What is the most important piece in creating this puzzle we call a film? Well, one can respond with STORY, while another might say the ACTING, yet someone else could chime in with a unique creative STYLE driven by the DIRECTOR. Truth be told there is not one important piece, there are many. Developing a new world takes a specific eye with an attention to detail, like no other. Think of the world’s greatest detective pulling together all the clues, the physical evidence, the witnesses, the possible suspects and their possible motives. It is crucial not to overlook one single piece, since many of them are so important. The way to secure a strong detail orientated world is to constantly be asking questions and searching for answers. Much like the ever charismatic Columbo would say, “Just One More Thing…”
Today our focus will be specific to building the Character within the Actor. Think for a moment about the feeling you get when you get to witness a great performance delivered by an Actor. Gary Oldman as Drexl in True Romance, Al Pacino as Lt. Slade in Sent of A Woman, Sean Penn as Sam Dawson in I Am Sam, Don Cheadle as Paul Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda and Benicio Del Toro as Aleandro in Sacario, the list goes on and on moment by moment, movement by movement. Some actors do it so effortlessly it seems to be unnoticed, but it’s there. The strength is making the performance so authentic, so true that we don’t second guess it, we accept it. Much like we accept the strange haired man wearing two shirts too tight, just to complement his jean shorts and to match his body odor as he decides to open his bag of Cheetos and begins crunching away because he felt that two people in line was too many. Nothing seems off, except that he is a strange man doing strange things. An actor must work in a similar fashion, they must disguise themselves within the character.
So, how is this character created? A great character is developed through collaboration. A strong chemistry with actor and director must be established to create a certain level of trust. A director needs to convey the rhythm in which he sees the character moving and the actor must do the same. It is important to know this character from the way he/she walks, how they carry themselves, how they talk to how they dress and how they would commonly react. An actor must have a craving, a deep dark desire to uncover what is truly hidden. Some directors allow actors a great range of freedom to develop their own style, while other directors take a more hands on approach working with the actor to create something both can agree on.
“Allowing the actor ultimate freedom to create their own character is a must. After all, they are the actor.” – Jason Morris
Personalities are a constant obstacle. This is not a competition to see who gets the 1st Place Trophy in identifying character, but rather a bond created through collaboration. It’s like discovering new pathways together on an uncharted mountain. This way when you revisit the creation of the character, if either director or actor wish to try something new the other one will know the place they are coming from.
“Explore the character and try things together. Have a definitive mutual understanding of the character before a frame is captured.” – Douglas Wicker
This process has many approaches such as having the actor write up his own back story, giving exercises to the actors to pull character out through a series of reactions. Some actors bring their own style to the table, such as a Stanslavski, Meisner, Chekhov or Adler. Many of these approaches require their own unique methods and these styles should not be implemented unless the actor has been given training or knowledge on the approach. One of your best friends will come down to one word… “Rehearsals”. That word is plural for a reason. Just like anything practice can allow us to see a range of capability. But you also must be careful not to squeeze too hard or you might run out of juice before production begins. The idea is to get the actor warmed up and feeling comfortable. It goes without saying that the director must have a clear understanding to a certain level on who this character truly is at the heart of it all, but what needs to be emphasized is the clear communication between director and actor about where this character is coming from.
“Make it clear to them what you had in mind when you wrote or read the character, and I have found that the actor will do the rest.” – Garrett Collins
When harnessed properly it’s magnetic, it’s electrifying, and it’s spellbinding. To watch an artist portray such a captivating performance that allows us, the audience, to slip into a hypnotic trance and walk into a new world to encompass us even further than we could have possibly imagined is quite an experience. It is our responsibility to engross the audience’s attention… Their FULL ATTENTION.
“I don’t always know what I want, but I do know what I don’t want.” – Stanley Kubrick