Top 10 Movies Every Actor Should Watch and Why

BY ANNETTE LANGE

Who hasn’t deeply been touched by beautiful cinematography, amazing performances by actors and successful adaptations of extremely creative and ingenious screenwriting?

Films speak to everyone on a deep, personal level. They reveal, celebrate and criticize humanity and are therefore a powerful tool.

If you’re an actor, you’re probably driven by the same desire to tell stories worth telling. I’ve compiled a list of movies that will challenge, inspire and help you in your endeavour to become a better actor.

1. Sophie’s Choice

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There are so many reasons to watch this film, if you haven’t already. Pay close attention to Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline’s performances. Their characters are so multifaceted, complicated and emotional, and both are able to portray them convincingly. Streep nailed not only the Polish accent when speaking English but also when she spoke German.

2. Wall-e

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This movie is an excellent reminder of the importance of story. The immense impact this film has on the audience is incredible. The actor is not the most important part – the story is. And it can be told without words. Films should be made to create a connection with the audience. The actors are merely servants of the director who carries the vision.

3. The Descendants

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In this film, director Alexander Payne chose to leave the camera on the cast longer than what would be a good point to yell ‘cut’. It’s fascinating to see how the actors explore this opportunity. You often hear the saying ‘the magic happens outside of our comfort zone’ and this is a perfect example.

4. Drinking Buddies

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Drinking Buddies is an example of successful mumblecore. What this means is, the performances are natural and more realistic because there are guidelines instead of scripted dialogue. Watching this will inspire you to really listen and react to your scene partner and see what happens. Don’t be scared of improvisation, it’s a breeding ground for magic to happen.

5. La Vie En Rose

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Marion Cotillard’s performance blew me away when I saw this film. No wonder it garnered her an Oscar. Her commitment and dedication to portraying Edith Piaf is inspirational. It’s a perfect example of Ugly Acting. She does not look flattering in her performance, she masters the degression of age and sickness and makes very bold character choices. I’m a strong proponent for watching foreign films as well, and to start with La Vie en Rose is an excellent choice.

6. Bronson

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Confidence is a key lesson that improved my acting, and Tom Hardy’s confidence in this movie is incredible. He seems to have completely forgotten the camera. His performance is raw and unforgiving. Also, Bronson is just one bizarre human being, and to understand his psyche and wrestle with the character development must have been a challenge.

7. Sunset Boulevard

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This is a classic black comedy and, even though it is an oldie, it still shows the ‘behind the scenes’ of Hollywood/Stardom quite plainly. It shows the extent and consequence of Norma Desmond’s love for fame, herself and greed. Stardom is fleeting, the fruit of pride is disgusting. Mommy Dearest explores this topic as well. It is definitely a topic every actor needs to grapple with for their personal life.

8. Singin’ in the Rain

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Whether you are fan of musicals or not, you must have seen this movie at least once. Film is first and foremost entertainment and should appeal to your audience. Gene Kelly is a wonderful example for his standard of excellence. Only dreaming for a breakthrough in acting will just continue to be a dream if you don’t work on your craft.

9. Amadeus

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Amadeus discusses many topics worth mentioning. But what struck me while watching the movie was observing how both Mozart and Salieri failed to steward their talents well and as a result, both their lives end tragically. Instead of composing for the love of music and others, Salieri chose to let comparison and jealousy get the best of him. And Mozart indulges so much in the futile pleasures of life, it results in a disgraceful death.

10. Kramer vs Kramer

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What’s fascinating about this movie is, it refuses to take sides. Humans are intricate, complicated beings. Their personalities and decisions change. There isn’t always a black and white, right or wrong. The focus is not on the child who suffers from his parents’ divorce, but on the ‘grown-ups’ who cry out for just as much attention and identity as the child does.

Read Roger Ebert’s review for a further exploration of the film.

Bear in mind

This is a very limited list and not ranked in any way from best to worst or vice versa.

My advice to you – watch ‘em all. But be strategic with your choice of movies. Watch good ones, watch bad ones, popular movies and unpopular ones, independent and foreign ones – but watch them all with a healthy dose of skepticism and awareness and take away from them what you can and apply to your own craft.

