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Pretend To Be Someone Who...

Who knows something about acting?

It's part of a mental exercise I'm doing: "Pretend To Be Someone Who [fill in the blank]". This week's selection: "Is A Good Actor."

I've done some performing, mostly musical, but acting--real acting, the art and craft of it--is an unknown. More or less completely opaque.

So, have you ever done it? Do you understand it? What's the most important thing about it? How would you define it for someone who has no concept of it? Any good books, articles, videos on the subject that you'd recommend?

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( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
executrix
Aug. 13th, 2008 06:50 pm (UTC)
Y'know, I never rated The Method very highly until I read Robert Lewis' books (amazon lists Advice to the Players and Method or Madness?) about acting. Not incidentally at all for us as writers, what he talks about is how to inhabit a character fully by placing the character in a richly detailed real world. And not at all incidentally for thinking about Right Living, his point is also that everything matters, that the actor has to think about it and value everything and not throw anything away.

BTW, I have done a little bit of acting, but discovered that (quite apart from not being very talented) I liked rehearsing a lot more than performing.
emeraldsedai
Aug. 13th, 2008 07:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the book recommendations and for tying this mysterious thing to something I do understand. How one moves that understanding out through the whole body--gesture, movement, expression, voice--instead of just out through the fingertips to the keyboard is the huge missing link.

This exercise is strangely exciting--or perhaps I should say "excitatory"--to my brain. I can practically feel the neurons sparking and lighting up new neural pathways.

I think I'll run up to Powell's for lunch and buy their last remaining six-dollar used copy of Advice to the Player. Whee!
executrix
Aug. 13th, 2008 07:34 pm (UTC)
I've only been to the main Powell's once (and the Beaverton branch once)--zomg, being able to go there during lunch hour for me would be like Cordelia Flyte being able to go to the Vatican.

My fic-writing process has always been film-based: I really do make the little people in my head go through their scenes over and over again until it's right, and I do things like zooming in and cutting from one location to another. I also try to give all the characters the equivalent of quality screen time, although I'm pretty much in the failboat on that.
emeraldsedai
Aug. 13th, 2008 09:16 pm (UTC)
I don't know if I'm capable of writing stories in a completely non-filmic way; I wonder if anyone is who has absorbed as much filmed storytelling as the average modern person has.

I don't sit in a director's chair when I write--not to the conscious degree that you seem to--but I do think about how my characters are lit and blocked, and how they speak, move, and gesture.

Still, it's fundamentally and always about the words for me. And I think that's what these PTBSW exercises are for: to imagine a different set of fundamentals.

I just got back from Powell's. It was a zoo in there, but I got Advice to the Players, and I'm very pleased. It's one of Portland's best places, and is only about 15 blocks from my workplace.
executrix
Aug. 13th, 2008 11:41 pm (UTC)
Good point about the film influence. (And, of course, for many fandoms our canon is a TV show or movie rather than a book or comic.)

As for the Beaverton Powell's, I was there on a business trip. I had some time to kill, and had the hotel shuttle drop me off at the mall. I could see the Powell's sign directly across from me...with nothing in between but a drop of about 20 feet and a seven-lane highway.

Anyway, I hiked along the highway for about half a mile where there was a crossing, completely ruining my shoes in the process, then hiked back to Powell's and had the hotel shuttle pick me up there.
emeraldsedai
Aug. 14th, 2008 04:29 am (UTC)
Well, I'm glad you've been to the main one once--nothing suburban can quite compare to the organic, piecemeal quality of the mothership.

I don't believe I've ever seen a seven-lane highway. :)
emeraldsedai
Aug. 18th, 2008 07:47 pm (UTC)
I wanted to come back around to this comment and let you know how much I'm enjoying Lewis's Advice to the Players. Not only has it shed a great deal of light on the craft of acting for me, but it's a hoot to read. You can hear the guy's voice, see the studio, fully imagine what his classes must have been like.

Extremely enjoyable reading. Thank you again for the recommendation.
executrix
Aug. 18th, 2008 07:51 pm (UTC)
Awright! Glad you like it!

You see what I mean about making writing real by giving value to surroundings. I think a lot of boring stories occur because, so to speak, the writer doesn't take the time to think through how much the cup weighs or how hot the tea is.
emeraldsedai
Aug. 18th, 2008 09:16 pm (UTC)
Yes! I get it absolutely now, and specifically because of what I'm reading in Lewis's book. I've always known that a multi-sensory description will bring the reader right into the heart of the moment, but I don't think I was conscious before of the interaction of the actors with their props, their costumes, the set, and their fellow actors. I might have touched on it, but never with conscious intent.

And in the realm of kinaesthetic sensory information, I'm pretty sure I've always preferenced texture over weight and temperature. MUCH food for thought there. Great stuff!
executrix
Aug. 18th, 2008 09:36 pm (UTC)
Velveteen Fanfics
To switch metaphors, I think that one reason there are some very enjoyable fanfics (even if the writer doesn't have a lot of formal education or standard literary technique) is that the writer really believes in the story and has visualized it in detail. (And that's one reason why fans can read a number of superficially very similar stories and continue to enjoy them--of course, other things are at play too.)

Whereas if the writer essentially doesn't really believe in the story, it can be all blahblah blow stuff up blahblah jail cell blahblah alien sex pollen blahblah buttsecks blah blah soulbond.
emeraldsedai
Aug. 18th, 2008 10:16 pm (UTC)
Re: Velveteen Fanfics
Ha!

You are so right--it's one of the mysteries of fanfic unraveled, right there. As some prolific author in some popular fandom said, "Where would we be if we didn't re-use the good plots? Come to that, where would the show be?"

It's not that plot doesn't matter. It's not as if originality doesn't matter. They do, but a good plot is a good plot--ask any Shakespeare--and originality lies in the details. Nihil novum sub sole and all that, but show it to me vividly, and I will experience it as new.

You are such a genius.
executrix
Aug. 18th, 2008 10:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Velveteen Fanfics
Gosh! Thanks--but I'm a demon for quoting and must here mention the shoulders of the giants I'm standing on.
emeraldsedai
Aug. 18th, 2008 11:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Velveteen Fanfics
Well, they're taller giants than mine, is all I'm sayin'.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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