Acting for films

These workshops’ intent is to provide a hands-on experience of what it means to be an actor in front of a camera, how to develop characterisation from the information contained in the script, how to maintain concentration during the shot’s set-up, how to be in touch with emotions and the techniques required to release them.

Whilst the director is responsible for everything that takes place behind the camera, s/he remains dependant on the actor’s ability to be entirely credible once the camera is rolling. This can present certain problems for the actor. It takes time to go through all the technical requirements needed to shoot a scene: lighting installation, decisions on how sound will be captured, setting up camera angles, etc. During this period the actor is left to one side, unnecessary (maybe even in the way) until the team is ready to shoot. When the actor arrives on set everything is ready and time is usually short. The professional actor is then expected to enter into character, rehearse once or twice and then “take”. Being able to achieve this requires technique, concentration and the mystery of talent.

Technique

In an ideal situation, the actor can create the character through script analysis and discussions with the director. The character then has to be presented and performed in a way so that the camera can capture the inherent truth of the actor’s work, concordant with the director’s vision.  However in many cases the director does not have the time (or the inclination) to discuss the character in detail. The actor is left very much ‘out on a limb,’ completely alone in creating something which will hopefully satisfy the director. In my experience, on many occasions the actor finds that the director wants something totally different – after the first camera rehearsal.  The entire crew is watching and the actor has to radically change his “interpretation” before the 1st assistant says “places everybody … we’re going for a second rehearsal.”   It has to be noted that this rehearsal is usually for the cameraman’s benefit … not the actor’s.  Complaints from an actor such as “I have to rethink my role” will not go down very well as there are 45 people standing around, waiting for him to be ready.  The pressure is intense.

Under these conditions, an actor must have the techniques that enable him or her to create and maintain the character. These techniques depend partly on being able to deliver the lines written and control movement, and partly on being able to adapt to a director’s often very unclear instructions.

Concentration

It takes practice to develop the concentration needed to block out all the elements present that are not in the character’s field of vision (the camera itself, the boom operator, the lighting stands etc. etc.).

Talent

Talent is inherent.  It can be augmented by developing the imagination. But of itself, talent is either present or not.

The Workshop

1st phase 

Working in small groups on extant texts from various films and plays, the students will learn how to construct a character, to enter into the background, social status, psychological makeup, physical attributes, movement, and other aspects of the portrayed character’s personality. In each group a director will decide on how these characters interact, giving an overall vision to the chosen scene.  Since the exercise will be repeated a number of times, each member of the group will have the opportunity to be the director. 

2nd phase

Using the texts and the characters from the first phase, actors will develop the techniques necessary  to create credible performances. Textual delivery, emotional recall, the use of inflection, pauses, controlling the body and its movement will all be studied and practiced.

3rd phase

This consists of exercises and situations designed to develop and maintain concentration whilst surrounded by distractions.  The actors will be given their directions concerning movement and put into position while exposure settings are finalised, lights moved, microphones resituated and so on.  The scenes will then be acted by the participants, while the rest of the class will observe casually, moving around the room, making and accepting phone calls, etc. The tutor will stop the action for short periods and the actors will be expected to continue exactly from where they were.  The aim is to create the worst possible scenario for an actor in a studio or on location in the first “take”, then to re-shoot the scene under ideal conditions.

The participant will then leave with a DVD of his/her scene.

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