How to Make talking to yourself genuine and authentic

BY ANNETTE LANGE

Fellow Actors, nobody wants to sit through a stilted performance of a lifeless monologue.

On the other hand, there is nothing more fascinating than watching an actor embody a character through monologue successfully. It’s incredible when he/she presents the character’s thoughts through his/her physical presence, imagination and inner activity – not just the words of the monologue.

This being said, here are helpful guidelines I summed up from legendary Uta Hagen’s take on performing monologues. By monologues, I mean any scene in which your character is alone in a given time and place and finds him/herself talking out loud for a specific reason at a moment of crisis.

First and foremost, it’s important we know:

WHY WE TALK TO OURSELVES

Talking to ourselves is always an attempt on our part to gain control over our circumstances.

These circumstances can look very different. They can be boredom or a tragic situation.

For example, when I’m in a hurry, my verbalisation of, “Ok, I’ve got my keys, my wallet… where’s my phone?” is merely my attempt at organisation. In the case of a dramatic monologue, Uta Hagen explains “it’s that you are in crisis and need the words to help you find answers.”

So, when you tackle your next monologue, make sure you determine and are aware of your circumstances – or your ‘crisis’.

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The next important aspect is observing yourself and others and knowing:

WHAT TALKING TO OURSELVES LOOKS LIKE

A big temptation for actors is putting too much emphasis on the actual words. Uta Hagen describes it as “mostly a subconscious procedure that makes you verbalize” because it is an involuntary process, most of the time we’re not even aware of it.

Because we are often so caught up in our thoughts, words are merely the byproduct of trying to figure out a situation, or an emotion we are submerged in. It is, in other words, an overflow of our thought process about the circumstances we’re currently in or an experience we’ve just had.

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This is why it’s always important to take into consideration that:

OUR WORDS NEED PHYSICAL PRESENCE

In her book Respect for Acting, Hagen emphasizes the importance of partnering physical action with words: “I strongly recommend that the scene be found physically before you approach the verbal action […] you do not come into the room in order to talk to yourself [emphasis added].”

Generally, people aren’t actually physically still when they talk to themselves.

You will make life much easier for yourself if your words are accompanied by physical activity. You don’t have to finish the activity, but it will help in your character’s attempt to gain control over his/her circumstances.

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Even though physical presence is essential, be aware of:

THE DANGER WITH PHYSICAL ACTIONS

Partnering actions with your words does not mean you have to physically act out the words. Or as Hagen puts it, “Don’t illustrate the life you are verbally fantasizing.” This is an easy trap us actors can fall into. You don’t need to show your audience what your words mean, which brings me to the next point of danger.

In a monologue, your character is alone. He/she knows exactly what is going on and doesn’t need to explain to anyone the whole story. But, obviously your audience still needs to understand the context. This is why Hagen advises to “let the humanness of your behaviour reveal the necessary events” in order for them to understand the story.

I’m aware of the trickiness of partnering words with actions, so allow me to share:

HELPFUL QUESTIONS TO ASK IN PREPARATION

Similar to Hagen’s previous advice to start with the physicality of the monologue first, ask yourself:

“What would I do here if I didn’t talk?”

Start with the physical presence first, and at some point, as Hagen reassures us, it’s going to be easy to start talking.

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Consider what the real reason is of why you’re doing these things under the given circumstances in order to allow any verbal fantasy to take shape.

IN CONCLUSION

At the end of the day, don’t forget these guidelines aren’t meant to stress you out. They are there to help you make your performance as believable as possible in order to tell a story worth telling.

Have fun in your journey of exploring and imitating human behaviour, in order to let the stories you tell. Be an inspiration to your audience.

