“Acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances”
I recently embarked on a 7 week long acting journey under the guidance of multiple award-winning TV, film and theatre actress, Brumilda Van Resnburg. Throughout the course we were exposed to heavy-weights within the industry including Heidi Mollentze (best known for her role as Helen Patterson -aka Sally Smith- on the SABC1 soapie Generations); Schalk Schoombie (renowned Afrikaans actor and scriptwriter), as well practitioners form the Matchbox Theater who presented a session on physical theater. Whether you are interested in starring in a series, or simply being featured on a TV Advert and nailing that audition, these tips are worth a read.
No matter how seemingly superficial the character, you should always establish some depth to the situation in which you find yourself. An actor/actress needs to be believable even in unbelievable circumstances. Adding colour to a bland or basic character can be done by answering the following questions:
- who (who am I)
- what (what am I doing here)
- where (what location am I at, what country, what city, what province, what room of the house am I in/ am I sitting on a bed, am I slouching against the kitchen table)
- when (what year is it, what season is it winter or summer, what time of day is it early morning or late afternoon)
By incorporating Stanislavski’s principles, this can further be expanded to include questions such as:
- What do I want? (what is my motivation during this conversation? What do I want out of this person?)
- Why do I want this? (what is my overall purpose? What am I going to do once I have gotten what I want out of the situation? What happens if I do not get it?)
- A key tip is to take your time to purposefully “think.” The camera records your thoughts. Acting is 50% action and 50% reaction. Reaction is only truly authentic if you are really listening – not just waiting for the other actor to finish speaking so that you can say your lines. This just becomes a monologue with you pausing in-between. Be utterly focused on the person you are responding to. Focus in acting relates to “heightened awareness. To become fixated on one aspect of work.”
- Beware of “mugging” where you use your face too much to display and use (and abuse) every emotion.
- Be willing to be vulnerable. Emotional recall has meant that there is no job where you are as exposed, as in acting . Although you are “donning a mask” and becoming a “different character,” your reactions to the staged story line scenarios, are based off of your reactions to similar real-life scenarios.
- Know your lines. Not just in being word-perfect, but in knowing what they really mean, and the intentions behind your character saying them. In this way you will really mean them when you say them.
- In an industry where there is not much distinction between being a voice-over artist, a presenter, a model or an actress, it is up to you to choose which role you embody for the appropriate audition. If you are auditioning for an Afrikaans drama series, muted colours and natural makeup is suitable. However if you are auditioning for a TV Advert where your performance is largely based on looks e.g. no lines, then bolder colours and heavier makeup (especially in Johannesburg where casting directors prefer a more “made-up look”) will work best.
- Your Entertainment CV is your ticket in the door. Take time to be thorough and professional. Ensure your social media presence also reflects some of your work. (The last 5 castings and auditions I have gone to the casting directors have asked us to write down our social media handles and how many followers we have). Be aware that this is part and parcel of the industry and that investigating in a digital presence as an artist can only help your career.
It is clear that with talented individuals such as Brumilda training the next generation of entertainment professionals, the South African industry will continue to grow from strength to strength.
bye for now