I've heard people say the making the character come to life is more difficult, and that anyone can memorize lines. I personally do not believe this; I think the hardest part is memorizing lines to the point it sounds natural. Especially when several lines must be memorized rather quickly.
I know for a fact I could convey emotion well, but the process of memorizing several lines seems more difficult, especially if one is nervous in the early stages. I think one of the things that separates actors from the general public, is being able to control nerves in front of a camera crew, bright lights, and knowing people will judge your performance.
I think being able to "act" is more natural for some, where memorization is one of those things some people can learn better than others using various techniques - but cannot learn to convey emotion.
I was wondering what the acting community considered the most "difficult" part of the actual acting process (not finding representation, getting credits, etc.)
Memorizing is a muscle you have to work out.
Yes, anyone can memorize lines, but not everyone is good at listening and taking off any focus on oneself and onto the other actor instead.
If you can learn your lines MONOTONE and without any pre-planned intentions or inflections and listen and react to the other actor, the other actor will tell you how to say it, thus making a REAL conversation.
So one way of memorizing is look at one line and say it monotonously 5 times. Then cover it and say it 5 times. Then go to the next line and repeat the same process. As you practice this, the lines become part of you subconsciously and now you can focus on the other actor to give you how to say them.
Everyone has emotions. Some convey them differently. When I do a scene, I don't go "oh, at this line I'll be sad and this line I'll be sure to yell." NO! Instead I put my concentration on the other actor and listen and react. By doing that, emotions will naturally come as a by product of listening.
Any teacher who claims to teach emotion *cough* Bobbie Shaw Chance *cough* is a QUACK!
If you're thinking character and ideas, then you're going to look like you're acting and putting on a performance.
That might work for plays, but in film acting, it's about LIVING.
YOU are the friggin' character. Anyone can memorize lines, but it's your personality that is going to set your performance or audition apart from anyone else.
I guess this may sound odd, but personally, I find memorizing lines more intimidating, especially if there is a lot of dialogue.
Yet, I'm completely confident I could show emotion and bring the character to life well.
Is it usually the other way around?
It sounds to me like you may have built up memorization as an intimidating part of the work in your mind. You've decided it's very challenging, and so you've created a mental block for yourself.
Actors must memorize---you know this---so now it's just a matter of reframing your thinking on the subject and finding some techniques that work for you.
Here are mine:
-Writing out the lines longhand
-Recording them, then playing them at a low level while I sleep or drive
-Repetition, repetition, repetition
But what I find most effective is this: Once I really understand why the character is saying what he's saying, the words become inevitable. I find my character couldn't possibly say anything else, because that's what he wants to say at that point. If you're stuck on specific lines, figure out why the writer wrote them, and you'll never forget them again.
Finally, you've decided that people are judging you. They're not. Once you're on set, you're the actor playing the role. Everyone is busy with his own task. Professional actors screw up their lines all the time, and no one thinks less of them. So take away the pressure of judgment and you'll have an easier time.
If memorization is a muscle one can work out, would it make sense to memorize 2-3 monologues once a week? Would that help in any way in the future?
Ahh...To be young. Raphael. I believe you had mentioned you're moving to LA soon. You had experience with an acting class in college and you thought you might want to try it out since you're moving here anyway. I mention this because you seem to think "conveying" emotion is easier than memorizing.
In both cases, the more you do it the easier and more natural it becomes. However, I'd suggest going to an acting class and watch people who've never acted before. Then I would watch people who've been acting for years.
Something you'll notice. Some people are nervous. Some people are rigid. Some people seem to force emotions. And some people make it seem effortless. The transition from one stage to the next is different for everyone...but it affects everyone. That "transition" is you becoming more settled on yourself. Because if its effortless...you aren't acting. You're living in the moment. Perhaps as yourself, yourself in different circumstances as yourself, or as a character...regardless if its effortless you're living it. This takes most people years. I would say acting came naturally to me. I felt strong about my work when I first started. Years later...(I'd prefer not to date myself) I now realize that although I had some pretty good natural instincts...I had no idea what acting was. I was close. But unfortunately close separates athletes who make it to the Olympics and those that don't.
Professionals in any field understand that concepts are easy...the thing that makes them special is that they are experts in the tiny details. Those details separates those that are good and those that are great.
