Monday, 30 June 2008

Watch people

Let’s start with the Words of Wisdom. We do a lot of things on autopilot. It’s the way our busy brains free up capacity for thinking and facing fresh challenges. Tasks we perform a lot become standardised routines: we don’t bother our conscious mind with them and we do them a similar way every time. This is known as habit.
The only thing wrong with this is that the way we do things becomes more and more stereotyped and that is one thing that, as an actor, we want to avoid. In our everyday lives the way we eat, drink, show agreement or disagreement, walk, smile, nod, kiss, hug, frown or hit a forehand drive is a matter of habit that has developed over many years: that’s the way we do things.
But the characters we play may need to have a different way of doing some of these things. We want to depict different people who may do things in a different way. In order to do this we need to expand our behavioural vocabulary, so we watch people and learn from them. Watch people in the street, in a pub, on a beach, on the bus, at Starbucks, in a shop, at a wedding, visiting in hospital, going to church, laughing, crying, working, playing. Watch people.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Heads you win

And the Words of Wisdom this week are: Heads you win. Observe what people do with their heads. For a start there are their eyes, with which they express emotion, show attention and communicate by gaze alone. Then there are their eyebrows, with which they show recognition and surprise and make ‘big eyes’ to assert dominance. Then there are their mouths: the way people’s mouths are set is highly indicative of character and mood and the predominant emotion of people’s lives. Then there are their head movements, which have a whole vocabulary of their own. Observe how people nod or shake their heads, or make slight movements, the whole time they are talking or listening. Notice how they co-ordinate their head movements with their speech and in response to other people. Watch how people can convey quite complex messages, simply by moving their heads in particular ways. When you’re out and about, observe other people, absorb what they do, and you will gradually expand your vocabulary of head movement and enrich your non verbal communication. Heads you win.