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Adventures In Acting - Acting?!

Updated: Dec 18, 2023



The first month's collection of acting-related thoughts and feelings:



Pic of Tom Sawyer winning "Best Actor" award at Smodcastle film festival


"What a to do in '23, for upon the screen is where thou wisheth to be"


Tom Sawyer, 12 time descendant of William Shakespeare (actual true fact)


Far from productivity shaming anyone or selling snake oil potions for "hacking your acting at the start of this year". My intention here is to share some of my own 20-year journey (ups and downs) with the hope of stirring up some conversation and communication in a sometimes lonely pursuit.


It can be tough to know what to do in the bits between "acting".


The narrative from some sources suggests we should be spending every waking moment working on our craft, practising accents, reading screenplays, applying for jobs or taking part in classes.

These all have huge benefits, obviously! But I look back now at my (over 20 years) acting life and what I now believe would have made me more employable and a better "auditionee" are actually all the things that, at the time, I denied myself for fear of messing up my career prospects.


I wanted to get a tattoo, I wanted to travel, I wanted to say no to some commercial castings, I wanted to cut/grow my hair, I wanted to prioritise a friend's wedding over being on a "pencil" for a job that didn't actually excite me, I wanted to take breaks from acting when I felt overwhelmed, I wanted to speak up in some auditions/waiting rooms and say how poorly we were all being treated...etc.


Now, with the benefit of some experience, I feel I could do these things without any guilt or worry about how it might affect my trajectory as an actor.


Now I trust that, that which makes me feel better actually increases my potential of booking jobs. Or at the very least I can focus more on my life outside the audition and in between self-tapes with the knowledge that it will enhance the moments (however rare they may be) between "Action" and "Cut" or "Curtain up" and "Curtain down".

Easier said than done when all you want to do is "Act". But who for?


The audience? Your family? The world? Yourself?


It was fascinating to me, when I booked an acting gig, to look at how what was going on in my life affected what happened in the audition room.

Often I found there was something going on with me that must have had an invisible (to me) effect on my behaviour/attitude in the short time I was in the audition.

It was usually a new relationship or booking another job, or something that in some unconscious way made me seem like I had other things to look forward to in my life, maybe.


Oh, the Irony! "They only want me when I don't need them so much!"


It sounds like sexy indifference, but perhaps any sense of neediness or desperation really does stink out a room more than we can ever imagine.

Clearly, there is a balance; when your casual approach seems arrogant and the work/scene sucks through lack of preparation, we have a different (and maybe bigger) problem.


My biggest regret when looking back over the decades of dodgy auditions is the amount of time I "played it safe", and went with what I thought "they" wanted. When in truth "they" mostly don't really know what they want until someone does it.


If I could have those times back, I would have given many fewer F's about the fear of embarrassing myself in the audition room and probably would have had a lot more fun making madder/bolder choices. And maybe I would have booked a few more jobs or at least gotten a reputation for someone who will consistently show up with something different.


You may have had this experience of being at some life event (funeral, wedding, sporting occasion) and feeling such heightened emotions, when some small (or not) part of you says "This is great! I can use this for my acting!"


Now then, one might say "that's not normal" . And they are right, you are probably not "normal". Personally I don't know if I know or love anyone that is, but I do know we only get to use that life experience in our "acting" if we are fully present for that experience and less concerned with how we might portray or recreate that moment for a job.


Let your life and how you move through it be more important than attempting to impress in an audition. After all, what are actors if not great examples of "real" life?


Whatever you do this year, you do you. Let your freak flag fly, find out more about what makes you tick and find time to do it unapologetically.


 

What's my motivation?


Here is where I want to take a different scene each month and give it a simple analysis.

The question I'm going to attempt to answer is:

What is the actor actually doing?

This month is a scene from the disturbingly brilliant "Monster".

Charlize Theron deservedly won the Academy Award, Golden Globe and many other awards for this performance.

Her portrayal of Aileen Wuornos going for a job interview should be shown in Job Centres all over the world as an example of how to respond when you realise you actually never really wanted the job in the first place.

Watch the scene below and then read my short interpretation underneath


I love the swing here!

These opportunities as an actor to end up in the completely opposite place to where you started in such a short time are so much fun if you can commit fully, which I think Charlize does.

The look in her eyes at the start is a twinkle, like a 1st date after a lot of dating app chat.

There is smiling and flirtatious blinking and nodding of her head to everything he says, everything so far is perfect.

The seat is comfortable, the mood is lighthearted, and the future looks bright.

She listens like her life depends on it.

Then...

OUCH!

Around the time of him mentioning her lack of education in Law, the fact that her presence in his office is "insulting" and his derogatory comments on her home town of Daytona Beach, she begins to boil.

Now hurt and vulnerable, the blinking stops, the gaze is fixed on the now new threat. This is either going to end in tears or tantrums; something has got to give.

Luckily for us, we get an epic tantrum.

The first "F you" escapes from her mouth almost as a whisper, as if reasoning with a friend to calm down.

Once the damage is done, it's a free fall for all those bubbling feelings.

He is no longer the potential lover, he is the enemy, the manifestation of everyone who has ever said "You will never amount to anything" (a gift for the actor to offload).

From everything being perfect and in its right place, now everything must be destroyed; papers, people, assistants of people, EVERYTHING!


Have a short scene you want to see simply analysed?

Click below to send link to scene:



 

At the first ever "Smodcastle Film Festival" in New Jersey hosted by the legend Kevin Smith (Dogma, Jay & Silent Bob, Mallrats,...), I won the Best Actor award for my performance in the Drama Feature "Dead on the Vine".

The film also picked up Best Ensemble and Best Drama.


Click below to see how I graciously accepted the award from Kevin :)

 

I'm hoping to announce some London screenings of "Dead on the Vine" in February's "Adventures" send out and also planning on running some classes in the very near future.

Thanks for your attention, stay in touch.

Tom


 

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