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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Move that Tushy

There's so much to talk about when we start discussing movement, that I almost don't know where to begin.  I guess the first place is to say that I, in times past, have been a movement hater.  Yep.  Movement was my all time least favorite class.

I know, I know.  I've shattered all sorts of illusions about myself with that statement.  That I'm this all-knowing acting guru.  That I was the perfect student myself.  That I'm an Adonis.

Please take a moment.  Your hysterical laughter should soon subside.

But here's the point:  moving through space as an actor is kinda important.  Getting comfortable in our own skin is kinda important.  Being healthy is kinda important.

And movement training (of any kind) does all that and more.

Whether it's yoga or fencing or Alexander technique or dance or Feldenkrais or Aikido, learning to use our bodies in an integrated way will do nothing but improve our strength, our stamina, our shape and even our presence.  There is an ease of movement that happens when we become accomplished at any of these disciplines.  That ease of movement is magnetic. 

Just think for a moment about Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace.  We're not going to talk about what the movie did to the Star Wars franchise.  We're just going to talk about the fluidity of motion that was Darth Maul.

Oh.  My.  Heavens.

I really have no idea if Ray Park, the martial artist who was the body of Darth Maul, can actually string two words together.  What I can tell you is that he was absolutely compelling to watch move.

A completely different example, but just as compelling in my mind, is John Malkovich in Dangerous Liasons.  He's not a particularly handsome fellow, but the grace with which he slinks through that film makes him thoroughly drool-worthy.  And I'm straight, fercryinoutloud!

Oh, and Ellen Barkin in The Big Easy.  Again, not so drop-dead gorgeous.  But WOW is she smokin' in that film.  She brought more heat than Cajun spices.

As I said, there's too much here.  Soooo, we're going to talk some more about it this Thursday at 8 pm Pacific Standard Time on my internet radio show, right here.  As always, I'd love for you to call or Skype in, but if you're feeling too shy, just @ me with any questions you might have on my Twitter stream, @Actingnodrama.  I'll be joined by Kristi Hatsell (@Kristi_Gail on Twitter), up-and-coming actress extraordinare.

And if all this information has got you champing at the bit to take classes, guess what?  I got 'em!  You can sign up at the top of this blog page, or for more info, email me at actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Kumbaya Acting

"Namaste," the teacher intones in a soft, gentle voice.  And my skin starts to crawl.

I am an admitted intellectual.  Anything "touchy-feely" made me want to climb for the hills.  Anytime a teacher asked me to send an energy dart at a classmate or touch someone's heart chakra, in my mind I was thinking, For crying out loud, just let me act, already!

What I didn't recognize is that was exactly what they were trying to do.  So much of learning the craft of acting is an intellectual process.  The problem with that is that acting as an art form is not.  The craft is necessary for consistency of performance, but if craft is all there is, it will leave an audience feeling hollow.

There is a part of acting that is rarely talked about, rarely taught, but valued above pearls.  That is the "it" factor.  The connection that electrifies us in a performance.   That elevates something above good, above great... and takes it to the level where comparison is unimportant.  We are moved.  We are inspired.  We are changed.

That's what we'll be discussing this week on my internet radio show--Thursday at 8 pm Pacific Standard Time.  Go set yourself a reminder right now!  I want you to listen, I want you to call in, I want you to be a part of the conversation.  We're actors; we're a part of a community.  Time to start acting like it, right?  :)

And for those of you that want to take it a step further, sign up for my online classes!  The registration's up at the top of the page here.  And if you have any questions, you can email me at actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Training, Training and More Training

We all know the story.   Young new actor, fresh off the bus, filled to overflowing with good looks, big dreams and possibly even some talent.  And every day, at almost a one-to-one ratio, another not-so-young, no-longer-so-good-looking actor filled with cynicism and maybe a smattering of wisdom gets onto a bus going the opposite direction.  The bus looks identical to the first, but its denizens aren't buzzing with anticipation to get where they want to go.

There's a lot of reasons why actors give up the dream.  I've talked about a lot of them.  Today, I'm specifically focusing on those that come out to Hollywood or the Big Apple to shape the face of the entertainment industry but foolishly forget their scalpel.

I've talked before about how silly it is to imagine that a sculptor could carve a block of marble without someone to first show them the way.  Acting is just as much an act, and yet somehow we look at it as just walking and talking.  Sure there are examples out there of actors who made it without formal acting classes, but let's look at that.

First, the examples are far and few in between.  It's hard enough to make it in the industry.  Do we want to start off by shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot?  We're raising the already considerable odds against us by jumping in with no clue.

Second, many of those examples trained "on the job".  Like Johnny Depp.  Watch him in Nightmare on Elm Street or 21 Jump Street and tell me he didn't learn something before he did Finding Neverland.  Or Kim Basinger.  Seen her as a James Bond girl?  Oooo.  Enough said.  And yet, she found her way into a brilliant performance in LA Confidential.  Learn while you go.  Only one problem.  Once again, please look at the ODDS, people. I'm not denying that there are honest-to-goodness prodigies out there.  But even those prodigies typically train.  Mozart wouldn't have been Mozart if he hadn't been thrust into music at an early age by dear-old-Dad.  Or Tiger Woods, either.

