A Giving Actor

A friend of mine asked what a “giving actor” was. Here was my response, may it serve you well:

To me, being a giving actors starts with the other and works backwards. Read the script. What is the other person saying? This will make your lines come more naturally and be more easily memorizable. Get the memorized words out as word-perfect as possible without dwelling on them. The goal is to give your acting partner the cues they need to react appropriately to what you’re saying. Word perfection is both a huge confidence boost and gives both of you more room to play. Study your partner. How are they crafting their character? Even if you are just reading for them, study study study, let this inform how you are crafting your character, so that there are not two contrasting visions going down. Feel free to dialogue about it. The end goal is good chemistry and everybody is different. So, do what you can to complement and move on. Especially if you are reading for multiple people, this can be both challenging and a lot of fun, since a group of people often have a group of interpretations of the same scene. Be present in the read and when they are taking your partner’s coverage during the actual filming. Sometimes this will give you your best performance because the stress is off you. Study how that feels and channel that when the camera is back on you. Also, give the same love you’re showing to your actors to the director. If he or she throws you a curve ball, run with it, so that it becomes more of a game of “Simon Says” rather than “Guess Who’s Right?” We’re there to serve the production and make it damn good, and often times that involves a lot of dialogue and flexibility to make the scene work and visions vibe. Finally, work to create a comfortable atmosphere for your partner. We do a lot of hard scenes in our line of work. Make sure they are okay. Joke around. Note: some people stay in character in between takes. This is fine. You want to present the best performance you can, as well. So, in this case, find the balance. Hope that helps. All these things really help, and trust me I continue to work on them as well. That said, rock it, have fun, and, yeah, totally give me your answers as well! All my best.

The Editing Room

In film,

once all the footage is in,

the editor is given the task of

cutting, copying, and pasting the film together

so that it forms a powerful and cohesive whole.

There are scenes, brilliant snippets of reel,

that end up getting cut because they do not fit

the master narrative,

either they slow down the pace or otherwise

take away from the work as a whole.

Life is like that, sometimes

we must cut out even the good things

if they clutter, clog, or distract.

There are a billion different ways we could go.

LORD, give me the wisdom to know which paths to follow

and the strength to persist in the paths You have marked out

for me.

Fiction and Social Intelligence

I read a fascinating article about the link between fiction and social intelligence. In ancient literature, the narrative primarily focused on the external, on battles and bloodlines. Even emotion was expressed externally- via the ripping of clothes, the tearing out hair, etc. Over time, especially around the time of the Greeks, we begin to see a shift from that external world to the internal one. We begin to focus more on the mind, the heart, even if they had a fundamental distrust of the latter.

We see this shift affect even religion. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we watch as holiness moves from what you do to what you feel. That is why David, in his psalms, is able to count himself faultless, because in his mind he has kept all the dictates of the law up to that point in his life. Then Christ comes in and presses on beyond the law to the heart. Now, obedience to God is not so much about murder as about hate, not so much about adultery but about lust. From that point on, our spiritual walk begins to capsulate all of us, not just what others see.

But the narrative goes deeper. With Shakespeare, we are given soliloquies and asides, painstakingly pointing out the mental-emotional state of the speaker as the character in question literally BREAKS FROM THE PRESENT ACTION to give his impassioned speech.

Skip ahead many years, as we move from theater to film. Now, the performer does not have to project his feelings out to a distant audience. No, as camera equipment continues to evolve, we are able to get closer and closer to the performer, to see his or her every nuance of facial feature and movement in hyper-clear detail. And, as the medium changes, so does the approach. Method acting was born out of shift, challenging performers to explore every aspect of the character, from backstory to emotional state. Everything is laid out on the table. Classical Shakespeare performers are taught to believe that nothing exists outside of the written scene. Method actors are taught that the prescribed scene is just the tip of the iceberg, as far as the character is concerned. And the audience is not only invited, but many times sucked vacuum-tube style into this every deepening world.

As the narrative becomes more emotionally are, so too does the reader/audience member. Because the reader, as the article most insightfully points out, is a co-creator of the story. I mean, who doesn’t feel a certain ownership of a certain text that they feel deeply connected to? Who doesn’t feel a sense of profound loss or accomplishment when the story is finished? So, as the narrative deepens, so too does the reader.

Now, I believe that it so important to read and be open to every style of literature/media, because all have something to offer, and all have their own inherent strength and weaknesses. The ancients had a wonderful sense of history and accomplishment. The moderns have a profound sense of self-awareness. The ancients lacked the verbiage to explore the totality of human emotion. The moderns can be so myopically focused on the moment, that they lose sense of the bigger picture. So, the challenge is to read, watch, experience everything, as you continue develop your own sense of taste and interest. You will never find the same book or movie twice, because you are always different. So, be different, be open, and have fun.

There is so much wonderful material out there. So, go exploring. You may be happily surprised by what you find, both about yourself and the world at large.

Easter Blessing: A Look Back at “I Owe Her One”

Today, Nancy and Patrick gave me a picture frame for my “I Owe Her One” poster, designed by Alexandra Denton. First off, thank you guys! It deserves a special place in our house. The wonderful performances by Joseph Cassidy, Dakota Denton, and Deja Hilvert, as well as music by Brad Weinholtz and direction from Zachary Aro launched Our Kind of Awesome into the deep and wonderful world of dramatic filmmaking. Just goes to show you: without the support of friends (and my amazing wife, Katie), no great adventure is possible. Thank you all. Praise Jesus, and happy Easter!

DSC02566.jpg