So the DD series are a bit more personal – a bit more about me, my life, stuff I am working on, and a bit less on sweeping generalizations…. Probably also less photos and spell checking, and a little more “stream of conciousness” lol.
Consider the “Dear Diary” as a disclaimer – Lookout folks, its gonna get a bit more personal. Hope it remains enjoyable – I am open, as always, to feedback regarding what one should and should not put on the internet. (No guarantee that I will act on it – after all, mild case of narcissism still – but I will always consider it.)
So I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately. I’ve been going to a lot of auditions, because I finally have a demo reel, and an acting resume that’s been beefed up with a bit more experience. But the rut is this – auditions for unpaid student films, I tend to absolutely Nail. I tend to destroy them. And I tend to get a decent amount of the roles.
Auditions for literally-anything-paid-or-professional … lets just say that the vast majority, I have been tanking.
Why is this? Today I hit up another audition for a “real role,” for a project called “Small Town Wherever.” Keep an eye out for it, should be good – even though I myself will not be in it, because I did not kill the audition. But the directors gave me a bit more feedback this time, took some time to call me out on my bullshit – and it was Amazing. The director knew his shit, and tore me a gaping hole of self realization. I have now figured out what has been happening.
I auditioned for two different roles. This was part of the issue, as it meant – due to time – that they said I would only get one shot at each, instead of two shots at one. By spreading myself too thin, I ensured that I was not able to take their feedback and put it into the next take – aka, Michael, you Numpty, that’s the most important part. You do it one way – your way – and then they tell you how to get from there to Their way, and That is the real audition – that’s how it works, so I numptied myself. Too greedy, perhaps… shit. Well, live and learn. That’s actually something I’ve been working on lately – “Do Less Things, Better.” Its hard for a guy like me, constantly blasting into ideas with trouble doing follow through. Its been really helping me, too – too bad that this time, when it would have made a serious difference, I decided to just Not follow that … lol
After audition one, I received the first chunk of feedback. It was something I knew and had been sort of working on – that as an actor who has done more theatre, I tend to over-act. I tend to focus too hard on Portraying the character, instead of just Being the character.
Portraying the character is hard enough. Many people have trouble with it – but in theatre its huge, because you need things to be over the top, and “portraying” a role – gives you exactly that.
So after I finished my reading, the director’s response was “So do you do a lot of theatre?”
The feedback on set number one was back to the old standby to people trying to transition from theatre to film: “tone it back a bit, Be the role instead of playing the role.” Feedback that my directors for Dave and Greg would give me on camera several times a scene (they knew my pitfalls) but its been a while since I’ve heard that – and we talked a bit about how to make that happen. Again, goes back to less of the Portraying – less of the Mind – and more of the feeling, and letting those feelings just bleed subtly into the lines, without worrying about how they feel. Because on film, they come out, and you can see them – while Portrayal, that thing that you do for theatre roles, looks awkward and over done.
I suppose the difference here was that I was actually given homework: specifically, to watch Steve McQueen, “The King of Cool.” Why is he called that? Because he shows emotion with subtlety instead of exaggeration, with nuance instead of dialogue. He is “cool” because coolness is linked to Detachedness, and showing only the necessary emotion. He is, ofcourse, an extreme: my wildly passionate and frustratingly impulsive personality is probably at the other end 😛 but if I can learn the other extreme, then the part in the middle – the stuff called “Acting” – should come a lot easier to this ol’ theatre actor.
The second audition, I was excited for – It was for a Bad Guy. I had really prepped for it, and tried to channel some evil thoughts to be scarier. Should have taken the feedback and done a second run, but hey, I had prepped a role, so I allowed that to cloud my judgement when I should have given up …
But I went in – even did my “urban camping” wardrobe change
(went into the bathroom, laid some paper towels down in the sink bowl so that when I used my trimmer to change my facial hair it all landed in the paper towels and was super easy to clean, and then changed clothes.)
I also started going through what I had practiced, trying to channel my darkest thoughts … but this time I tried to take the feedback of “dial it back.” So I went too far the other way, and I was now worrying about subtlety instead of letting dark thoughts shine through – basically, once again worrying about the portrayal of lines instead of the “being the role.” I performed and did an excellent job of matching the style to the character reference – was complimented on it, in fact – but was told I “did not scare them. Did not channel the evil. Did not make them believe I actually wanted to murder them and lick their blood off my fingers.”
Ofcourse, I did not want to do those things at all. As a passive aggressive white male who had an unfortunately blissful childhood, I have had probably less dark thoughts even then the average, let alone a truly evil villain. But that is why its called acting: and once again, it came down to the fact that I was “portraying the role” instead of “feeling the emotions while happening to say the lines.”
Again, feedback which I had heard before. In fact, I have recently started researching “method acting” so that I can get better at this feeling-process. I have even nailed it at times – like under strict direction during certain scenes for Dave and Greg – but have trouble summoning it with regularity.
But this time, we got into it. We discussed what Method Acting is about. We discussed Robert Deniro, and channeling your emotions. We talked about Heath Ledger – who got so into the psyche of The Joker, that if fucked him up to the point of death.
This is something I had been wondering about: letting yourself into these deep, dark emotions – the ones your Id says is a good idea, because to feel another human’s neck tear beneath your teeth just sounds so cool and intense – and becoming them. I will keep my blog posted on these efforts, and hopefully stop short of going over the deep end. After all, I really love my kid, and I would miss him if I died. But it was an excellent talk, and we discussed the summoning of evil – of becoming another human, one that the real you is upset and offended by. Fascinating stuff.
The overall takeaway for me was Hubris. Here I was, walking in to acting and being like “oh man, I got this. I have always been empathetic and able to summon emotion, this should be a breeze.”
Little Michael, if it was that easy, they would have figured it out years ago. Actually, they did figure it out – and invented the school of Method Acting – but its so much bloody work to practice Feeling – something that usually we use to React, not something we do consciously – to practice Feeling until you can summon emotions, even ones that you have not directly felt, and then allow those emotions to bleed into your vibe, persona and presence while saying lines you had to memorize – Or worse, lines you are improving ….. It takes a lot of work. Here I was, worried about being “found” and “noticed” – false. What I actually need … is to put in the grind.
I haven’t figured out a lot about where I am going with my life. In fact, it would be fair to say – and many have – that I lack direction. So far, every time I delve further into acting, I don’t learn things – I learn what it is that I Don’t know. I had a supervisor in a job once who kept saying “you don’t know what you don’t know.” “I can learn that,” I would say. “I don’t know if you can,” she would respond, “because I feel like you just don’t know what you don’t know.”
At the time it was super annoying, and I was frustrated by her re-hashing of that line. But I am please to know realize that I am now – finally – starting to learn What it is that I don’t know about acting. And when I get those glimpses of the truth … it makes me feel amazing. So, hey – we ain’t throwin in any towels quite just yet.
That’s all for today, folks. Time to go see “The Room” with a couple friends, and yell the lines and make fun of the bad acting. I will join in ofcourse – even though I am now starting to figure out how hard good acting really is.
Keep livin life, my friends, and keep fallin in love.