Crazy Diamond Remix | Mindwaves of the Xiren Persuasion

Posts Tagged ‘Acting’

Face to Face; a Love Letter to The Art of Acting.

In As Artist, life, Love on October 10, 2015 at 7:49 pm

as artist

I called “cut”. The room was quite tense. The camera started rolling at 10AM, by now it’s almost 2PM, and we’ve got nothing. Day 2 of filming, same subject, same setting, same format, the only difference is text. It shouldn’t be this hard.

Not that we don’t have anything – we have just short of 5 dozen clips of the same text – about the subject himself. A biographical text, so to speak, derived from a series of questions by me, co-written by three creatives, then distilled into its most essential form. Nothing is exaggerated, nothing is untrue. It was confounding to me, how a handful of quite remarkable facts and accomplishments chained together in a lyrical flow, were rendered unusable because the speaker had, time and time again, ran over the words like they were the petty, wilting items in the grocery aisle, on “end of day sale”. I’m not working with wilted salad.

“Do you have another appointment after this?” [read: you seem rushed, and rushing gets you nowhere]
“Are there others whom you should attend to first, so you can be fully here?” [read: you’re not present]
“Take a moment, walk around, grab something to eat…” [read: leave this space for a minute]

I’m running low in the barrel of positive reinforcements… yesterday was fine. Alone on set, I re-checked the frame, the lights, the technical design of it all, and the aesthetics were quite pleasing – the cosmetics, the composition. Beautifully lit, too, but what good is beautiful, if it’s untrue? The camera doesn’t lie. Still images can be very deceiving, but moving picture? “Film is truth, 24x a second.”

That very quote from M. JL Godard changed my life. From actor to director, I suppose I’ve “come of age”, but nothing comes for free.

For an actor, our work is mostly intangible, but if the process involves any degree of blood, sweat, and tears, what we then deliver, you will feel it through the marrow of your bones – and that feeling, is undeniable, is stronger than anything you’ve ever felt, is the closest to truth you’ll ever get. That’s the breath of life, in this often lifeless world we operate in. Close your eyes, inhale; feel. 

I was filming a musician. As a musician myself, I equate what we do with love and truth as well, but there are differences. If there isn’t love, there isn’t passion, then the work is void of depth or artistry; there needs to be fire.

There isn’t a correct way to compare music to acting, but of one thing I’m certain – that acting forces you to confront yourself, and all that’s deep within you, in a way that music allows you to sink into, and quite possibly, drown. Music is like mother ocean, it offers an escape; acting, well, you’re on fire and you’re running on a one-way street straight to hell, repeatedly. Because, Meisner.

The art of it is so. The business is a whole other beast. Hence, the actor’s dogged training in the art itself, its techniques, camera techniques… years and years of training that makes acting itself, its proper profession. Years and years of character sculpting and forced emotional-palette widening that neither music theory nor ear-training quite get to.

30 minutes on the clock, my talent has returned, with coffee, thank god. One rehearsal, we almost had it, the cameras roll, and we’re shut out, again.

I turned the camera off, and what proceeded to unfold, was in essence, therapy. Unbeknownst to me, I had stepped into the shoes of all the great acting coaches I’ve had. I was channeling them all, even the ones I’ve only read about. Of the many things I said, the most matter-of-fact had been that, the hardest lesson in acting, is learning to let go and unlearning all that adulthood and society have conditioned and socialized us with. Reversing that takes more than two days; for some, even two decades will only scratch the tip of the iceberg.

So, it was a moment of epiphany, of revelation, of miracle, and even that is an understatement, when a dragon of more than four decades had been slain. The dagger was not from me, but the blood burns in my hands. If this is what I’m devoting the rest of my life to… I’m okay with that. These moments, I can live and die for them, even though the cost is unimaginably cruel. Can you be so in love with your art? I don’t know. I just know I am, and the evidence before me, confirms it.

It’s been almost a week since its death, and I remain affected, as if it had just happened. Another country, another set, another wrap, I still remember it all, all too clearly. It was a moment of raw beauty, where no words could accord with justice, but ending the blog here seems without manners.

The tears we are reduced to, along the path of artistic training, are worth more than the petty emotions of a baby. They aren’t signs that we need to grow up, but rather, anthems of having grown up, the lament of all that’s sacrificed, and the realization of all that’s lost… A classmate once reported to the Chair of the Acting Department of the conservatory where I trained, that “we all had breakdowns”, to which I quickly added, “no, breakthroughs” – because there is a difference.

