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Acting without the Drama Classes!

The only requirements for my classes are a computer, a webcam and internet connectivity.

Private classes (acting, accent reduction, dialects, self-marketing and MORE!)--$45/50 minute session.

4 private classes--$150

8 private classes--$275

After paying for classes through PayPal (button below), you will be contacted within 48 hours to schedule your first session.

Want to test out my classes before you commit? Email me at actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com to schedule a $30 first time class. If you then decide to commit to 4 or 8 sessions, the $30 will be discounted from the amount, giving you the first class for FREE.
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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spring Has Sprung

Not that kind of spring, you idiot.


I love spring.

There's something about the sense of renewal that comes after a long winter (and this was a long, cold, HARD winter, folks) that makes my spirits soar. I think that starting our new year right in the middle of winter was a bad, bad, bad mistake that needs to be immediately rectified. Springtime would be the perfect time to celebrate new beginnings, dontcha think?

Oh, and as a side note, can we talk about New Year's Eve? Was there ever a more ridiculous holiday? Let's get completely blasted and stay up way too late on the day right before we're going to try to implement our resolutions for the next year. Sounds like a plan! What moron came up with that one? (Apologies to all of the eat-drink-and-be-merry types reading this blog. I'm a self-proclaimed stick in the mud and a borderline hermit, so take it all in with a cellar full of salt.)

When I lived in Southern California, much as I loved the year-round good weather, I missed the feeling of rebirth that came with spring. Let's face it, when your winter has consisted of 60 degree shorts weather, spring just wasn't that big of a deal. But here in Utah? I can FEEL my body soaking up the rays of sun that beam down from up above.

Me, Christina Ricci. Me.

So... blah, blah, blah. Spring, spring, spring. Here's the point. There are things that are worth doing in our lives. Things that we don't typically do. Things like clearing time for the things that make us come alive, as a crazy example.

I'm assuming that, if you read this blog at all, part of what makes you come alive may have something to do with acting. If not acting, then some other artistic endeavor: writing, directing, painting, sculpting... something. And my question to you at this juncture would be: are you making sure to set aside time, energy and resources to do what makes you feel like... well, YOU?

I know it's hard. There are so many things that demand our attention. Things like making sure we can pay rent and stuff our gobs. Important stuff. Necessary stuff. I'm not disputing that. Not for a second.

AND...

Is it possible that there are things (even good ones) we can take out of our lives that might make space for something better? Watching TV is fine. In fact, if you want a career as a professional actor, keeping up with the latest TV shows, at least on a superficial level, is a good thing. But how much do we actually watch? Five hours a week? Ten? Twenty? What if we took just one or two of those hours to dedicate to something that inspires us on a deeper level than the latest episode of How I Met Your Mother? Yes, Neil Patrick Harris is fantastic. But let's be honest. That show's been coasting for a season or two (at least).

Watching TV. Level: Expert.


I'm not saying to cut our comfort time-spenders out completely. Just cut back a titch. Just enough to fit in some time to read a play, work on a scene with a partner, go to a film festival, take a class. Just a little bit.

The benefits of keeping up our craft might not be fame and fortune. In fact, I can practically guarantee that won't be the outcome. But it can uplift us. Inspire us. Lead to more fulfillment and joy.

And isn't that worth turning off the tube for an hour or two?

*Special note to those who do not watch television. I'm pretty sure there's at least one thing you do that would be considered "discretionary time spending". Figure out what it is and apply it to your situation. Don't get all superior with the rest of us mouth-breathers who like to veg out. K? Thx. :)


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Well, Hello There...




Yes, it's been forever and a day (actually, it's been closer to one year and a couple of months) since I last posted on my blog. Since then, there have been some interesting developments in my life that I may or may not share (I'm such a tease, aren't I?) with you all at some point. Suffice it to say for now that they were painful when they happened, but I'm grateful for them now.

I wanted to take a moment to apologize to everyone for not being more present. I left off writing blog entries and doing my podcast/internet radio show for reasons that made sense to me in the moment but that I'm beginning to second guess now. I didn't have the time, I thought, to write down my ideas on acting and life if it was just going out into the ether. If it wasn't helping anyone, then why in the world was I spending time on it?

