses who have yet to make a break into the business.

They often appreciate the opportunity to stretch themselves in creating something, as much as I appreciate receiving some great music for my film.

Be sure to ask a friend however who is open to constructive feedback and direction. You don’t want to ruin a great relationship over a short film.

7. Audiojungle

If I find myself in a pinch, I bite the bullet and purchase a song from this comprehensive music library.

While there is plenty of mediocre music on the site, there is just as much of good quality. I’ve never been disappointed by a track I’ve downloaded, and to date I’ve never paid more than $20AUD for a track.

There is some great music out there, free for you to use. Happy hunting everyone, and don’t be afraid to find creative solutions.

 

Written by Brenden Bell.

“The Expanse” Will Make You Feel Lost In Space

BY KEATON J. EVANS

Netflix’s new show, The Expanse, is extraordinary, visually stunning, and has a gritty, realistic look which makes the show quite unique and creative when compared to other sci-fi shows.

There’s a lot going on right off the bat, with colonies across the solar system, a futuristic Earth, a militant Mars, and plenty of water shortage on some smaller worlds. I would say there’s a lot going for the show.

This being said, there are also a few things which the show isn’t so great at doing. Below are some thing it does well and some things where it misses the mark. All points considered, you’ll feel lost in space watching this show.

Now whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you.

The Worlds Are Incredible

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The production quality is the shows number one quality, hands down. The worlds and ships they show glisten with details and have almost a Blade Runner vibe especially on the Asteroid colonies.

The show also hits well on the realities of space and what could go wrong. One example, is the water shortage on the asteroid belt. There’s moments where shipments of ice are delayed and the people on the belt suffer because of it. It goes even farther to point out that if a second shipment is delayed then people will die.

It was refreshing to see so much thought put into the mechanics of world outside of earth, and see the messy reality, and complications which could arise. The visual aspects of the worlds and the realism they present are both excellent.

Seeing all these real intricate worlds allows you to get lost in them, a feeling which was a pleasant surprise.

Wait, Who Are These People?

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After watching The Expanse, I noticed the one thing I didn’t quite like: the character development. Probably the weakest aspect of the film. While the production design is quite superb, the characters fall short, especially in the beginning.

I thought about why this was. The characters are interesting enough, they live in incredible worlds, and the plot is good, so what gives. Well, here’s the deal. While the characters may be interesting, it’s hard to know because they rush the character development.

It feels like we are supposed to know who these people are as soon as we see the first shot. It almost seems like the beginning of the show is the middle of a show. Now, there is development of the characters, a little.

But for the most part, all the introductions are rushed and end up leaving you feeling  little connection with the people you are watching. I think to myself, “A spaceship explodes and people might die! Oh no! Wait, who are these people?”

If they want the events to hold any weight, they need to let us get to know the characters, and then put them into dangerous life-threatening situations, or we won’t care.

If you feel stranded and not quite sure how to feel then don’t worry, it’s an effect of rushed character intros.

Feeling Lost Could Be Either Good or Bad

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Both the best qualities of the show and the worst qualities of the show will make you feel lost. But which feeling sticks with you? Does the production design and visuals carry you through the hard-to-know characters, or do you feel not knowing the characters takes you out of the show?

Either way, it’s an inspiration to anyone who wants to make a science-fiction show.