Another film night on Wednesday evening, as we set some Breaking Bad scenes to film.

We began class with a reading of the Coach’s Notes, welcoming the newest coach to the AWS staff, local award-winning actress and coach Yolanda Franklin. We also acknowledged those among us who have booked jobs of late.

Next, we watched the Group Therapy scenes from last week, discussing what we saw. I asked each of you that were featured in the clips to talk about what you were seeing, in as neutral and objective a way as possible, setting aside the tendency to be overly harsh on yourselves. I think we can all agree that everyone had some great moments, and some moments that showed where we need to focus our continued craft work. Again, I don’t expect you all to be winning Oscars for this class work – my goal is for the workshop to be a safe, fun place to experiment, to film, to learn, to try things and see if they work.

My hope was that we would each be able to discuss our work in the Group Therapy scenes, and then use what we saw to help craft a game-plan for the work ahead, on the Breaking Bad scenes we were going to be doing later that night. It’s one thing to discuss theory – it’s another thing to try stuff and see the result. Sometimes the best coaching is what you see yourself, with your own eyes, up on the screen.

Of course, once you perform and it’s captured on film, it’s out of your hands, and into the hands of that unsung hero, the Editor. As editor of these in-class clips, I can say that some of you had shots that were great, but I couldn’t use them for one reason or another: The focus was off, the footage was too shaky, the sound was poor, etc. Those types of issues can’t be avoided, so you shouldn’t worry about them. Your job is to give the editor a good variety of solid takes to choose from, and then let it go…

As much as I enjoy the filming (and I know many of you do as well), I think three weeks in a row was too taxing for some of us. So we’ll take a week or two and revisit technique, exercises and group activity. We’ll review Stanislavsky and Chekhov, and introduce the Group Theater, getting our feet wet in Meisner before before diving into the “This Is Us” scenes I have next for us. Those scenes are super-rich scenes for you to sink your craft teeth into, and I want to make sure you’re all primed, rested and ready. When we film those… look out…

Of the five Breaking Bad scenes I was ready to film on Wednesday, a couple of key “no-shows” meant we had to modify our plans on the fly. We got all the footage for three of the scenes, had to eject out of the fourth, and scrapped the fifth completely. But that’s the nature of the business – learning to come prepared, but also be ready to modify plans on the fly if needed. Shrug your shoulders, take a breath, and roll with it. I was very proud of the way you all handled the evening.

I’ve imported all of the footage and sound into my editing program, and have begun preliminary review of the footage and sound files. I hope to get the edited clips up onto YouTube over the weekend. When they’re done, I will embed them here, at the bottom of this post. Then we’ll lead class next week by reviewing and discussing the footage.

Calling All Writers!

Towards the end of class, we discussed the idea of generating some original content within the class itself. If any of you wish to write scenes – or even short films – that we can cast and film in class, that would be a great way for some of you to try your hand at more aspects of the craft of story-telling via film-making. It won’t be mandatory, of course – those of you that wish to stay focused on the acting craft can certainly keep your focus there. But my thinking is that it can only benefit you, as an actor, to have a better understanding of the entire film-making process, from concept to finished product.

I’ve been trying to get better at sound editing – I talked to a profession sound editor today, and he detailed to me a bit of his process, and it truly made my head swim. To get it right requires near godlike levels of skill and patience. I think soundcraft (for lack of a better word) isn’t appreciated for how important and necessary it is. I know I didn’t really appreciate it until I tried doing it myself…

We also discussed the benefits and perils of being “in your head” while performing (yes, there are benefits), and I ended class by putting out a general request: Tell me one or two of your favorite characters from TV/Film, and we’ll take a look at one each week, as far as what the actor/actress did to prepare/perform the role. And I also asked you to make a short list of scenes from TV/Film that made a strong impact on you, emotionally. We’ll also pick one each week to watch in class and discuss, trying to identify, from an acting craft stand-point, why that scene worked, and impacted you as an audience member. And how can we pull tools and techniques from it to try ourselves in class.

Here’s an example, from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Get a tissue ready…

Look for the finished Breaking Bad clips here soon.

See you all next week!

David Wagner

AWS Staff


Here’s the first one. K. and A.

The second video, with J. and M.

Here’s the final video, with J. and S.