Barkhad Abdi – How to get awards without training

BY ANNETTE LANGE

In order to win the Bafta Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and get a part in popular movies, one must simply do the following:

 

  • Come from a difficult background in Somalia and flee to Yemen to escape sudden civil unrest and war
  • Win a Green Card Lottery and move to Minnesota at the age of 14
  • Learn English from TV shows and rap music
  • Become a limo driver, DJ and sell phones to make ends meet
  • Respond to a casting call for Captain Phillips and give the best performance out of 700 fellow auditioners to get the role of a Somali pirate
  • Co-star alongside Tom Hanks and give an excellent performance
  • Improvise iconic lines to add to the believability of the scene

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This, in a nutshell, is the story of Barkhad Abdi who made his major debut in Captain Phillips, without any acting training or experience prior to his role as ‘Abduwali Muse’. And, besides winning the Bafta Award, he got nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award as well.

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I love stories like his. People like Abdi are very refreshing. They haven’t been sheltered from the world, they had other things to worry about than staying in the loop with the latest trends. And when success comes to them as a surprise, it is an even more joyous achievement.

 

When asked about his response to co-starring with Tom Hanks, he recalled thinking, “I can’t believe I’m in a scene with the Forrest Gump guy.”

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I first noticed Abdi in Eye in the Sky and I was extremely fascinated by his performance. When I realized he hadn’t been trained professionally, I was even more impressed.

 

The little training he had in preparation for Captain Phillips happened in the month prior to filming. Abdi had to learn to swim, handle guns and operate a ship. He only met Tom Hanks on the first day of shooting, so I bet his nerves helped him to create such a convincing character.

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There was a lot of doubt whether he would actually be able to make a career out of it, or if it was just a one-time golden opportunity.

 

His salary for his first performance was only increased very little from the mandated Screen Actors Guild (SAG) minimum of $60,000 for a feature film. Even after his success, he was struggling financially.

 

He couldn’t even go back to work in his brother’s phone shop because everyone wanted to see him instead of buying phones. He seemed as if he was back to square one after reaching fame.

Perhaps his experience of reaching fame but finding it harder than expected could be compared to his experience of coming to the States:

 

“When I was leaving Yemen to come to America, things were tough. My dad had just been laid off, and it was a challenge. When I lived in Yemen, I thought America was a perfect place. Everything was bigger and better. I dreamed big. The American dream, you know? You have to work hard for your dream to come true.”
And he is working hard. I’m sure many directors have an eye on him after his performance in Eye in the Sky. And fortunately, his future looks promising as well. He has more acting projects lined up such as Hawaii 50, The Place that hits the Sun and the Sequel to Blade Runner. May the list go on and on!

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I am excited to see more of his acting. May he never loose that tenacious and creative spirit and continue to inspire fellow actors as he continues in his journey!

How to raise Shakespeare from the dead

BY ANNETTE LANGE

Shakespeare is a name we’ve all heard of, probably several times, at least in popular movie adaptations of his work. The actor, playwright, dreamer and entrepreneur is seen as a source of inspiration and creativity – or considered boring and foreign.

 

Most couldn’t have gone through high school without reading at least Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet or Macbeth. And in high school, I think I can claim that not all of us have approached him with the best attitude and could have thought of better ways to spend our time instead of sitting in a classroom and not even attempting to understand the complicated language.

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The fact that you are reading this article is a small indication that you are either:

  • not completely opposed to the idea of reading Shakespeare,
  • you know there must be some reason for this fascination about Shakespeare
  • you recognize that as an actor, you can’t really get around it
  • Or, you are just a very nice person who decided to read my article – thank you.

 

So, how does one even tackle a Shakespearean sonnet, monologue or play without standing on stage tensely, sticking out your chest and attempting to deliver the lines, hoping not to trip over them?

 

PUT ASIDE WHAT YOU THINK IT SHOULD LOOK LIKE

 

When it comes to well-known pieces of literature like Shakespeare’s works, you are bound to have some kind of expectation of what it should look like, or what it has looked like in the past.

 

I’d encourage you: make it your own, do not try to copy any previous attempts.

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One common reason why Shakespeare is so widely celebrated, is because of his extensive, even revolutionary understanding of the human condition. He explains how humans think and feel, he discusses the human psyche – which is timeless.

 

And this is why Shakespeare is ever so relevant.

 

Don’t let any previous perceptions or adaptations of his work take away from the journey and joy of chewing over the subtext and topics his works bring up.

