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Adventures In Acting - Preparation!

Updated: Dec 18, 2023


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

 

Connect 4 anyone?
Pic from "Dead on the vine"

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"Don't wait for inspiration. It comes while one is working."


Mark Twain - Writer of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer"

 

Preparation - In Acting:


"Prior preparation prevents piss poor performance!"

Seems true enough, so the opposite must also be true....


"Fail to prepare, prepare to fail"

I guess so, although how much preparation is enough in Acting?


Apparently Viola Davis wrote a full novel-like back story for her BAFTA award winning and Oscar nominated performance in 2011's "The Help".

When asked if this was her "technique" she immediately and almost bashfully says "no!", but it was what she felt was right to do for that particular role.

The backstory was burnt or dropped upon getting to set and was only used as a method of feeling confident enough to do the job well.


Would we have noticed if she hadn't written so much in her preparation?

Maybe, Probably not!

Would she have had more doubt and insecurity whilst filming and had a less pleasant experience on the film?

Maybe, I'm guessing that's why she did it.


Then who are we preparing for?

Ourselves or the audience?

Both?


Is it also possible to over prepare?.


The actor can occasionally know so much that they cannot ever fully let go off all the facts and figures that they know, they end up trying to show all the homework within the performance.

The work then becomes "heady" and over intellectualised.


Ideally we have just enough information to Know and not Show our preparation.


Have you seen the Henry Thomas audition for "E.T." on youtube? (Watch here).


The young Henry Thomas is improvising around the script with the casting director and Steven Spielberg in his audition.

All he really believes to be true is that some people are trying to take his friend away and he really believes it, to the point where, before the audition is finished Steven Spielberg blurts out "OK kid, You got the job!"

He doesn't need to know what an extra terrestrial is or the FBI protocol to test all suspicious alien life form, he just does that one thing, very well.


Is that not all we can do? 1 thing well at a time?


It seems to that there are 2 types of actors.

Those that are never ready no matter how much rehearsal time or study time they have had and those that take one look at the script and are ready to go.

Which one are you?


In theory there is a perfect balance of preparing enough to feel like you can deliver when action is called or the curtain goes up whilst being able to completely drop all your "prep" and be able to play fully in the moment, take direction, try new things, listen and respond to the other actors as if for real.


Perhaps if you are overly heady you could favour a more playful way of preparing for your roles.

Perhaps if you lack the motivation to study your scripts then you might want to find a way of tackling the "text detective" work that is important for actors before hitting "analysis paralysis"


You will find a way that makes sense to you.

"If it is to be, it is up to me!" (I love this little ditty consisting of all 2 letter words...)

Although as the Beatles always said you can only "get by with a little help from your friends"


You do you boo!

If you can, just trust your own process and preparation, stay open to trying new ways to get inspired on each project.


However you prepare, it's important you find a way to feel informed without being overwhelmed, to feel relaxed without being "lax" and to be able to access intensity with being tense.

Easier said than done right?!


Good god damn luck adventurer!!

 

What's my motivation?


This month's scene is chosen by Voice Actor Rhiannon Moushall, Voice Actor/Gamer.


Taken from Sci-Fi series "Galaxy Quest"

Galaxy Quest follows a group of actors who are mistaken for real space heroes by an alien race called the Thermians.


Rhiannon says:

"Hopefully this is a nice challenge for you to break down! I think it's a masterclass in creating drama and deeply empathetic characters in the most humorous and outlandish situations."


Notes:

Enrico Colantoni plays the alien leader Malthesar. He has sought out Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) and his spaceship crew to help save them from the warlord, Sarris (Robin Sachs), after witnessing Nesmith's prowess in 'historical documents'. In the scene, Sarris is torturing Malthesar and forces Nesmith to reveal that he is in fact, just an actor, and the 'historical documents' are just episodes of an old TV show.

Click on the video link below and then check my short interpretation underneath


This scene has such a sweet sense of humanity in it, which is wonderful when you consider all the surreal external circumstances surrounding the performances.


I will initially single out Tim Allen's performance but there is some beautiful work from all the actors here in what is quite an incredible cast.


It is super clear from the outset that Tim really doesn't want to have to tell Malthesar (Enrico Colantoni) the whole truth and hates that he has been forced into this position.

He gives Sarris (Robin Sachs) one last look of discontent, almost saying "Really?!" as he knows he's about to break a heart.


Tim can barely look Enrico in the eye as he starts to explain what the reality of the situation is.


As if it wasn't hard enough to admit you haven't been completely honest with someone you care about Tim then has to explain ("as you would a child") the concept of "acting".


I love how the music kicks in here, it highlights how sensitive the situation is and how ashamed Tim is at what he has done.


At first he says they were "pretending" which makes it sound more playful (and actually uncomfortably close to what "real" acting is perceived as being) but then with a subtle shake of the head Tim acknowledges that's not the full truth.

The deceit really hits home when Tim has to confess that he has been "lying" to him, then watch as Enrico struggles with this news.


As the extend of the sin unfolds the absurdity of the situation is almost humorous to Tim but with every glance back at Enrico he fully feels how painfully heart wrenching this is for poor Enrico ( who, by the way, is pulling off some poignant emotional moments throughout, all under the illusion of an "alien").

This bombshell is killing Enrico, quite literally it seems.


After admitting that everything is fake, including himself, Tim just feels awful and starts begging for forgiveness, as if his own life depended on it.


Faced with the extinction of Enrico (and all Thermians) Tim makes a pathetic attempt to stop the Warlord before being taken down in front of his crew, the ultimate humiliation.


As an actor to get to play under these extreme circumstances is dream, as long as we find the human truth, which they do here, we can make the unbelievable, believable, the surreal, real and the fantastical true.

Bravo all!


Have a short scene you want to see simply analysed?

Click below to send link to scene:



 


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Thanks for your attention - and stay in touch.

Tom


 

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