ACTING for ANIMATORS
Mayerson On Animation
Mark Mayerson's blog, subtitled "Reflections on the Art and Business of Animation," is consistently informative and insightful, and I recommend it to you. Mark teaches animation at Sheridan College in Toronto, bringing thirty years of cumulative animation experience to his fortunate students. Never self-involved or given to cheap shots, always focused on improving the industry, Mark Mayerson is one of the good guys. Bookmark him!
Acting for Animators Published in Mandarin!
The lovely person in the photograph is Janice He, a crackerjack translator at DeTao Masters Academy in Shanghai, where I am honored to be included among the masters. The book Janice is holding is the first copy of Acting for Animators in Mandarin. Believe me when I tell you it is not easy for a westerner to get a book published in China, and I am very proud of this. If you are comfortable reading Mandarin, I hope you will pick up a copy. Particular thanks go to my esteemed good friend Mr. Wang Lei, Professor of Animation at Communication University of China, who brilliantly and tirelessly translated the book for me. Acting for Animators is available in China's major bookstores, such as the Xinhua Bookstore. It is also available online.
Austin Film Festival
If you want to create "good" (i.e., meaningful, shamanistic, financially successful) stories and scripts, it helps to hang out with others who have the same goal. With that in mind, I suggest you check out the website for the Austin Film Festival, a yearly event in Austin, Texas, that has become at least as important to the movie industry as Sundance Film Festival was when it was fresh and new, ten or twelve years ago. On the AFF site you will find free podcasts, interesting articles and links to other resources. I like this interview with Callie Khouri, screenwriter of the classic film Thelma & Louise. She tells how that was her very first screenplay and that she had not even read any "how-to" books. Very enlightening and inspirational, IMO.
"[...within ten years...] a movie will come out and you will have 17 days, that’s exactly three weekends, which is 95% of the revenue for 98% of movies. On the 18th day, these movies will be available everywhere ubiquitously and you will pay for the size. A movie screen will be $15. A 75” TV will be $4.00. A smartphone will be $1.99. That enterprise that will exist throughout the world, when that happens, and it will happen, it will reinvent the enterprise of movies,” — Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks CEO, speaking April 28, 2014 at Milken Global Conference in Beverly HIlls
Equal and Open Internet Access is being Threatened!
Huge U.S. cable companies like Comcast, Time-Warner and AT&T are trying to set up an airline-like pricing scheme for Internet access. If successful, deep-pockets corporations like Netflix, Google and Amazon will pay for smooth, fast, "First Class" Internet access. The rest of us will be riding in the Internet equivalent of Economy Class. If this is allowed to go forward, it will not be long before our Economy access becomes glitchy, uncomfortable and slow, and our only alternative will be to pay the cable companies more money to upgrade us to a more acceptable "Business Class" or "Economy Plus." Given how important the Internet is to our way of life, I personally shudder at the idea of adopting such a pricing scheme for Internet access. In this deal, the consumer loses and Comcast wins.
To make matters even more troublesome, the cable industry has effective control of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the supposedly "pro-consumer" government oversight entity. The chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, was most recently a lobbyist for the cable trade group—and the current head of the trade group is a former chairman of the FCC.
If you, too, are alarmed, I urge you to express your objection to the FCC, as I have done. Thanks.
Acting for Animators Workshop Schedule
July 3-5, Animation Revelations 2014, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand
July 25, Kelowna, BC, Disney Interactive - Worlds (Club Penquin)
September 26-28, Animex Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur
September 30, Singapore, Nanyang Technological University School of Art, Design, Media
Transient Global Amnesia (TGA): An Unexpected Acting Lesson
The longer you study acting, the simpler it seems to become, and the more frequently you find acting lessons in unexpected places. A couple of days ago, for example, I was reading an article in the New York Times ("The Day of Forgetting," by Daan Heerma Van Voss, May 28, 2014) about an unusual neurological affliction that is defined by sudden and temporary total amnesia. The author of the piece reports waking up in bed one morning and not having any idea where he was. He couldn't remember his own name nor even what city he was in. He describes being understandably panic stricken, hyperventilating, terrified, sweating. For some reason, two names were bouncing around in his head: Sophie and Daniel. His cell phone was on the dresser and he picked it up. There were three Sophies and one Daniel, so he sent a text to Daniel, functioning totally on automatic pilot. "Who are you?" he asked. It turned out that Daniel was his best friend who replied, "?". Long story short, Daniel came over and told Mr. Van Voss who he was. Other friends and relatives subsequently arrived and, by the next day, he had mostly recovered his memory.
What Van Voss experienced has been given a name—Transient Global Amnesia (TGA)—but little is known about it. Doctors do not have a clue what triggers it, only that it is temporary, affects only short-term memory and is likely to occur only once to any one person. Fortunately for us, Daan Heerma Van Voss is, by profession, a writer and was able to describe what he had experienced. His description fits like a glove to certain acting principles that I teach in every Acting for Animators masterclass.
"My relationship to my body was radically different than before. My body parts seemed to belong to someone else or, rather, to something else. The vague sense of identity that I possessed was confined to the knowledge of my name, but even that felt arbitrary—a collection of random letters, crumbling. No words can accurately describe the feeling of losing your memory, your life.
"Underlying the loss of facts is a deeper problem: the loss of logic and causality. A person can function, ask questions, only when he recognizes a fundamental link between circumstances and time, past and present. The links between something happening to you, leading you to do or say something, which leads to someone else responding. No act is without an act leading up to it, no word is without a word that came before.
"Without the sense of causality provided by memory, there is chaos."
I teach that "Scenes begin in the middle, not at the beginning. And they don't end at the end." In other words, no moment in time exists in isolation. Everything a character does is connected to whatever went before or comes after. An animator might be assigned a single sequence that contains an implied beginning and end. Yet the key to strong performance lies in knowing what the character was doing before the sequence started and where he/she is going after it ends.
I teach that "Humans are storytelling animals." You do something and then tell yourself a story about what you did. Then you tell your friend a story about what you did. Your friend hears your story and responds by telling you a story about what she did. "We do not take turns listening to one another. We take turns telling stories." As Daan Heerma Van Voss can testify, stories make no sense at all unless placed in time. This is what I did yesterday; this is what I plan to do tomorrow.
I teach that "Thinking tends to lead to conclusions; emotion tends to lead to action." In Mr Van Voss's situation, thinking led to the conclusion that he did not know where he was; it was the resulting emotion, fear, that caused him to wildly start texting. "Acting is doing."
Conceptual and truthful self-awareness is the best and cheapest acting class. Acting lessons are all around us, all the time, including in random articles in the New York Times. This is why I teach that actors and animators are shamans and that it is okay to stare at other people. "As an artist, you have a license to stare. You are paid to see what others in the tribe cannot or will not see. And then to report back to them."
Shakespeare put it as succinctly as anybody ever has:
"... Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature. For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature..." —Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 2
Mr. Shakespeare would definitely have been fascinated by Daan Heerma Vann Voss and his episode of TGA.
Until next month...
Copyright © 2012-2017 Ed Hooks