In the scene you're about to do, what just happened the "moment before"?
Something ALWAYS happened just before this. Sometimes the script will give you clues, sometimes it's totally up to you.
We could easily make a list of what it could be when it's up to us...
You could have...
...just had a fight.
...just woken up.
...just stepped in dog shit.
...just got laid.
...just had your dog die.
...just got a new job.
...just quit your job.
...just won a $5,000 scratch ticket.
You get the idea.
Go make your own list. At least 10 items. Pic two for the sides today.
P.S. I find it's better to make a list that has nothing to do with the scene you're about to do. This way, you get to try some really random stuff, and have a little more outside-of-the-box fun.
Of course, if it's obvious what just happened, you should probably try on that choice too.
“Be nice to people on the way up, because you may meet them on the way down.”
– Jimmy Durante
Be nice to everyone. No one is trying to piss you off on purpose. Everyone wants to do a good job, including the lowest guy on the totem pole. He's just like you. He wants to do well enough on this job that he gets another.
Word travels. Make an effort for the words said you to be at the least, very professional, and at best also a helluva fun time.
So, remember that shirt you were so awesome about putting on before you sat down to get your make-up and hair done?
It's got a secondary purpose. It's multifunctional. Yeah, that's how awesome this shirt is.
Your On-Set Shirt should also be a little bit big for you. Big enough that you can throw it on easily over whatever other wardrobe you're wearing.
Why is this important? Because, hopefully, at some point, you're going to break for lunch. When you do, you're going to be able to save yourself some hassle by being able to put your "On Set Shirt" on right over your regular wardrobe. I know, so frikkin' genius.
This will stop you from getting food all over yourself, and, therefore, will keep wardrobe happy, and make you look more professional, because you are. Wardrobe and make-up are both in charge of how you look, so making their jobs easier, and less stressful is going to make you look that much better for the final product.
I know, I know. You don't spill food on yourself when you eat. Yeah, yeah. Neither do I. But you know what, it's a good thing I've had that damn shirt on, more than once. Cause sometimes, there's ice cream for dessert.
You should own a snap-up, or button up shirt that's a little too big for you, that's not offensive, or some crazy color. Something from Target is fine. This shirt will have one purpose and one purpose only.
It is your On Set Shirt. Yeah, I capitalized, it's a proper name.
I'm not saying that you have to where this shirt TO the set, but it's going to help you out once you get ON set. Here's why.
Say you're sitting in the make-up chair, and the hair person just finished about 20 minutes (if your a guy) or an hours (if your a gal) of work. You then go over to wardrobe to get your stuff. What happens then? Before you can put your wardrobe on, you've got to take your t-shirt off...over your head.
You're about to ruin someone's work, and they're going to have to come touch you up. Before the shoot even starts.
Once you get to set, and have made your impression with you're awesome sense of style. Change into your on-set shirt before sitting down in the make up chair. When you're done, and it's time to change, you don't have to worry about messing up someone else's hard work as the first thing you do on set.
There's another reason you should have an onset shirt, we're not done yet.
You should try something that you KNOW isn't right.
Make a choice that your POSITIVE doesn't work for the scene.
Make the character a clown, a drunk, a 5-year old, a frikkin' cowboy, hell, a creep child molester priest, I don't care. Make some REALLY BIG, even random, choices and go all the way with them, total caricature, SNL style.
Guess what's gonna happen?
You're gonna have a little fun. You're gonna loosen the fuck up. You're going to take the pressure off because there's no way that the character would be this way.
Guess what else is going to happen?
You're going to get insight into the scene. Sure, you'll probably never play the scene that way at an audition, or on stage, or on set. But doing so opens you to more possibilities for the scene, and keeps you from getting in a rut. You know that rut where you're saying the lines the EXACT SAME WAY only at different volume? Yeah. That's not acting. That's boring.
And those things that you were SO sure were true about the character? Maybe there's a little wiggle room there.
The natural next step after "Be a fuck-up," is naturally, not caring at all whether or not you get the job.
This may seem counterintuitive at first. As in, "If I don't care, I won't do a good job."
But that's not what I'm saying. Getting the job would be nice and all, but that's not why you're in the room. You're in the room to show them the shit you can do with those four pages in your hand. You're there to show them the work you put into these four pages. To show them that you made some frikkin' choices. That you're NOT BORING. That you're engaged with the material. That's why you're in the room.
Whether you get the job or not is soooo far out of your control that you shouldn't even be thinking about that AT ALL. The more you think about the job, the more your stupid brain starts spinning out of control with all kinds of crazy scenarios and stories about how you're finally going to get your new apartment and by a house for your mom. Guess what, you're not. All you're gonna do is walk into that room, and kill it. After that, who knows.
That's what we're here for. This whole site is a place for you to try shit out. Anything. You wanna do the scene in a dress? Put it on. Wanna try a German accent? Nine problem. Wanna do it while jumping rope? Let's go Rocky.
You don't fail enough. Seriously. You need to fail a LOT to start to have the instincts about the stuff that's going to work and that's not going to work. You may try something and think, "Yeah! That's a great choice!" Only to find out it wasn't the best one that you could make.
You need to try at LEAST 10 different "ways" to do a scene before you can start narrowing things down about how you think it should be played. And by "ways" I mean anything from accents to being cold out to a whole other list of things that we'll get to with time. If you go in with your first choice, at best you're always going to come out of your reading wishing that you would've tried something else, at the worst, you're going to get an idea on the way home and obsess that "I should've done THAT!"
Since you're getting all the gold I'm putting out here, go ahead and be a failure today. Do the scene the worst way you possibly can. Make the glaring WRONG choice for the thing. You know what? You're going to find a little kernel of truth or insight by doing it that way.
I don't care who you're reading with, look right at them, and do the scene WITH them. Not AT them. WITH them. Get them to feel what you want them to feel, to say things in a certain way.
Putting that effort in will go a very long way in developing a reputation as an actor that connects.
Believability - I don't think it's a word, but it should be.
All acting stems from this. I don't care what history work you did, and that you're mother in the scene is an alcoholic, and your dog just died. None of it matters if I don't believe you.
The reason all those acting greats are so great? You fucking believe them. Think of Roy Scheider in Jaws. Remember the scene? When Jaws comes up out of the water, while he's throwing chum out to sea. His look is completely blank. You totally believe he just saw the biggest fucking shark he's ever seen, then he says, "We're gonna need a bigger boat." and you are completely there, you totally buy in. You believe him.
Every other lesson, task, motivation, whatever it is you're doing to make the scene feel more "alive," should stem from this one thing. Am I believable?