Archive for acting class

Apr 13 – Acting for the Camera

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , on April 13, 2010 by actingchick

So I’ve been a little remiss in my blog updating, mostly because not much has been happening on the acting front these days, that is until recently.  Nothing super exciting, I haven’t gotten any great acting gigs, but at least these things are acting related and will hopefully further my career.

First of all I got new headshots.  I chopped my hair off a few weeks ago, and adding to that the fact I’ve lost some weight, I don’t really look much like my old headshots.  And since you are supposed to look like your headshot (or your headshot is supposed to look like you) to avoid pissing of the casting directors when you walk in the door, I had to get new ones taken.

I went back to Mark Brennan.  I think he does good work.  My only complaint is that my headshots look like me.  I know there supposed to, but somehow I keep hoping that I will suddenly get 25% more attractive, and my hair will get thicker, and my nose will get, well I don’t know, less like my nose I guess.  But those are my hang-ups and Mark does make me look pretty good.

The second thing I have done is to take a more  in-depth Acting for the Camera class.  This time from Tony Doupe, who was recommended by Jodi Rothfield, whose one day class Auditioning for the Camera I had taken and wrote about in a previous post.

I’m really liking it so for.  It is sort of an extension of Jodi’s class in that it covers some of the same material, and even more.  Tony talks about auditioning and the things you need to do for that, but the class goes further in terms of types of work you would be doing.  Industrial videos, commercials, film and television.  It’s sort of a sampler class, a little bit of this a little bit of that.

The first class we did an industrial training video.  The sort of things company’s show their employees.  Our subject happened to be sexual harassment.  We broke into pairs and were given short scenes to perform.  We were given about 20 minutes to work with our partner and to run lines.

Then Tony set up the camera and we shot the scenes.  We did multiple takes with one person in the camera view and then reset the camera so the other person was in camera.   We also brought video tapes on which our performances were recorded and we could take them home and watch them.  I don’t have a VCR at the moment so I haven’t watched it (and I’m not sure I could bring myself to do it anyway if I did).

We were also given commercials to memorize for the next class, where we had to do a walk and talk.  You see it all the time on commercials and news type segments where the host or actor is walking and telling you whatever it is they have to tell you.  I would just like to say that this is a lot harder than it looks.  A lot.

The set up was to pretend to be leaving our apartment, then “naturally” start talking to the camera, saying our commercial spiel,  as we started to walk down the hallway.  There were three points we had to hit marked out with yellow sticky notes on the floor.  At each of these points we had to pause, say some of our text, and then natural move onto the next point.

When I see these people on TV doing this now I have a lot more respect.

We practiced a cold reading like it would be in an audition circumstance.  We got a partner and a scene, had about 10 minutes to run through it and then we were up in front of the camera.  Tony directed us a bit, critiqued us a bit.  Then for the next week we were to memorize those scenes and do them as if we were doing a film or television episode. More on that later.

Overall I really like the class.  It is an interesting mix of people.  We have teenagers to people in their 50’s.  More women than men, which seems to be typical of acting classes.  Some people hadn’t done any acting before, some had done it in high school and college many years before.  In fact I am probably, with one possible exception, the most trained person there, which is an oddly incongruous feeling,  since I feel like a newbie to acting.

I like learning about camera acting, which is different from theater acting.  Not that the actual acting is so different, it’s  that you have more constraints on you when the camera is on you.  You can only move so much or you’ll be out of frame. You have to take into account how your physical actions have to be repeated the same each take to facilitate editing.  You have to know how to hit your marks and stay in your light.  You sometimes have to pretend the camera, an inanimate object made of plastic and metal, is a person you have to connect with.  It’s challenging, and fun, and challenging.  And fun.


Aug 15 – Rehearsal and Performance

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , , on August 15, 2008 by actingchick

Well, I have finally gotten around to writing in my blog.  I’ve been on vacation from acting class for about six weeks, so I didn’t have much to write about as my “regular” life is rather boring.

Class actually started two weeks ago, but since it has, I have been to busy to write.  I work my regular 40 hour job and then I’ve just tacked another 16 hours of class time onto that, not including outside study time for memorizing lines, reading the play, doing research, finding costume bits and props, etc. Oh yeah, and eating and sleeping too.

The class I am taking is called Rehearsal and Performance.  We do a play.  This time (I took this class last year) we are doing The Man Who Came to Dinner by Kaufman and Hart, a 1930’s screwball comedy.

Basic Synopsis:

Famous radio star comes to a Ohio family’s home for dinner, slips and injures himself to the point he has to stay in their house.  He takes over the household, terrorizes the servants, corrupts the children, drives the man of the house insane with a never-ending parade of the rich, famous, and odd who come to visit him while he convalesces.

His assistant in the meantime falls in love with a local newspaper man.  The radio star concocts a scheme to keep her from running off with him, that backfires, and he has to find out how to get out of the mess he’s created. Hilarity ensues.

