5/16/2018: Advanced Class Recap: Watch their Faces!


Solid class on the 16th. Great work by everyone! I hope all of you got a chance to watch the footage that we captured during the monologue and scene work.

Here’s a recap of what we covered in class:

We started off with Coach’s Notes (Congrats to all who booked jobs!), and then we talked a bit about the perils of under-preparation, and strategies for how to navigate that minefield if you find yourself caught up short on stage. My solution was to break connection with the audience, retreat into my head for a bit, get my feet under me, and skim forward to the next part of the material that I knew well. Once I reestablished some momentum, I reconnected with the audience and was off and running again. There are other solutions — yours may vary — but having a plan is smart. Winging it is a bit unnerving…

We then played a few rounds of Find the Leader, which is a Violin Spolin game I discovered during my time training up north. The focus of that game is “observation”.

We then watched a couple videos, in preparation for the work on our monologues.

I started with the 2014 San Diego film “3:28am” by director Tom Antl, starring Joe Hurley and Gordon Brown, which was made for that year’s 48 Hour Film Festival.

FOLLOW THIS LINK to see the entire film.

We compared the acting approaches employed by the two leads.

We then shifted gears and watched a Game of Thrones clip (S2E2), again comparing the craft choices of Peter Dinklage and Dominic Carter.

We ended by watching part of a scene from the 2009 Tarantino film Inglourious Basterds, comparing the performances of Christoph Waltz and Brad Pitt.

I made mention of a couple of other videos I wished we’d had time to watch, including:

We discussed occasions when the specific choice might be made to keep your face stony and expressionless, and whether that is ultimately counterproductive, compared to the impact that can be made when your face is alive with thought, activity, emotion.

I also mentioned the Processing Scene from PTA’s 2012 film The Master, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Philips Seymour Hoffman, who both gave magnificent, rich, alive performances, internally and externally.

In one of Tom Hanks’ visits to Inside the Actor’s Studio, he said that Spielberg gave him some excellent advice once: “Let them see you think.” This clip from The Master is a wonderful example of that approach in action – watch Joaquin’s face as he receives the questions, ponders them, processes them, and replies. What an amazing journey. Riveting. This is the type of work I’m hoping to nudge each of you towards.

Side Note: While there are some amazing scenes and wonderfully crafted shots in this film, be forewarned if you give the full film a watch. There are some awkward bits…


Next we hit the monologues. I think the idea to use your phones to film your scenes was a good one. I hope you all got a chance to review the footage. I knew it would be challenging for some of you to simply memorize the text and do no craft work, but that’s ok. I hope you see and understand what I’m trying to do with the work at this stage – trying to get you to be YOU, while saying someone else’s words. As we layer in work in the coming weeks and nudge the piece toward a final product, I still want the connections to YOU to be very evident. The evidence and results should be on your phones. I look forward to seeing the finished products compared to the initial attempts.

We talked briefly about OBJECTIVE in light of the simple game of TAG. I mentioned how odd it was, being in an acting class in LA with a dozen grown people, giggling and playing tag like a bunch of 5-year-olds. The objectives are so simple and primal, you don’t even need to think about it, just react. Touch, dodge, run, laugh… as we work on scenes, I hope we can each identify simple, primal objectives like this to include in our work, to help the scenes live. The goal is having the physical part of the work be as natural and fluid as the dialog delivery we’re working on now – as close to YOU as possible.

By this point in class, time was getting short, so I had to short-change my thoughts on Stanislavsky and the Group Theater, and shelve most of it for next week, as well as the introduction to Michael Chekov.

We got to our scene work, with the scenes from Noah Baumbach’s 2012 film Frances Ha, again with the stress on natural dialog, delivered as YOU. I enjoyed the work, but I think we forgot one of the scenes! Brianna, if you’re reading this, my apologies. When we do scene work next, you can go first.

We ended talking about two bits of homework I wanted you to consider, regarding observing yourself as you do daily, mundane physical actions, imagining that cameras were filming you. Also, when you feel certain emotions during the course of your day, take a moment and try to register where and how you feel the emotions. See if you can find the “on/off” switch inside you. Can you shut it off, and turn it back on again? Can you tone it down, or control the levels? Ultimately, we want to dabble with being able to introduce basic emotions into our work, to see how it affects the undercurrent of the scenes, etc.

Don’t get carried away with it at this point. Just try it a bit, and let it go. We’ll talk more in our next class.


SNEAK PEEK of Next Class

  • Cold Read night!
  • New Scenes and partners (possibly from Gilmore Girls or Sherlock, I haven’t decided yet…)
  • Introduction to Stanislavski and the Group Theater.
  • Monologue Work.
  • And more!

I hope your weekend is a great one! Watch some good film/TV or read a book. Always be learning, eh!

David Wagner
AWS Coach

By |2018-06-07T10:30:00-07:00May 17th, 2018|Advanced Acting Blog|