Tuesday, June 02, 2009

ACTORS: HOW TO FIND YOUR SCREEN PERSONNA


Here it is (above), "The Beast." How many actors have come to grief because they sought roles that fit their real personalities, rather than their potential cinematic ones? The truth is that The Beast doesn't care what roles you play or would like to play. It arbitrarily accepts you in some roles and not in others. Or maybe it doesn't accept you at all. It's scary!



As an example, here's me in a YouTube spoof on Match.com. Fast forward to the two minute mark where I play a seedy gigolo, turning around to face the camera. I play a lot of characters in this film, but that's the one that seems to come off the best. It's odd because in real life I'm the opposite of a seedy gigolo. I only discovered that I was passable at it because I tried a bunch of random things in front of the camera that day, and that was one of the few the camera would accept...that and an old lady, another unlikely pick. You could say that the camera decided what I'd do, not me.

 In my opinion beginning film actors should film and photograph themselves constantly, then comb through the footage for what may be the few seconds that actually work. If the camera likes you,  if only for a short time, then that's a clue as to what the camera will accept from you, and you can build on that.


14 comments:

Michael Sporn said...

My question is whether you think something as wonderful as this could be pulled off in animation with the audience having a similar reaction.

Lester Hunt said...

That gigolo is great! Really funny and downright disturbing at the same time. Also, from my very limited experience, your acting advice is excellent: instead of introspecting and trying to "find" the character in yourself -- experiment! That's the only way you'll learn. The best personae may not be in your self at all.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Michael: This is probably not what you meant, but I did think about how this relates to animation. Should an animator tailor his films to what the camera says he does best? it's an interesting question.

You see all those graphic novels and underground comics out there. It seems that when artists have no Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny imposed on them, they prefer to draw depressing autobiographical subjects. Sometimes you need exterior compusion to bring out the best in you.

Thomas said...

June Foray says that in reality, she's a very modest person, but when she's doing voices, she can do the most outrageous stuff; which she said was "not her".

I think I saw this in that Tex Avery bio that's been on cable recently.

Jenny Lerew said...

Eddie, you & M. Sporn really have to meet. I know you'd hit it off famously.

I think however he was referring to whether you could be pulled off in animation, non?

I'll bite and take this entirely seriously and suggest that while The Camera certainly has no mercy and it will see what it will see(with a hell of a lot of help from a cinematographer and his assistants), isn't the actor working from the script and the director rather than from what the actor might think "comes off best"?

On another tack, it's funny--you could definitely apply this theory of yours to animation drawings...that is, sometimes it happens that what an artist thinks is his speciality isn't what the "camera"/audience/film-as-a-whole determines it really is. You know?

justinderemo said...

that Jeanne Moreau set the mood so well...interesting how humor can result just from the contrast of sound/image

Jennifer said...

Regarding acting - from what I've read about some of the old-school Hollywood film stars (before the "method acting" craze), many of them used the practice that you talked about in your post. They understood that the camera could make or break your role. You could be putting your heart and soul into a performance, but if you don't have the right camera angles and/or lighting, your credibility was shot.

I remember reading that Joan Crawford would often have photos of herself at all angles and lighting, including the unflattering ones, so she would understand how she looked in front of a camera. She would also frequently rehearse in front of a mirror so she would know what she would look like when playing a scene. She knew that a performance was not only how you played it, but how you looked playing it.

As for applying this to animation - I'll leave the comments about whether this theory can apply to animation to the animation experts.

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Jenny: It would be fun to do a match.com-type pencil test of several of the artist's own characters just mugging to the camera. I'll bet it would work.

For some reason in animation I tend to give equal weight to what the audience thinks and what the camera thinks. The two together will rell you what you should be doing. In my case I get good responses to slapstick.

It would be great to meet Michael over pizza. I wonder if he ever comes to LA?

Jennifer: Wow, what a revelation! It's how you look playing it. I think you hit on how she comes off as well as she does! Many thanks for the important insight!

Justin: Interesting! I wish you'd written more about this!

Jenny Lerew said...

"For some reason in animation I tend to give equal weight to what the audience thinks and what the camera thinks. The two together will rell you what you should be doing. In my case I get good responses to slapstick."

Well, this is interesting. But...in animation isn't the camera also the audience, really? In actual physical fact? I'm not sure I understand what you mean.

It would be great fun to host Mr. Sporn here and I knew you'd think of pizza. But I can't imagine why anyone would want to come to L.A. from NY myself, although as an ex-Philly person I'll bet you love the sybaritic weather, am I right? ; )

Phantom Spitter said...

"You see all those graphic novels and underground comics out there. It seems that when artists have no Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny imposed on them, they prefer to draw depressing autobiographical subjects. Sometimes you need exterior compusion to bring out the best in you."

Well, what about autobiographical stuff with solid, outside influences and isn't depressing? Like, I dunno... Crumb? You did a post on how much you like Crumb. How about Bobby London? He didn't really do autobio stuff but he did "Dirty Duck" for undergrounds and won a Yellow Kid award.

On my blog, I'm gonna do some posts on a personal favorite cartoonist, Joel Beck. I think you'd like it.

Anyway, what do you think of my views expressed in this inane comment?

Eddie Fitzgerald said...

Phantom: Of course there are exceptions, Crumb being the biggest.

Jenny: Ha! By the camera I mean my own subjective assessment, audience be damned, but still based on how the images look in media. Sometimes you have to play to posterity.

About LA: this is where the film industry is. It's hard to avoid this town if you're in the media.

Jenny Lerew said...

I daresay that if ypu'd chosen NY instead of L.A. you'd have animated/boarded just as much if not more.
There's always been production there, particularly TV, for cable and some very interesting independent things, etc. But that's a life for another, parallel universe, I guess.

I.D.R.C. said...

That oily Casanova does definitely suit you. I wish more modern movies and TV actually called for colorful character parts. Mostly you just need some schmoe to run from the CGI. We don't have much call for Peter Lorres or Walter Brennans and such.

Palesa Floret said...

I actually learned this in an acting class a few years ago. The teacher told us to use analysis to see if the role suited us. Picking roles not good for you no matter how good can make or break you.