Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Sometimes you need to split a line in two

Today’s Words of Wisdom are slightly technical. They are Sometimes you need to split a line in two. Let’s start with speech. Underlying speech are feelings and thoughts we wish to communicate. Feelings, other than those of shock and surprise, grow and subside relatively slowly, which is why you need to give an audience time so that the emotions you are transmitting to them have room to grow and resonate. But our thoughts flicker along rapidly in our brains and we can think of several things each second. Each thought we communicate is reflected by a phrase in our speech: one thought, one phrase. To give an example: ‘Happy’ is a word, ‘Happy Birthday to you’ is a phrase – one thought, ‘Happy Birthday to you and your twin brother in America’ is a sentence but it’s actually two separate thoughts – ‘Happy Birthday to you … and your twin brother in America.’ Just think the two thoughts separately and you will find you put in a fraction of a beat between the two parts of the line. Try something else: try ‘Happy Birthday David and Jonathan’ as one thought – that is wishing the twins a happy birthday – and then as two thoughts – happy birthday to David and also to Jonathan. Did you feel the difference?

Sometimes in a script you’ll get a line that’s very difficult to get out. Often the reason is because the line contains more than one thought and needs to be split in order for the meaning to come across clearly. Sometimes you need to split a line in two.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Create an emotion - then hide it

Today’s Words of Wisdom are: Create an emotion – then hide it. This paradoxical point is very much for screen acting. You see, most of us, most of the time, hide our emotions, particularly the negative ones. However we’re feeling inside, we try to retain our self control. How often do we hear people say ‘Yes, I’m fine’ when we know they are far from fine? So we hide our emotions, but we’re also very good at reading the emotions that people are hiding. So, the thing to do is to create a very strong inner feeling of the emotion that you want to convey – and then hide it. The all-seeing eye of the close-up camera will spot what is happening and it will appear realistic because you are hiding a negative emotion, just as people do in real life. You are avoiding the danger of over expressing the emotion in an unrealistic way. Going ‘over the top’ happens when insufficient motivation meets excessive performance: it is to be avoided at all costs. What counts in a performance is the degree of the emotion, not how intensely it’s expressed.

On the stage it’s rather different. There, except in the most intimate of theatres, you have to project and apply a magnifying glass to what you do.