 

HAMLET WAS A HUMAN TOO

 

Well, not really. Hamlet is a fictional character… but going along with my previous point, don’t allow the age, setting or language of the play to prevent you from identifying with the character you are portraying. Treat them as fellow human beings full of surprises, complexities and tumultuous emotions.

 

WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, HOW

 

It makes it very hard to perform Shakespeare authentically if you haven’t put in the research yourself. Answer the usual background questions of your character, identify objectives, relationship to other characters, etc.

 

What is extremely helpful is to research when Shakespeare wrote the play, what stage of life he was in and why he would’ve written the respective play/sonnet at that particular point in time and history.

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USE THE RESOURCES AT HAND

 

“When I was your age, I had to walk all the way to the library and find all the appropriate books in order to do my research – and now you just sit in the living room and have all the information at your fingertips.” My mom somehow felt the need to mention this over and over again during my school years.

 

While she would point out the lack of resources she had, I would moan about the overload of information I was exposed to for my school projects. But, it’s true, we have access to so many resources through the internet – use them.

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If you don’t understand the context of the play or the dialogue, look up sites such as Sparknotes to find ‘translations’, plot summaries, character analysis, look at Youtube, find TED talks etc.

 

Just make sure you don’t rely only on the interpretations you find online – personalize your character, add your imagination and pizazz.

 

WHAT DID SHAKESPEARE ACTUALLY SOUND LIKE?

 

Seeing that London was already a melting pot of different people and accents in Shakespeare’s time, English had a very different pronunciation too. When performed in modern English, many jokes, rhyme schemes and content gets lost ‘in translation’.

 

David and Ben Crystal (Father and Son) have worked together in finding out what the ‘Original Pronunciation’ of Shakespeare must have sounded like.

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Here’s a video to show how this idea was developed and what the ‘OP’ sounds like.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPlpphT7n9s

 

Not only does the OP give clarification on the content of Shakespeare’s works, but it also changes the demeanor of the actor. In comparison to modern English, OP is automatically delivered at a faster pace, a lower voice and a different demeanor.

 

Now, whether or not you choose to actually perform your piece in Original Pronunciation or not, give it a go in your preparation as this might help you to understand the respective piece better…and it’s a lot of fun to try out this weird mix of Scottish, American and Pirate accents.
Fellow Actor, Dreamer and Creative – I wish you all the best in your endeavor to bring your Shakespearean character to life, make it your own through your unique understanding and implementation!

How to Inspire Your Parents to Support Your Acting

BY CHARIS JOY JACKSON

Want to inspire your parents that you’re making the right choice? A lot of people, including your parents, may look at your decision to become an actor as something that’s not valid. Not a real career. Maybe they see it as a fling of youthful dreams, or a phase that you’ll grow out of, but, are they right? Or do you see it as the absolute career of your life and somehow you’ve got to convince and inspire them it’s a real job?

 

What you have to realize, is you’ll always be the little kid playing dress up to your parents. They want the best for you, so when you present this risky and uncertain future, you must tread carefully. Otherwise, they may see a vision of you as an eight year old, living on the streets of L.A.

 

Before you jump into this career you need to decide if you’re ready for what it will cost you. Being able to have an intellectual and reasonable answer to this, will also help your parents support your decision and make it more likely that they’ll help you stay the course to reach your dream.

 

So what can you say to inspire them to see what you’re choosing is valid?

“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.” – Pablo Picasso

 

The truth is, we need actors because they help us realize the truth.

 

When I teach acting, I like to show a TED Talk clip of Patsy Rodenburg, called “Why I Do Theatre.” I highly recommend you watch it and even show it to your parents to back up why acting is a vital job. It may even inspire you to see how much more you can give to those around you.

 

In the video, Patsy tells a story about a man who approached her. The man said he didn’t like theatre. Patsy encouraged him to explain why. He explained his experience of one of the actress’ (after finding out her young son has been killed) made a sound that he termed “embarrassing”.

 

He went on to say, that a year later, his own daughter was murdered and how upon learning this news found himself making that same agonized sound the actress had made the year before.

