More on Types, and Exercises Dealing with Type

27 04 2015

I do an exercise with my film students, usually on the very first day of class, where I immediately put them on camera and just ask them questions. I am letting the cat out of the bag now, but I love this exercise and the timing of it. Because most students, especially in the collegiate environment I teach in, come to class with no make-up on, simply dressed, not too much adornment. This is good. They kind of “come as they are”. Whereas, if I were to let them know about the exercise, there is a very strong possibility that everyone would show up READY TO ACT, dolled up, looking like they think they “should” look.

So, I get everyone on camera, and just ask them questions. They are “getting to know you” questions. Nothing too personal. Though sometimes I toss something personal in there just for the heck of it. After I get everyone on tape, we watch the interviews as a class. I ask the class to pretend they don’t know the interviewee. I ask the interviewee to passively observe themselves, as if looking at the interview of someone they don’t know.

As they watch the interview, I ask everyone to write down their first impressions of this person and WHO THEY ARE in a very stereotypical way. I tell them NOT to CENSOR themselves. If someone comes across as “a total bitch” – write it down. If someone comes across as “mousy next door gossipy man” – write it down. I also ask them to write down any very specific habitual gestures they notice, like “frowns every time a question is asked” or, “tugs at ear when thinking.” Although this exercise seems very simple at the outset, it yields an incredible amount of information.

TYPES exist for a reason. We all judge a person on face value when we first meet them. This same thing happens when we first meet a character in a film. Writers are usually very clear even to the point of stereotypical sometimes when a character is first introduced. Because film generally goes by faster than a book, we need to be able to IDENTIFY the players in the film quickly so we can understand the story. When you walk into an audition room, or when a casting director views your audition tape – particularly your VERY FIRST audition for a new casting director, or director, or producer, they are making the same evaluations as we do in this exercise. So, it is GOOD information to have. Particularly if you want to go against your projected “type.”

Of course no one is as simple as their TYPE. Particularly a trained actor! I can tell you, the TYPE I typically project is trustworthy, albeit quirky Mom or Best Friend. Someone you feel like you might already know. Someone who you would share your deepest secrets with, and who might make you wet your pants laughing. Interestingly enough, this is very close to who I really am. BUT, I can also play a cold-hearted killer, a complete ditz, a coy lover… but that is not what I PROJECT. At least not at THIS time in my life. 🙂

You can find this information out about yourself in a variety of ways: doing the interview exercise I talked about, though the surprise is somewhat ruined for you and may not be helpful. You can also ask friends what they first thought of you when they met you, as long as you can be prepared to receive their answers graciously. OR, you can simply spend time getting to know yourself, and not trying to ACT. Just being. Where do you live? Who are you, what do you believe? If you have a close relationship with a casting director, or your agent, you can also ask them this question. An outside perspective is always helpful.

So, that takes care of the TYPE knowledge. What about the knowledge about your habitual behaviors or gestures?

More later…

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One response

1 06 2015
mary

Not sure if this comment really pertains but reading this reminded me of when your character met Carol for the first time on TWD and how Olivia (and everyone) seems to judge her. You are completely right about our first impressions of people and I am enjoying your blog. And enjoying you on Twitter and TWD. Also, I am relaxing my forehead as I type this. Thanks and good luck!!

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