"The Disadvantages of Hard Work"

Staying Open

All actors, sporting competitors and performers of any kind will have experienced the pitfall of trying too hard. The usual outcome of trying too hard is that the performer's focus moves to end result and expectations of success. Consequently, the one thing that is likely to deliver a good outcome (i.e. good working process) goes out the window. In cricket a bowler who is trying too hard will loose 'run-up' balance and bowling direction and length will become wayward. In tennis, the serve may tighten up with a consequent sudden increase in double faults. For the actor, when the desire for the audience to see the detail of the performance dominates performance goals then suddenly believability is destroyed. 'Showing the end result' is a common problem which only reveals the actors intentions and never the characters. It is the main ingredient of bad acting.

Trapped in a Single View
Similarly, in-depth research of text and circumstance can also lead to problems if they lock the actor into a single view of the possible performance outcomes. Single minded views ("It has to be like this") are restricting and often lead to 'showing' for the focus has become too narrow for there to be a diverse range of choices open to the actor at any moment. Thus too much commitment to research can also generate negative results.

The Rehearsal Room explores the view that only two things generally affect any choice -

  • the character's previous life experience to this point; and
  • the character's unconscious "need" at that moment.

If this is the case, by shifting the content of those ingredients slightly, it is not very difficult to open up a wide variety of options as to how a scene might be played. Actors should listen carefully to direction to see if only minor adjustments are required or whether in fact a major shift is required. Major changes should be made boldly. There are always many ways to tell a story. Giving a character either more or less control over the circumstances can make a huge difference to the journey through a scene.

Don't get trapped; be ready for change.

Changing From Take to Take
Generally it is accepted with a screen performance that having captured the Master Shot all takes from then on should match that original. However, there are often exceptions depending how the scene is to be edited. In addition, considerable changes are possible in a single shot scene as long as they don't change the story.

In this regard it is interesting to note that in an interview, with Catherine Keenan about the soon to be released "21 Grams" (The Age, Saturday January 17th) Australian actor NAOMI WATTS, referring to the many emotional climaxes in the film, is reported as saying that during the shoot they often played each scene 'in a variety of scalding ways'.

So, while doing your preparation remember - research, knowledge, understanding, empathy are all useful resources for the actor but they should be the tools that allow flexibility and exploration.

"21 Grams" opens in Melbourne on January 22nd 2004.

Copyright © The Rehearsal Room 2004. All rights Reserved.



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