 

The man finished sharing with Patsy, by saying, “You know, she told me the truth, but I hadn’t grown up enough to know it.”

 

I get goosebumps every time I hear this story, because that actress opened something within that man; she gave him permission to grieve. She helped him realize the truth in his own life, so he would know how to act when tragedy struck.

 

If you’re pursuing acting because you’re after the fame, then read this section again. The true artist/actor, is someone who desires to tell the truth in order to inspire the viewer.

 

If this is something you want to do, then great! Add this to your answer when you tell your parents.

 

What parent wouldn’t want their kid to help make such an impact on someone’s life?

“You use a glass mirror to see your face; you use works of art to see your soul.” – George Bernard Shaw

A few years ago, my cat passed away. She’d been a part of my life for almost twenty years. She had seen me through those formative years and had been a steadfast companion through all the ups and downs of high school. If you’re not a cat fan, take comfort in knowing she acted more like a dog than a cat. (All the best cats are dogs in feline form)

Anyway, I was finding it very difficult to process her loss. Even though she’d been such a huge part of my life, it felt a bit silly to cry for a cat.

That’s when I watched We Bought A Zoo.

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There’s a scene when Matt Damon’s character, Benjamin Mee, is trying to get a sick tiger, Spar, to eat. Really, he knows Spar is old and the humane thing to do is to put him down, but Benjamin refuses and it’s a struggle to get Spar to take his medicine.

There’s a moment when he and his son are talking about courage as they sit in front of Spar’s inclosure. Benjamin has just been encouraged again to put Spar down, but he still doesn’t want to, because for him the subtext of the situation is the letting go of his wife who has passed away. Then his son turns to him and says. “You did your best dad, he [meaning Spar, but also meaning his mom] knows that.”

Up to this point, I’d been holding the tears at bay, but something about this scene and the acting by Matt Damon and Colin Ford finally gave me permission to mourn.

Yes, it’s similar to Patsy Rodenburg’s story, but where it differs is that it happened in the same moment of watching it, instead of a year later. It was because of two actors that I was finally able to grieve.

 

I’ve heard other tales of actors giving performances during a timely moment that allowed an entire audience to experience something real in their lives.
We need actors, because they help us understand the workings of our souls.

 

Ok, sure, not every acting gig you get is going to help someone, but if that’s our goal, to create something great, to go for the jobs that will make an impact in people’s lives, I think you’ll find your parents standing behind you and encouraging you to push for your dreams. After all, they were dreamers once too, maybe they still are…

 

So many people who aspire to be actors lose sight of what’s important. They become vain and shallow shadows of what they once were, all because they’re trying to look hotter and tanner. Please don’t turn into the orange version of yourself.

 

A good way to hold on to what’s important, is to remain the silly original you. It may give you the x-factor so many directors and producers are looking for, but it will also encourage your parents that this crazy industry won’t change you.

 

Find places where you can volunteer – help feed the homeless, become an animal fosterer, offer to weed your neighbor’s yard.

 

These kinds of acts of service help to keep us grounded. I’ve heard countless stories of actors who do even small things like offer to wash the plates after lunch, instead of hiding in their trailers. Not only does it help them, but it inspires the people around them.

 

How much more will it inspire your parents?

 

Final thoughts, while this video is aimed at filmmakers. I love what it says about filmmaking being a calling. I think it’s the same for the life of an actor. It has to be something you’re called to, something you’re insanely passionate about and have no other choice but to pursue it.

 

The more passion you show to your parents, the more they’ll want to stand with you, because like I’ve said, they want the best for us, and if that best is coming to life as an actor, then they’ll want to be a part of seeing that happen.

 

Because that’s true inspiration.

 

Don’t Be An Acting Idiot

BY CHARIS JOY JACKSON

I love acting. I love watching T.V. and movies. I love watching great actors. But I HATE watching actors – even great ones – make idiotic choices.

 

Please, for the love of God, if you’re an actor don’t be an idiot.

 

So how do you avoid being an idiot? Well here are a few things to avoid at all costs.

