An amusing thing about David Mamet's take on acting: having thoroughly trashed The Method, pronounced drama instructors as frauds and insightless institutional hacks, and drama schools as utterly unnecessary, he is not only NOT burned at the stake for heresy but suffers an even more horrible fate - everything he says is co-opted into a drama school curriculum!! Man, you just can't beat the machine!
Getting a peek at my new headshots this week. A new year begins. Champing at the bit.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Life intrudes. Rehearsals have been going well, but suddenly the holidays are upon us and family takes center stage. I’ve been up and back to New York twice since I last wrote. It’s the first time I’ve been to the city this early in the season, with the Christmas tree vendors set up on the corners and the scent of pine mixing in with the smell of hot pretzels and cigarette smoke that seems uniquely New York. I breathe it in and smile.
My day job comes with a third floor, east 16th Street branch office two feet from the door to Killer Films, the company that produced the wonderfully quirky picture The Notorious Bettie Page. Trying to think of a way to strike up a conversation, but I only see the staff when their door happens to open as I’m putting the key in my office door lock. They’re all sitting around a long table. It’s quiet, like an architectural firm. Not what you’d expect.
Nothing yet lined up after the indie feature, which films in January, weather permitting. I know that if I had anything else to think about this month I’d be in total meltdown, but I like having a couple of follow-on projects and feel anxious when I don’t. Work has slowed for almost everyone these past few weeks.
January is a fresh start. I’ve been making a list of things to do after the first, like sending out introductory letters and headshots, listing with new job sites, signing up for voice or dancing or riding lessons to keep in shape, getting rid of the 6 pounds I’ve gained sampling Christmas cookies. I’ve been reading David Mamet’s True and False, along with A Practical Handbook for the Actor, which was written by his students and based on his ideas about acting. What a breath of fresh air this is! Understandably some of what he says is writer’s bias, but he’s the first I’ve read to lay out a strategy, a way of approaching acting that seems to make sense.
Also, I think he’s right when he downplays talent and emphasizes practice. Acting is a learned skill, like cooking or playing the violin. If you’re brilliant it will reveal itself. If you’re not, you can still be damned good. I’m too much in my head for Method acting. I’m a puzzle-solver. What makes the character tick? Why would she move about this room? I’m not an inner turmoil type
Mamet also makes the point that what directors are casting is you. Not you being someone else – you! Your height, your face, your voice, your walk, your look! And sometimes you have to strip away what you’ve been taught in acting class to find that.
I got a part once and didn’t know how I did it. I got stuck in traffic on the way to the audition and a 20-minute trip took 45. I walked in exactly on time instead of 15 minutes early as I’d planned. I was handed the sides and given less than five minutes to look them over, then parked in front of a camera and given the signal to begin. I thought, what the hell, breezed through the lines as best I could, smiled, thanked everyone and left thinking I’d completely blown it. A few days later I got a puzzling email from the director, saying “you are an amazing actor!” and offering me the part. What happened - I think - was that in arriving later than I’d planned I didn’t have time to think about how I was going to “act” the scene. I just got comfortable and played it on first impressions, and that worked. Maybe I was just lucky, or maybe I was what they wanted.
Anyway, applying what I’ve learned to the current script, determined to give a better and more truthful (to me) performance, and with the next film better and more truthful again.
News: the trailer is just out for a short thriller I did in November – Commitment. I haven’t seen the whole film yet, but it looks like writer/director Richard Volin has done a wonderful job with it. Actors Frank Vince and James Whalen are terrific. I was lucky to work on the same film with them. They’re exciting to watch. Volin is turning to features after this. Is anyone surprised?
I read online today that Tom Selleck had to fight to make Blue Bloods a character-driven series instead of just another standard-issue cop show. I was happy to see that.
Sitting in a Marriott in Philadelphia wishing I were anywhere acting.