Saturday, October 31, 2009

imdb, here I come!

My theatre company, Vertigo Theatre Company, was recently hired to appear in an independent film. An art professor at the local university has taken a sabbatical in order to produce a film project near and dear to his heart. He was in search of some actors, and was directed to us.

The movie is about a man with some OCD/control issues who meets a woman with much more profound problems. This relationship serves to help him gain a new perspective on his own life and also improves his relationship with his family. It's a short, very interesting project which should be visually striking and thought-provoking.

It's also interesting in how different film is from stage, and how our different acting styles are fitting in. On stage, you start at the beginning of the character's journey, or arc, and continue inexorably toward the conclusion. You grow as the character grows with each performance, taking a trip with them that is very organic and "in the moment." Film is very different. In film, you take little slices of that arc, and do them over and over again from different angles. If the scene you are filming is at an emotional high, then you slice that emotional high right out of the tube of story, like taking one cookie out of the center of a tube of cookie dough. And then you do it repeatedly until the director feels he has his shot. Often, the pieces are not even filmed sequentially, so you might be playing the end before the beginning.

Safe to say that this, from an acting standpoint, is kind of weird. We "classically trained" actors are used to getting into character and staying there. To keep jumping in at random points can be difficult. This is truer for some than others, of course.

There are many different acting styles/schools that have enjoyed popularity. Classical, method, sense-memory, all are valid ways to approach a role. I have found that it's best to pick and choose, cafeteria-style, according to what the role, or even different moments within the role, require. If I need to cry, I'll try to be more method, getting deep into the character and/or going to a personal place that matches the emotion of that scene. In Shakespeare, I tend to be more technical, scanning the script for clues and using the language itself to propel the character along.

As a general rule, though, I tend to be a more cerebral, technical actor. One of my partners in the company, however, is considerable more method/organic. She really gets into a part, often so much that the role spills a bit into her life. For film, then, we have discovered that I have an advantage. It is much easier for me to turn the technical on and off, jumping back into the same spot over and over. Often, my inflections and movements will be exactly the same each time. While a challenge to keep fresh, this does lend itself well to film, because repeating yourself helps the director to identify cut-points. My partner, being a more organic actor, finds it difficult to play the same scene the same way twice, because she is too far inside the part to step outside of it and monitor what she's doing.

Is either method better? No. Just different ways of approaching the same thing. She's much better at getting to emotions onstage than I am, because I'm thinking too much about what I'm doing while I'm doing it. For film, this is just what is needed. I find it fascinating, and ultimately good for both of us, that we have such different ways of approaching acting. We have been able to build a trust with each other in scenes that is so important, because we have a knowledge of what the other person needs.

Alongside all this actor-talk, how cool is it that I'm in a movie!? I'll post more details as they become available. Who knows? Maybe Paris Hilton will be skanking it up at Sundance after getting kicked out of a movie that I'm in!