I know there's so much more than memorizing lines...if it's broken down, the dialogue itself could be considered "reciting", and how well you bring the character to life using that dialogue could be considered "acting".
They both go hand-in-hand, and you can't have one without the other.
For some reason, I find the possibility of forgetting a line, word, confusing a line - to be the hardest part. I know there are very few second chances (if any). An established actor can forget a line here & there and it's probably not a big deal, but could be the kiss of death for someone just starting out.
I see it like this...if someone nails the lines, without enough emotion (it's more of a matter of opinion), I cannot see the director getting as upset as if they forgot/confused a line. There are big actors out there who don't convey emotion well, and seem very boring on-screen, but they get the role time & time again. Maybe it's more about nailing the dialogue first time, every time than people care to admit, assuming you are fit for that character.
I do think as "someone else", I wouldn't feel as nervous though. I also think I'd feel most confident using a Hispanic accent, that way, I'm really someone else. I'd like to work with a dialect coach to see if I could get that accent down, and if everything worked out, be able to goto more auditions that way.
I don't think it's really been quantified, but from everything I can find, the hardest part of acting seems making it look natural.
I've always found this interesting because everyone in their day-to-day life is behaving naturally - but only few can project that accurately on screen.
If you're thinking about emotions, then you got acting all wrong.
Emotions are a by product of actively listening to the other actor.
When you hear something said, you're going have thoughts, opinions, and other reactions to it. Whatever bubbles up from listening should instinctually determine how you say your next line.
Film acting is really just having a conversation with a hidden camera. When you have normal conversations, you're not going "oh, my objective is this. I'm going to feel this way when I'm talking to this person, etc." NO!
Unless you're playing some historical figure, you're NOT playing someone else. It's mostly your personality put into the imaginary circumstances.
Some of the greatest actors of our time like Denzel, Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Christopher Walken, Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman to name a few are pretty much themselves in everything they do but we still believe them. Even Meryl when she's not playing Margaret Thatcher or some extreme character is pretty much herself or a lot of herself goes into a character ie. Sophie's Choice.
This is total broke thinking and should be eliminated from your mind ASAP!
You screw up a line? SO WHAT? You can be a professional and pick up where you screwed up. If the director feels another take, awesome! It's called EDITING. Some of the greatest scenes are NOT filmed in one take. Actually, nothing is really filmed in one take. They normally have to get the master, the two shot, the closeups, etc. and give it to the editor to make it interesting. Just don't screw up your closeups.
Most human communication is non-verbal, and half the time what we actually "say" carries a different meaning, "subtext". Memorizing is the last snippet, sort of what ties everything together, but it's not that important. I think it's the other way around, any old donkey can memorize lines but few can nail that special "thing" that makes a scene just right. Marlon Brando, considered the greatest actor of all time, didn't even bother to memorize his lines, he would read them off cue cards and random places around set, or simply improvise. Communication is non-verbal, and mostly comprised of our reactions to external factors: other characters, our given circumstances, and what goes on inside our heads.
An Ounce of Behavior is Worth A Pound Of Words -
I think the issue you're dealing with is a cluttered mind. The concern that people are judging you. The fear that you could flub a line. The emphasis on "displaying emotion". The need to do a Hispanic accent regardless of if the character calls for it.
1. No one is judging you beyond the scope of their job requirements. (And if they are, so what!)
2. Unless you stick to non-speaking roles - not recommended - you are going to flub a line.
3. "Displaying emotion" is "acting". "Acting" is "Being false"...
4. Being able to do a Hispanic accent is great. But don't allow it to be a crutch.
Acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances. It's not about memorizing lines. It's not about conveying emotion. Memorizing lines is a technical aspect. "Conveying emotion" is not our job as actors. Our job is to live in the moment, and let everything else flow from that. If you're in an audition..and you're truly in the moment..even if you go up on your lines, if the people you're reading for aren't idiots(which they may well be), they won't care. I strive for that. It's the essence of what we do. everything flows from that.
Question, raphael: have you done any acting?
It sounds like you're considering the question theoretically. Doing it for a while is very instructive.
author of "Acting In Hollywood: A Newcomer's Guide"
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