Danny Winn-An Acting Master Class A-Z, Express Yourself
- Written by Danny Winn
Impressions from Expressions are a very impactful tool in any person’s arsenal. Especially in the toolbox of the actor. With the many techniques of acting from Classical acting to the Method style of Stanislavski which led to Lee Strasberg, and wife Stella Adler’s take on the same. To Meisner and Chekhov. No not the guy from Star Trek…lol As well as Practical Aesthetics they all have one outcome in common. That is to get to that moment of expression.
What is expression, seems simple does it not? Some definitions of expression as it pertains to acting are (the process of making known one’s thoughts and feelings), (the conveying of feeling in the face or voice, in a work of art, or in a performance or a place or music), (a look on someone’s face that conveys a particular emotion), (a word or phrase, especially and idiomatic one, used to convey an idea). I think you get the picture, right? With all those aforementioned acting techniques the base outcome is to get you to do the aforementioned definitions. We could afore all day, and discuss style, and techniques until we are blue in the face. Frankly, I just want to get you there regardless of techniques and who’s who. Now I am sure that many acting instructors reading this may disagree with what I am about to say, but it is what it is. My feelings are that an actor should act in their own techniques that come naturally to them. Then they can evaluate which style of acting they fall under so that they may tell all their peers what their technique is. #winkwink. To teach an actor a method style when they are perfectly comfortable and suited with something closer to Classical or Practical is ridiculous. I feel that this causes a great deal of mixed emotions in an aspiring actor which may lead to failure in expressing the characters expressions with over evaluation of the characters evolution.….haha Gotta love those E’s! What to do?
What I am ready to tell you is explosive and top secret. Only few may know this and maybe fewer will follow my direction. This course will self-destruct after reading, along with the actor’s patience. #deviousgrin In all seriousness though, always remember that this is what works for me and I feel can work for you. Or at least variations of, but there are no guarantees in life. Take this tool and make it your own. I teach my in-person classes a practice titled “SET”. As an actor you work on a set. The (S) is for story as in the telling of the story. How does an actor tell the story? With the (E), eyes and expression. This brings us to, last but not least, the (T). Tone and or tone inflection. You tell the story with your eyes, expression and tone. Yes, movement as well, which is what the Laban technique relies so much on, but that is for another day. If you follow this practice in every audition and role you will see much benefit towards your character advancement. Especially while auditioning. I learned that using this in your audition will certainly boost your booking ratio.
What is a booking ratio you ask? For those who may not know, a booking ratio is figured mathematically from how many roles you have booked in ratio to how many auditions you have performed. For instance, 10 auditions with one booking, that would be a 1:10 ratio. Now you are saying, Holly Cow, I have performed countless auditions without one booking. I’m outa here!! Here is a bit of info for you that may cheer you up. It is not uncommon for the booking ratio of an actor to be 1 out of 100. The more common average is thought to be 1 out of 40. This all will depend highly on many variables such as their age group, what character type roles you fit, such as a businessman look, doctor look, and so on. There are more roles out there for those character types so there will be more bookings. This is something you may consider as well while setting up your brand if you have a particular character preference. This will also vary depending on your market. Whether you submit regionally, nationally or internationally. If you submit nationally, there are times you may be submitting up against 500 to thousands of other actors. Whereas regionally in a State-by-State type market you may be competing with 10 to 50 actors for a role. Obviously, your chances of booking in a regional market are better. The hand off is that most regionally cast roles for big Studio productions are bit or U5 parts. Keep in mind that parts are parts and there are no small parts. For this discussion let us simply look at your present ratio. I recall that in my humble beginnings my ratio in the national market would lumber around 1 out of 20. Once I developed the “SET” method, my booking ratio went to 1 out of 10 and even lower. Of course, just like you I will always strive for that 1:1 ratio. #foreverpositive.
“Shall we play a game”? Play a game, keep track, whatever! What is your present ratio, or do you have one yet? If you have auditioned with no bookings, then we start there so if following my advice helps you then you will book. Those who do have a ratio at present, please make a note of it and start a new cycle. The next time you audition go through your sides and figure out where you are with that character. Get a reader or even by yourself and perform a self-tape for your eyes only. Review it and see how your expressions are. Now I would like you to go to the mirror and run the audition again. Practice different eye expressions that may fit the audition. Now I am not asking you to over act by raising eyebrows on very line or going bug eyed. There are times in a scene where people converse, and one may look down or up and so on. Use that expression. For example, here is a great little rule of thumb. If your character is thinking or pondering in your breaking down of the scene then you may want to look up a bit to your right. In real human interaction it is common for a person to do that while they are thinking. Bring that to the character. It is called grounded in reality. If the character is deceitful or lying. Maybe has something to hide. Then you may want to look down to the left. This is a mannerism of one who is not being so truthful. These are true body language tells in people. Bring them to the character. If the character is happy or laughing perhaps a big smile. Then you want to light up the eyes along with it and make it real. Think of that happy moment in your life or like when you got redemption on your ex…lol Let us go to a tense moment in a scene. One may clinch the jaw a bit between lines or a roll of the tongue in cheek for another expression. If your character finds the other questionable then yes perhaps a raise of the eyebrow while speaking. Also, a slight turn to the head of disbelief. These are all the pearl moments that can set you out from the other actors. Now comes the tone. Remember “SET”? Use tone changes and inflections. If you are mad that may not always mean to yell. That is too easy so take your angry tone and work with it. Work something deeper from the throat and diaphragm with a stern commanding tone. This will have a much better affect coming from the back of the throat rather than yelling. It will set you ahead. Trust me, most of the other actors will take the simple route of yelling. After practicing all your new exercise’s, tape yourself again and see the difference. This is all such a simple practice to perform in your spare time. Do not worry, you will not break the mirror. #sparklingsmilewithhappyeyes I would really like you to try this after reading the article while it is fresh in your memory. I want you to succeed. If you do not have any audition sides, you can easily find some on the internet. Try several different emotions and have fun with it. Work with some minimal movement as you feel comfortable. Most of that movement will be in your upper body. You will find that most of your auditions for an experienced production will be just below the chest to the top of the head. Why is that? Because they want to see your expression. They can work with movement during blocking on set after you bag that role.
Back to the previous booking ratio you have documented. Pin that by the mirror with your ratio goal and set forth. Before each audition make certain that you have thought about all these expressions thoroughly. I see so many actors that are great with lines, have a great look, but there is nothing that I can feel from the “SET” expressions. You know the ones I am talking about and it may even be you. The Casting Director and Director need to feel that character. Bring it across the screen. I may even suggest getting a book or reading up on the internet about body language. Study the different types and learn those expressive reactions. Make them a second nature to your audition. If you are expressionless in real life, then get out there and act with expression. After all, you are an actor! Work the “SET “advice, and I guarantee you that it will make a difference. Now set forth and prosper, or is that live long and prosper? Yes, another Star Trek reference. Hehe
Follow my lead and follow your heart. Contact me and tell me about that upwardly mobile booking ratio at the following links. Dare to Dream and make that Dream come true!!