Well, that's not a terrible reason, right? Except that I have since found that there are people who were getting something out of it, even if they didn't comment or follow or like or yadayadayada. And I abandoned them. You, possibly.

I'm so sorry. That was not my intent.

Plus, what's so bad about putting my thoughts out into the ether? Sometimes it helps me to ground myself and have a better idea about what the crap is actually going on inside there (not always an easy proposition). Staying grounded and knowing where we are and how we're feeling at any given moment is kinda part of our job, right? Sooooo... may have missed the boat just a bit on that one.

Anywho. I'm here. I'm not promising regular posts, and I don't know whether or not I'm going to start the radio show back up again, but... I will be writing occasionally and I will be more active in reading and responding to comments and emails and stuff.

Just in case you want to reach me anywhere--Ben Hopkin on Facebook, @actingnodrama on Twitter, and you can email me at actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com. I would LOVE to hear from you.

Oh, and if you guys want to hear about what I've been up to, let me know. Maybe I'll write a post about it! :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Should Actors Have Knowledge of Story Theory? Guest blog from @StoryMeBad


If you think about it, in the context of performing arts, a story can’t exist without an actor. The actor is the means of communication between the audience and the story, and the written character is the ‘media’ - the sensory languages - that connect the story emotion to the audience senses.

So it is your duty as an actor to be true to the character; and the character is defined primarily in terms of what he or she does in delivering the real story. If you are not true to the character, you will not communicate the story as intended by the writer. How can actors understand what a part really asks of them?

I recently worked with the actor Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley in The Harry Potter films; also star of 101 Dalmatians; Shakespeare in Love and many, many more) and with Willy Russell (Theatrical legend and writer of Educating Rita; Shirley Valentine; Blood Brothers). The results of our conversations threw up four key factors in, firstly, what an actor needs to do in delivering a story and secondly, what a story and its characters should have to reflect well on you as the actor. Here we go then!

1.       Deliver the ‘Real’ Story
 An actor must understand his character`s role more deeply than simply delivering the actions and speaking the words. An actor must understand his role in delivering the truth of the story - the learning and message the author wants the audience to leave with. Once you have read the script, uncovered all its mysteries and you understand the real purpose and message of a story, then your job is clear: you must deliver your character`s contribution to delivering that purpose and message. That is the actor’s job.

2.       Deliver the Character
Secondly, the character himself: what is it about him that facilitates the delivery of this story? For example, if the story relies on your character`s cowardice, you can work on how to shape your delivery of this facet of the character. It is often way more important to approach this key component from its polar opposite in order to deliver it to maximum effect. In other words, a character who presents as strong and brave in dominating his wife and children may show this critical cowardice when genuinely under pressure to be brave out in the real world. By understanding the element of his character that delivers the story message and moral, the actor can be smart in the way he wraps up this precious deliverable and feeds it into the story at the perfect time and in the perfect manner. Watch Back to the Future. Marty McFly’s dad, George, is portrayed throughout as weak and unassertive. And yet this whole story pivots around his moment of bravery when he finally makes a fist. Everything. Watch it again, and think about that in the parts you play.

3.       You, the Actor
You must ask yourself, as an actor, what can I bring to this character that is different and special and which stamps my authority on this part? When a part gets an actor it is inevitable – totally unavoidable, in fact – that the actor will bring something to the part that was unexpected by the writers. If an actor is any good, and has done 1) and 2) properly, this is generally a good thing, whereby the actor is able to give life to the character in the correct spirit – the one intended by the author and required by the story.

To give you an example, Mark Williams told me this about his role as Arthur Weasley, Ron Weasley`s dad in Harry Potter:

”When we first worked on Harry Potter, I was coming to grips with Arthur, and Julie Walters was playing my wife, Molly Weasley. Julie and I spent time discussing how our characters might have met; where we met; how come we have seven children; how long we’d been together and what shared loves and values our relationship might be based on. We decided that we met at college and had been together since then, so we gave them a kind of studentish attitude and a ‘Jolly Hockey Sticks’ characteristic that they share because they met at college and have been together since then. Obviously, JK Rowling didn’t write that into the books, but having that provenance and understanding helps me to ‘be’ the character and helped Julie and I to deliver something that makes the Weasley family, as an entity in itself, feel real.” 


