ACTING for ANIMATORS
ED'S MONTHLY NEWSLETTER:
SOMEBODY PLEASE GIVE THIS ANIMATOR A JOB!
...because he (she?) is obviously talented, certifiably weird and probably shouldn't be left at home alone.
NEW RESEARCH ON HUMAN BLINKING
The National Academy of Science has released a new study that correlates human blinks with resting the brain. Basically, the researchers are saying the same points we discuss in my masterclasses, just in different words. The take-away is that a brain wants to "rest" whenever it is not working to focus thoughts. The rest-interlude may only be a tiny fraction of a second, but these micro-rests add up to a brain with more stamina. I teach that blinking is largely correlated to thinking and communication transactions between two people. Finish a thought, blink; comprehend the other person's thought, blink. (See In the Blink of an Eye, by Walter Murch.) Those blinks could easily be interpreted neurologically as "rest." Interesting stuff.
ACTING FOR ANIMATORS WORKSHOP SCHEDULE
February 18-22 Animex Intl Festival of Animation & Computer Games, Teesside, England
March 25-29 GDC 2013 San Francisco, California
April 23-26 FMX 2013 Stuttgart, Germany
April 29-30 Filmakademie Animation Institut Ludwigsburg, Germany
50 TWEETS OF DIRECTORIAL WISDOM
Thanks first of all to my good friend Tsvika Oren for pointing out this wonderful list. Thanks also to the folks at the invaluable international independent film resource Raindance.Org for assembling 50 Tweets into a cyber masterclass and then posting the lot on their website. The most thanks, however, must go to director Nigel Cole for sharing his wit and wisdom. I have never had the pleasure of working with Mr. Cole, but I have been on enough movie sets and sat in enough production offices to appreciate that this man knows what he is talking about. It is not the kind of thing you can learn in school or from a book. The extra benefit here is that though his tips are for live-action directors they are easily transposed to any animation studio. It is a treat to pass along the insights of a pro.
Everything I Know About Making a Film
by Nigel Cole
1 The script is everything. You can ruin it, but no amount of great acting, clever camera work or editing will make it better.
2 Watching a film is like being hypnotised into a dream-like state. Everything fake or false in the film shouts Wake Up! at the audience.
3 There are two parts to a film. The ending and everything else. Beginnings are easy. Any scene is a great opening scene. The ending is hard.
4 If you cast the wrong actor there is very little you can do. If you can’t find the right actor, rewrite the part for an actor you love.
5 Every scene needs to move the story along in some way. If it doesn’t you’ll cut it after the first preview.
6 Shooting a film is all about compromise. Knowing where you can’t compromise is what makes you different from other directors.
7 Most actors want to be great. So they try and do great acting. Tell them to stop it.
8 A hundred minutes is a long time to keep audiences interested. The second act really needs to get interesting.
9 The small parts make a big difference. Give them character – there is no such thing as a 'Receptionist' or 'Policeman'. They are people.
10 Don’t get stuck on an approach to a scene. There’s little point in doing 27 takes of the same thing. If it isn’t working, change something.
11 Characters don’t have to be nice to be likeable. Nice is boring. But they do have to be entertaining.
12 Never ask the actors to improvise sex scenes. It’s very embarrassing for them. You need to tell them what to do. Move by move.
13 Try to give an actor just one note at a time. It’s impossible to lose yourself in a scene if you are trying to remember a dozen notes.
14 Never have a character talk to themselves. Always looks fake. Find an action that reveals the character’s thought process.
15 It’s tempting to do lots of angles of the scenes you love and skimp on the duller ones. Wrong. It’s the dodgy scenes that need options.
16 All storytelling is a balance between subtlety and clarity. How do you be clear without being obvious? Solve that and you’re on your way.
17 You can start a story with a chance event or coincidence but by act 2 it all has to be driven by the choices the characters are making.
18 Movement is the forgotten art of film. Move your actors in a way that illuminates the scene rather than placing them to suit the camera.
19 Pace is the hardest thing to judge on set. But in the cutting room it’s almost always too slow. Make sure you do a quicker take.
20 Don’t just shoot the dialogue. Ask yourself what the characters are seeing, show the audience the world through your character’s eyes.
21 Storyboards are useful for action and SFX. Useless for everything else. Watch the scene with an open mind -then decide how to shoot it.
22 Continuity is over rated. It’s only a problem five percent of the time. The trouble is knowing which five percent.
23 Get out from behind the monitor on set. It’s an easy place to hide but go and watch the scene with your own eyes. The actors will love it.
24 Rushes are hard to watch – a time consuming, demoralising, insomnia producing, backwards looking nightmare. But you’ve got to do it.
25 Be specific. Don’t be vague. Make your mind up, say something, make choices. Decide specifically what you are saying at each moment.
26 Rehearsals before the shoot starts are a chance to get all the talking done. There’s so little time on set.
27 No one ever noticed the shoes a character is wearing in a film. But the actors and wardrobe people care very much about shoes.
28 On set, shoot the rehearsal. Everyone will complain but it will probably be the best performance and minor technical issues won’t matter.
29 All film is horrible until you put music on it. Most directors watch rushes with music in b.g and slap it all over the cut from day one.
30 Stay away from the snack table (in the USA known as craft services). Directing a film is bad enough for your health as it is.
31 Finished films are never as good as the rushes and never as bad as the first assembly.
32 Never do a joke on top of another joke. One joke at a time.
33 Crossing the line is an easy concept to grasp (google it) but I’ve seen cameramen with thirty years' experience get confused by it.
34 However long the shoot, you’ll wish you had more time. Cut the script before you start. Try not to shoot scenes you didn’t need.
35 Practice telling your story on friends, strangers--everybody. Only when people tell you that you have a great story will you be ready.
36 Some actors get better the more takes they have and some get worse. When planning coverage shoot the ones that get worse first.
37 Just because the crew are laughing doesn’t mean it’s funny.
38 In script meetings most people’s notes are about logic. I don’t believe this character would do that. I don’t believe that would happen.
39 You are going to be with your editor 18 hours a day for several months, crammed together in a small room. Choose someone you like.
40 To get a job a director must persuade the producer that they will do a better job than their previous work suggests they will.
41 Most actors are good at saying the lines as if for the first time. Looking as if you are hearing lines for the first time is harder.
42 Test screenings are vital, watching with an audience tells you what’s wrong with the cut. But ignore focus groups, they will confuse you.
43 You are going to hate the poster. But there’s nothing you can do about it.
44 The best moments happen by accident. Create an atmosphere where they will happen. Here’s an example from Brando. (Keep your eye on the white glove --Ed H.)
45 Story is mystery. Withholding information is more important than giving it. Make the audience ask questions. Create suspense.
46 Ask yourself what the purpose of the scene is. Why haven’t you cut it? Make sure that is what you shoot.
47 Extras get a lot of stick. But they can bring a scene alive for the actors if you motivate them properly.
48 Crews work harder when there is a naked actor on set. Everyone gets busy so they are not caught looking.
49 A prop that looks fake can kill a scene. Suitcases must look heavy, for f***k's sake.
50 Have something to say.
Oh, man, I love this guy!
Until next month...
"Actors—and Animators—are Shamans!"
Copyright © 2012-2016 Ed Hooks