The team we have for this play is good.  The director is George Lewis, famed Freehold acting teacher, who I have written about before many times.  The other actors are fun too. No one seems to have an ego, and everyone seems to be willing to do whatever they need to do to make this no-budget play work.

For most of the people this is their first play.  It’s funny, but I feel like I’m pretty experienced, even though it is only my second play.  I guess I didn’t realize how much I had learned the first go around.  But when people ask questions about how the process works, I’m like, hey, I already know that.  It has made this go around a little less stress.  Don’t get me wrong though, it is still stressful.

I’m going to play three different characters.  Mrs. Dexter, the next door neighbor; Miss Preen, the nurse; and Harriet Stanley, the crazy sister of Mr. Stanley.  There are about 30 people in this play and we have only nine actors, so most of us are playing more than one person. Some of the more extraneous characters were cut, but still almost all of us play more than one person.

I have been having to figure out how to make my characters different, as well as what makes them tick.  There isn’t a lot of depth in this play, so I have to work hard with the meager clues that I have, and then make up a lot of backstory. Definitely in the early stages with that process.  I have developed voices for the three characters, but they are still shaky and not second nature yet, so i tend to fall out of them when I get flustered (which is often). What I also need to do is work on their physicality, how do they walk, move, sit, etc.

And of course working out the backstory.  Like I said there isn’t a lot of clues in the text, so I have to take the few their are and extrapolate from there.  I’m not very good at this, but George has been guiding me through.  He asks me questions, of which my answer is invariably, I don’t know, I hadn’t thought about it.  It will be a question that points to character motivation in some way that I hadn’t even considered.  Most of us look for the obvious answer, but often that’s not very interesting. As George says, if your not interested, it’s death. The whole process makes me feel like an idiot, but I suspect I will get better at figuring these things out on my own the more I do it.

I have eight hours of rehearsal coming up on Sunday, so I need to get ready for that.  It’s going to be a hot, long day.

May 1 – Speak normally.

Posted in Acting, actor, Theatre with tags , , , on May 1, 2008 by actingchick

School is chugging along. I am continuing Stage Combat. The test fast approaches. I believe the date is June 15th, but I am still waiting for final confirmation. This coming Saturday, we are going to Cornish College of the Arts and watch the theater students there take their tests. This way we will know what the process is like and what is expected of us. I look forward to seeing it.

I have had two Voice Over classes now. The class is taught by Gin Hammond, who taught the Voice class that I took last quarter. She is a fun teacher, and I was looking forward to this class. There are two other people from the Voice class, so I know some people which is always nice.

In the first class we all had to read some random text while everyone else closed their eyes and listened. The reader’s job was to read the text in their “normal” voice. The listeners’ job was to determine what type of voice the person had, i.e. what kinds of characters they could be, what type of products they could sell, or just overall qualities of voice.

The first woman read aloud as we all closed our eyes. I’m not quite sure that she was using her “normal” voice, as it sounded pretty radio-like and overly enthusiastic to me, but maybe that’s just me. She got feedback saying she could be a sassy best-friend, confidant, or a business executive.

The second woman read, and she had a deeper, more smoky, husky voice. She could be the best-friend too, but not so sassy, more of the “I’m concerned about you, let’s take a yoga class together” best friend. Her tones also resonated “buy a Lexus”, and I could imagine without much difficulty a surly, chain smoking waitress.

The next woman was interesting in that her voice could sound both young and old. If she got a little higher pitched and excited she sounded like a teenage girl, which was interesting since she is probably late forties. If she spoke slower and a little lower, she sounded more her age and mom-like, or perhaps also a business person.

Then it was my turn. I read my text, which I might add we didn’t see until moments before we had to read it, so I literally didn’t know what the next word was going to be until I read it. I tried to read it pretty normally, not putting a radio tone, since the point was to see what our “natural” voice was. I got done, and there was pause before feedback was given, as if people were having trouble coming up with something to say.

Then one guy said, “You voice sounds just really, really normal.” People nodded in agreement. The teacher said I would be good at narration. I tried not to read into this feedback, gee, your voice is kind of boring, but it was hard not to think that, since I didn’t get a character type. No best-friend, no business executive, no “you could sell luxury products”. I did get the quality of “trustworthy”, which is nice, I suppose, though not exciting. And I did get a last minute “you could probably do a mom” from the instructor. But I think that was thrown in to appease what I assume was a look of disappointment on my face, that I didn’t get something more interesting.

Other people seemed to have more interesting voices, and more character types. Maybe that’s why they came to this class, people have been telling them you should do voice overs, you have _______ voice, you should be in radio, you could do cartoons, etc.

Still I suppose their is a place for normal and trustworthy narration. Perhaps insurance commercials and audio-books are in my future. I won’t complain as long as it pays.