 

Don’t Pull a Gilmore Girl – Coffee Cups

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If you’re given an empty cup that’s supposed to be full of coffee, treat it like a full cup of coffee. I love Gilmore Girls, but this is something that seriously irritates me about the show. Every time they’re carrying a cup of supposedly full coffee, they throw it around as if it’s an empty cup, which it is, but the viewer shouldn’t feel like it’s an empty cup.

 

If it’s got a lid, ask the prop assistant to fill it with water for you. It’s an easy solve. If for some reason this is unavailable to you, then get out your mime skills (even if you don’t have any) and treat the cup right.

 

Imagine… there’s steaming liquid brimming right at the top of the cup. You don’t want that getting all over you! You’re gonna hold that cup carefully.

 

Don’t Advertise Deadpan – Line Reading

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Look, I get it, commercials have a lot of words and so using a prompter is often the easiest way to go. With that being said, man alive it bugs me to see an actor’s eyes scan the camera while they talk. All I can think is, “Oh, great, another line reading.”

 

Do your best to memorize the lines. Then you only have to pick out a key word on the prompter to know what you’re supposed to say next.

 

Make sure to add the product name as one of your key words, other than that, find what works for you. I always go for feeling words because they tell me where I should go with the sentence.

 

Don’t Be Happy As A Fool – Fake Laugh

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Oh my goodness. PLEASE. PLEASE. PLEASE don’t pull a fake laugh. For all that is good and holy, I beg of you. It’s one of the easiest things to spot. Even people who don’t have a clue about acting can tell when a person is fake laughing and it makes us all cringe.

 

Try this. Get a bunch of your friends together and sit in a circle. Then start to laugh. Even if it’s fake, let it out. I guarantee within the next minute, your entire group will be laughing for real. Store this silly and ridiculous memory and use it on set.

 

Do yourself a favor and laugh. Really laugh. If you’ve got to fake it off camera until you actually laugh, do it. I don’t care how at this point, just make it happen. Please.

 

Don’t Overreact, Treat the Kid Right – Working With Kids

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There are so many times I’ve watched a film, where the kid has done something slightly unexpected especially if they’re really little. It’s great to have in a scene, but what ruins it is when the actor doesn’t know what to do with it. They do the awkward laugh and try to look off screen to see if they should keep going.

 

Be the kind that rolls with it. Expect the unexpected with kiddos. Act natural, pull out your motherly or fatherly instincts. If you can’t find those, then go back to your high school drama geek days and improv the crummies out of the scene.

 

Don’t Hate The Cat, Hold The Cat Like A Cat Lover – Working With Animals

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I’ve said this bit for the non-cat lovers, but it goes for non-dog lovers too. For those of us who love animals, we can tell when an actor is holding an animal wrong. I think the worst part about this is that the animal knows you’re uncomfortable and so they wiggle all the more to be free.

 

If you can, approach the animal trainer on set and ask if you can get acquainted with said animal. They need to get to know you and be comfortable around you, just as much as you need to learn how to hold them.

 

When in doubt ask the animal lovers in your life how they hold their pet and then use that for the scene. I can’t tell you how much relief I have when an actor treats the animal with the love a real owner would.

 

When in doubt do your research and don’t overlook the small stuff, that’s when people notice the most!
I hope you’ve taken away some vital lessons from this piece. I look forward to watching all the things now to watch excellent actors and not idiots.

 

HOW TO SQUEEZE THE CRUMMIES OUT OF YOUR SCRIPT

BY ANNETTE LANGE

Sometimes approaching a script might be a bit overwhelming or even underwhelming in some cases. It’s hard to understand the story and why your character is doing what he/she is doing etc. But often, everything is right there in the text, you just have to look for it.

 

But… fret not! Here are some helpful tips and guidelines that might help you in your endeavor to make your character come alive.

 

THE FIRST READ

 

The advantage of reading it for the first time is that you as the actor are reading the script as a whole story, not just your part. It’s the only time you will read it as the audience. Even though it’s tempting to want to dive right in and start acting already, try to refrain from that in the first read.