How can an actor know if the part is a good part to play?
The absolute top thing for an actor to look for in a story and in a part is our old friend, subtext. The majority of acting roles are `on the nose`. That is to say, everything the character does and says represents what he is genuinely doing and saying. It is very hard for an actor to make themselves look good with a part like this. A part that you can get your teeth into and which will reflect well on you as an actor must have subtext. The words you speak and the actions you take will not be the truth. Your character will know more or less than the audience about the truth of the situation.

When a character says `I love you`, but her actions tell a whole different story, this is a character with dimension, a character delivering the ‘real’ story in subtext.

If you would like to know more, I have a specific blog post on subtext at www.thescienceofstory.blogspot.com and address the subject in full in The Story Book, where you can also find the complete conversations with Mark Williams and Willy Russell. 

Never forget, you aren`t acting. You are delivering a story. If you have a good story and you deliver it well, you will be a fine actor.

David`s Book - The Story Book - is available now in hard copy in the UK, or in eBook format from his website (www.baboulene.com) or from Amazon Kindle eBook stores.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Taking a Break


So, I'm moving.

Again.

Some of you that have been following along know that I left L.A. last year around this time to move closer to my wife's family.  We had never been in close physical proximity to them before and our kids had only ever had brief holiday visits to get to know them.  We decided to change that.

And while we won't miss Idaho Falls all that much (hey, it's a great town--they now have an OLIVE GARDEN!!), leaving them will be painful.  And yes, it is my in-laws I'm talking about.  I'm one of the luckiest guys on the planet.  Not only am I madly in love with my wife, but I love her family, too.

But...

I'm going to be starting a new job.  I've been hired to build and then run a multimedia production studio.  It's very exciting and more than a little bit overwhelming.  It's also right next to where my parents live.  #score

Clearly, this is a pretty big change for us in a lot of ways.  And in order to really be there for my family, I'm needing to figure out how to better manage my time.

So here's the deal:  my internet radio show is going on hiatus.  The length of that hiatus is going to be determined by you guys.  You've seen or read or heard me ask for help on my Twitter stream, here at my blog, my iTunes page, my imdb page and on my internet radio show.  I've asked you guys to subscribe, to follow, to comment, to review, etc., etc.  And some of you have.  Most of you have not.

I really do understand, and this is not in any sense of the word intended to be a rant.  We're all busy.  We think, "I'll do that.  Just not right this second."  And then somehow weeks go past and we haven't taken action.

But in the meantime, those on the other end of things are left... well... alone.

Something you should know about me.  I love to teach and I love to help.  If, by my words or actions, I can keep someone from making the same mistakes and missteps that I did, it makes me exceptionally happy.  If I get to watch an actor fall in love with the craft, I'm ecstatic.

However, with a few notable exceptions, I have no feedback from you guys about whether or not what I'm putting out there is helping anyone.  I am able to track how many people read my blog, listen to my show and download my archived episodes on iTunes.  That number is far greater than what my subscriptions, comments and reviews numbers would indicate.

And those numbers are important.  They allow me to get the visibility, the sponsors and the support I need to justify taking time away from my family to do this work.  Because it does take time, effort and creativity to do.  And now that I'm starting a new and very full-time job, I'm not sure if it's worth the energy it takes.

That's where you come in.  If you like what I'm doing and want to see it continue and even expand, you need to let me know.  Start by following and commenting on my blog, since you're already here. :)

The other things you can do to help (and not all at once, for the sake of your own sanity) are listed here.  My blogtalkradio page could use followers, facebook "likes", comments and reviews.  Same with my iTunes page that archives all of those episodes.  My imdb page could also use those facebook "likes" (and even just searches for my name, to be honest... which is why the link is just to the main imdb page... type "Ben Hopkin" into the search bar).


Lastly, if you're an actor and looking for training, take a chance on my online classes.  Currently I'm only offering one-on-one training, which is incredibly inexpensive when compared with others in the industry.  I also allow you to try me out for free with a half-hour trial class.  Just email me at actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com to set one up.


But really, the most important things here are the ones that cost you nothing but a wee bit of time.  And yes, I just said, "wee".  *snort*


My blog will return in July, regardless of the response.  My radio show may also return then if the response is strong.  If the response is moderate but enthusiastic, the show will return in August.  If the response is weak, it probably won't come back at all.


