Little Hey Little Ho,
As someone who has a small internal crisis whenever too many eyes are on me, I’ve known for a long time that acting just isn’t for me. Knowing this, I’ve never put myself in an actors shoes and I’ve never tried to understand the amount of pressure actors are placed under. Sure, I’ve done drama and dance in high school but there was never pressure on me to excel and give my best performance, being just above average was enough for me. Sure, I’ve done debates and public speaking but I was just reading off of a piece of paper and no one listened to me anyway. I’m pretty sure this one time, I had to address my primary school about disposing rubbish into bins and no one had realised I had finished my riveting speech talking until the teachers started clapping as I was halfway down the stairs. Maybe I exaggerated a little but you get my point. Actors, on films sets at least, have the pressure of an entire crew of people waiting for you to deliver your line so that they can move on. They have a director draining them of there performance, fellow actors who’s enthusiasm or lack of, they have to feed off. They have this random person they have to connect with and portray believably all while being in the heat of 1000 suns, from all the studio lights. As glamorous as an actors life may look…a lot of time, passion and love goes into their work and it’s that time, passion and love that sets the good actors apart from the great (in my humble opinion).
So why am I suddenly so sympathetic towards actors? Well it’s because I had the very daunting pleasure of being apart of Simon Wood’s acting master class. Simon is the co-founder of Zen Zen Zo along side Lynne Bradley, which is a Brisbane-based physical theatre company at the forefront of contemporary performance and training in Australia. Simon took as through a crash course on method acting which I just associate with Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale. What I was surprised to learn was that there is a big emphasis on know yourself inside out and being at one with yourself and just how mentally draining acting, especially method acting, can be. We completed a number of exercises but the most challenging for me was when Simon had got us all in a very clear headspace by meditating. I know in that moment, I was feeling content and focusing on only external noises and not filling my mind with thoughts. Out of the blue, he challenged us to feel 3 clear and conflicting emotions for example, he asked us to think about our happiest moments in life, then to forget our happy emotions and think about the angriest we’ve ever been and so on. It was tough because within 5 minutes I was feeling overwhelmed with all these emotions. It made me really admire actors and how they can go through all these emotions in a day too then come off set “normal” or at least composed and happy.
I honestly feel as though I have gained new insight into the mind of actors and how each talent is different to another. You may be able to connect with an actor and they’ll understand what you want as a director and deliver the performance you desire, while on the other hand, some actors will need a lot of workshopping and time to bond with their characters. At the beginning of the class, in pairs we acted out a scene and after all the exercises and knowledge we had acquired, everyones performance had improved immensely.
This masterclass could not have been at a better time, we are all heading into graduation films now and the knowledge we have received from Simon will help immensely… well for me at least. I understand now that telling an actor to “just to that bigger” or “can you be happier,” just isn’t enough. Using very descriptive and practical words can mean the world of difference. I’ve learnt that sitting down with your actors during script reads and going through each line of dialogue and associating a descriptive word could be very helpful for your actors to understand their characters. It’s also important to not get too attached to your characters as a director and too allow your actors to interpret the characters in their own manner and then head into workshopping. The most valuable thing i’ve learnt is to respect my actors and to be thankful that they are helping create my vision.
So if there was one piece of advice I could give to anyone right now… it would be that if you’re wanting to become a GREAT director; acting classes are a must and can truly be beneficial for you and your talent. Build a relationship and earn respect.
With that… I’ll see you in my next blog.