 

READ, READ, READ… AND READ SOME MORE…

 

Reading the script over and over again is a very helpful tool. Different things will be highlighted each time, the story will unfold and make more and more sense as you read it, you get a better understanding of the characters, their relationship to one another and of the story as a whole.

 

Anthony Hopkins mentioned that he reads the script 100-250 times as a preparation, “I learn the text cold, read it maybe 100 or 200 times […] It’s a trick I play on myself just to make sure I really know it. Then I’m at ease, and I can improvise. […] this gives me a tremendous sense of ease and the power of confidence.”

 

Let’s take an excerpt of the restaurant scene between Joanna and Ted from Kramer vs. Kramer (1979):

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WHAT INFORMATION DOES THE SCRIPT GIVE YOU?

 

As you go through the script, highlight your lines of course, but make sure you take all the information the script gives you into regard. Work with the text, make it your own.

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What does the script tell you about your character? What do other characters reveal about your character?

 

As the character, ask yourself:

    • Who am I?
    • Where am I?
    • When is it?
    • Where have I just come from?

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From just this little section, we know that Joanna and Ted have been in a past relationship together, presumably married. We know that Joanna was the one who left Ted and their son, and that he has been caring for their son since then. She admits that she needed help from a therapist, and we get the idea that she had previously put her identity/value/purpose in the fact that she is a daughter, mother and wife which frustrated her. She tries to come off very confident, because she knows this is a very delicate topic between them and is careful about her wording. She is nervous about his response.

 

WHAT DRIVES THE CHARACTER AND WHAT DRIVES THE STORY?

 

To get an overview of your character’s motives and objectives/goals, a helpful tool is to divide your script into ‘beats’. Legendary actress Uta Hagen explains that “a beat begins […] when an immediate objective sets in. It ends when that objective has succeeded or failed and new circumstances set in.”

 

What is your character trying to do? Is he/she trying to charm? Persuade? Convince? Guilt trip? Etc.

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Remember to make your objectives strong active choices that will drive the story further and will heighten the stakes. Weak objectives won’t help you.

 

Joanna’s overall goal is to get her son back. She knows all the arguments Ted can use against her, so in her attempt to have Ted agree to give her custody of their son, she knows she’ll have to word her desire very carefully. But she’s also convinced that she did the right thing in finding out who she was and justifies herself.

 

While Ted sincerely wants to understand her reasoning at first, he clearly does not want to give her custody for their son. Opposing objectives create great conflict!

 

A CLOSER LOOK AT OBJECTIVES

 

When going through the script, find the answers to the following questions in the script:

    • What do I want?
    • Why do I want it?
    • Why do I want it now?
    • What will happen if I don’t get it now?
    • How will I get what I want by doing what?
    • What must I overcome?

 

You can also refer to this article for more details and tips about these background questions.

 

While Joanna’s primary goal is to have her son back, subconsciously, she seems to prove to Ted and the world that she is a capable and independent woman. If she were to get her son back she would fulfill her role as a mother and make up for the mistake of leaving her son and Ted in the first place. If not, Ted will have won, she would be considered a failure and would have to live with guilt for the rest of her life. She has to overcome Ted’s refusal to give their boy back, and this is her first attempt after 15 months of being away.

 

This summary only starts to scratch the surface of Joanna’s internal fight, there is so much more depth to the whole situation, so make sure you go as deep as you can in your character development.

 

WITH YOUR BUDDY…

 

When rehearsing with your scene partner, I would recommend reading the script cold a couple of times before playing around with different approaches and objectives of your character. Even if it’s not the ultimate objective your character is going to have, have a go with different ones during rehearsal. It is especially effective when your character’s objective is the complete opposite of the other character.

man-person-people-emotions

E.g If your objective is to avoid the other person, it would be interesting to see how the scene unfolds if the other character is trying to flirt etc.

 

When practicing scenes like that for while, you’ll get to see different elements, connotations, accentuations that you hadn’t considered before, but might use for the actual performance – and of course… it’s a lot of fun.

 

AT THE END OF THE DAY…

 

Ultimately, every actor will have his/her preferred approach. Some things work, some things don’t. Play around with it, have fun, use your imagination in cases where you’re stuck and… don’t stress.