I do want you all to know that this isn't intended as an ultimatum.  It's rather a reality check for me.  I have no interest in vanity projects.  If all I'm doing this for is an inflated sense of self, it's simply not worth it to me.  If, on the other hand, I'm really helping out and can receive some (free) help in return, then I'm all in.


So let me know.  It's in your hands.  :)


I'll announce the outcome when my blog returns in July.  Until then, my Twitter stream will still be active (although reduced in the number of tweets) and I will do my best as always to answer any direct messages or emails I receive.  Hope to hear from you all soon!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mouthing Off


I got a request the other day to do some additional dialect work on my podcast.  Well, it's been a while since I switched over from prerecorded podcasts to live radio shows and I'm not positive that this new format is conducive to dialect training.

But so what?

One of the things I talk about all the time is that we should step outside our comfort zones.  So, I'm going to put my money where my mouth is.  I'm going to try something that I'm not sure will actually work.  In fact, it may fail spectacularly.  But if it does, who exactly gets hurt?  No one but my ego, and he and I aren't really on speaking terms much these days anyway.  I kinda blame him for the vast majority of the stupid mistakes I've made over the course of my life.

So, this Thursday at 8 pm PST, I'll be talking about dialect training on my internet radio show.  I'll start with some general tips on dialect training overall, and then if there's time, I'll talk about the specific changes for what's called RP.  RP stands for "received pronunciation", by the way, which is itself a shortening of "received in the best society pronunciation".  We'll talk about that, too.  :)

Therefore, I request the honor of your virtual presence, this Thursday at 8 pm Pacific Standard, for my grand experiment.  Who knows?  If it goes well, we may do multiple sessions.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

That Was Fun... Let's Do It Again!


I had so much fun talking with you guys this last Thursday that I thought we'd do it again.  We only just scratched the surface of the topic of marketing, because (let's be honest) there's lots to talk about when it comes to self-promotion.

I loved so much of what came up during the last show.  Yehuda and Stephy had wonderful questions and comments and it was great to get to the core of what ends up stopping most of us--self-sabotage.  Remember always that there are two sides of the coin of fear:  the fear we won't live up and the fear that we will.  We generally discount the latter, but I've found that it can be the more powerful of the two. 

It doesn't seem to make sense.  I mean, who doesn't want to be fabulously successful, right?  Turns out in practice that most of us want success and fear success in roughly equal measures (usually weighted a little towards the fear).  Change... even good change... is scary.

So, let's embrace the discomfort.  And let's start this Thursday at 8 pm PST.  I know that there are many of you out there that want to call in but are afraid.  This is an excellent time to get over those fears.  I don't bite.  I promise.  :)  You can find my show here.  Go there now and set a reminder for yourself.

And for those that are afraid to start training--now's a good time to get over that one too.  Sign up for my classes at the top of the blog!  You won't regret it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Brainstorming Session



We've all done it in other areas of our lives.  Gotten together with friends, family or co-workers and come up with ideas.  So, I thought it might be a good idea for us to try it this Thursday at 8 pm, Pacific Standard Time on my internet radio show.

This is a session that's open to actors, filmmakers, writers, casting directors, artists in general.  The point is to come up with ideas to help one another self-promote.  Whatever our artistic bent in life, we need to put our services out there for public consumption.  Unless we've already "made it" and our phone is ringing off the hook, all of us could use a leg up, or at least some great ideas on how to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps.

I've certainly given out a bunch of my ideas on what we can do to be marketing ourselves, but I want to hear from YOU!  The collective mind is always better than just one person in the dark, blindly trying to come up with good stuff.  Let's come together and help each other out.

Don't like to call in live to a radio show?  'Sallright.  As much as I would love to hear from you, it isn't necessary.  Leave a comment here, @ or DM me on my Twitter stream or send me an email--actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com.  Let's figure out innovative ideas to connect with others in the industry.

An example of what  I'm talking about?  Kristy Hatsell (@Kristi_Gail) put together something called Actors Supporting Actors on facebook and it looks to be a really excellent way to network with other actors in the Los Angeles area.  If you're in that area, you should check it out.

So, get those brains a-hummin', folks!  I want to hear from you.  This will only work if we step outside our comfort zone and participate.  #callme #Iamlonely  :)