Finally, most actors who are successful without training have brief careers.  Their innate talent can only take them so far.  Remember the Coreys?  Or Casper Van Diem?  Or, or, or....?

So, let's lessen the odds and look towards establishing a life-long career as actors.  To that end, listen to my radio show this week on Thursday at 8 pm PST.  You can set a reminder for yourself here.

And for those that need no convincing, it's time to sign up for my online classes!  Just go to the top of my blog here, fill out the form and click the PayPal tab to pay.  You won't be sorry!  If you have questions about it, or just want more info, email me at actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

It's Time to Get Serious...about Comedy

Why do we laugh?

What makes us cringe and move to help when we see someone fall down hard, but then causes us to split our ribs as we see almost the identical thing on America's Funniest Home Videos?

Context is certainly part of it.  Timing's another.  But I think the most important thing is the little bit extra.

Talking about the example I gave above, the little bit extra is the humorous (or sometimes not so humorous) voice-over, the over-the-top music, or the cartoonish audio stings inserted.  In each instance, we're not just seeing the raw footage, which would be as likely to induce a gasp of sympathy as it would to elicit a hearty guffaw.

So, what does this mean to us?  What it means is that we've got to get serious about our study of comedy.  Find actors whose comedic work you admire and pick it apart.  Study it for timing, for set-up and pay-off, but ultimately, study it for that little bit extra.

With comedians like Robin Williams, the little bit extra is typically WAY extra.  It's out front and present.  With someone like Andy Kaufman, the little bit extra was occasionally so tiny that most of the audience didn't see it.  The reaction was many times out and out anger instead of laughter.

Study improv.  A lot.  Not only does improv help us find those beautiful, unexpected moments in our acting, it also allows us to do the thing that gives most actors the night sweats.  Act without a script.  And guess what, guys?  So many commercial auditions are lacking in one actual script with lines.  You learn to improv well, and those jobs can be yours.  Oh, one other thing improv does well:  helps us find the funny.

Because for all that's been said here, your inner comedian is different from everyone else's.  Finding your own comedic voice is as much a part of the process as learning the rule of three.

For those of you that don't know what the rule of three is, or who just want to take that next step on the road to comedy, join me this Thursday at 8 pm Pacific Standard Time for my radio show.  Take a second now to go and set yourself a reminder, give my show a "favorite" or leave a comment.  And give me a call while we're live.  I promise, it's SO much fun!  And if you're liking what you hear, go outside your financial comfort zone and DONATE! Just a buck or two makes a world of difference and would allow us to go back up to the hour-long format.  C' know you want to... :)

I do have to say, what I offer here pales in comparison to what you get in my online classes.  They're so don't have to leave your house!  And they totally work.  So if you're interested, sign up above, or email me at actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com for more info.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Goals? You Mean Like in Soccer?

It's that time, people.  You know what I mean.

You wake up on the morning of January 1st, look blearily into the mirror and think, "What am I doing with my life?" (or possibly, "What was that I was drinking?", but it amounts to the same thing)  I could take a moment to talk about the idiocy of staying up late and drinking the night before the new year is to begin, but I don't want to kick any of you who may still be hungover.

And let's be perfectly honest.  For a lot of us, 2010 pretty much... well... stank.

There are a lot of factors that made this past year a bit of a doozy--the economy being the major one, probably.  But we can find all sorts of things to blame for our lack of professional progress:  the industry, SAG, casting director workshops, the President, Congress, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, the banks, Dr. Phil.  Actually, that last one may be kinda true.  Dr. Phil has always seemed a little shifty to me.  Let's blame him!

The point is, the list is practically endless.

It's also typically missing the one thing that makes the most difference in our acting careers.  Us.

We have a lot more power and control than we like to believe when it comes to our success or lack thereof.  It's a lot easier to believe that something, or someone, is to blame for our present woes.  That means we don't have to take responsibility for our own lives.

So, what are we going to do about it?

We are going to set goals.  Tangible, attainable, measurable goals.

And then we are going to set about attaining them.

So, this Thursday, tune in to my radio show at 8 pm Pacific Standard Time so that we can talk about it!  In fact, go there right now to follow me, set a reminder for the next show, listen to past episodes, give me a favorite vote, mock my logo, you know... whatever floats your boat.  I'm going back to a 1/2 hour format, which won't give us quite as much time (bummer!).  So, if you want me to go back to the hour (or even longer...), there's a simple solution:  DONATE!  If every listener donated just one dollar a month, it would more than cover the cost of a longer show.

But even if you can't part with that greenback, join in for our conversation.  Better yet--call in!  I'd love to hear from you.  And a little shout out to @Calashi for co-hosting this last week (she was awesome!) and to @MichelleFH for calling in with a great marketing tip.

As always, if you're liking what I'm putting out in this blog, my Twitter stream and the radio show, it may just be time for you to experience the kind of training that I can do as your acting coach.  Sign up for my online classes or one-on-one sessions.  They are totally worth it!  There's a form you can fill out at the top of the blog here, or for more info you can email me at actingwithoutthedrama (at) gmail (dot) com.