Among the 74 clips I have trimmed down to work with, one of them, I know, marks the transition between being in the dragon’s shadow, and being free, truly, free. In between the takes, there was that private space, that sacred space, that elusive truth which we trade our vulnerabilities for, and forever seek to reach… be it actor, musician, or any other creative through any other medium.

As artists, we need that truth like it’s the air we breathe. We need it to live, to create, to imagine fantasies that feed the rest of the world. Because when all the glamour and lights fade away, all we have, to taste, to save us, is the air we breathe.




Whiskey, Cigarettes, & Cologne

In life on March 6, 2012 at 9:03 pm

Is being an actor in New York hard? You never seem to be wearing many clothes in your FB pictures. Hope all is well in NY. I have no doubts you are doing very well.

How do you respond to a message like this, really? Even when I ignore the sarcasm from the opening question, the heavy judgment in the statement that follows renders the genuine, caring bits in the end, contrived and meaningless at best. I confirm the fourth and last statement to be true, thank you for your faith in my nakedness.

The answer is yes.

Yes, acting is hard. You have no idea how difficult it is to be completely open, honest, and truthful, 24 times a second, on set, on camera, and off-screen rehearsing. The way we train and stretch our emotional dials to the extremes will terrify you, because we make big choices that terrify ourselves. The difference between an acting school and an asylum is that as actors, we’re actually sane and controlled. But to an untrained eye, we’re all just the same. Naked, vulnerable, crazy, and fully exposed to judgement, warranted or unwarranted.

Acting is hard, because unlike most people, as actors, we can’t settle – it’s all or nothing, go big or go home. We don’t fake it – we won’t fake it. Every fiber of our body, every cell, is filled with intention, truth, impulse, and a genuine interest in getting the others to “tick”. So acting is tiring, but it is the one thing that makes me feel most alive. Acting is about constant growth and a state of becoming – it comes with the territory, and it is one of the most difficult journeys of discovery and exploration.

Music is what runs through my veins, but acting is what gives me pulse, so I don’t remember life before I became an actress, before I tumbled down this rabbit hole that I call my paradise. But I remember the smells like I remember the sounds. I used to shower only with products that smelled of chocolate, coconut, vanilla, or mint. I used cinnamon buttercream frosting lotion, and I had an intoxicating collection of perfumes, some of which still sit on my dresser, somewhere between the masks, feathers, black lace, leather cuffs, silk bows, and white pearls…

A glimpse of my past and you wonder why I’m naked where I am today. I don’t.

These days, every time I close my eyes, I relish in the scents of whiskey, cigarettes, and cologne. And I don’t really want to wake up.

So go ahead and judge me. I dare you. I’m as real, and as full, as you’ll ever be. Or never be. Recklessly wasted on life’s succulence…you should taste it.


To be Vulnerable

In NYFA journals on January 6, 2011 at 2:31 am

Natalie Portman’s vulnerable side in Black Swan

If there is one feeling that leaves me more naked than being nude, that is the feeling of vulnerability. It’s just about the polar opposite of what I live to be, against all that I stand for. If questioned, I would lower my pitch, and deny any trace of its existence in my life, but on a bad day, I don’t make a habit of looking into mirrors, because I know I’ll see it there, staring back at me.

I used to believe that being vulnerable marked the beginning of a downward spiral that would eventually victimize me, so I used to run away from it, as fast as I could; maybe that’s why my dreams were always heavily dominated by the chase theme. However, the twenty-something me now has gotten a bit more grown since the teenage child, as I’ve learned to view vulnerability differently. I don’t run away from things now; I’m turning around and demanding to know why you’re after me.

Time is not the only factor responsible for casting the different light upon this intangible matter, it’s my training at NYFA. It is more unfair than unfortunate that the eternal blanket statement which actors fight against is their status as “professional liars”. This is because most people don’t understand just how personal their work really is. Take it from Natalie Portman, who said in a recent interview while shooting Black Swan, “As an artist, it is scary… Your work is very, very personal, and you’re putting it out there for people to see and to judge. It’s a scary thing to do.” Here, she openly admits to how vulnerable her roles make her feel, and I applaud/admire her for that. Similarly, Ryan Gosling is also praised for being fearless against being vulnerable, “Gosling is the rare Hollywood actor who isn’t afraid to play vulnerable men” (Cineplex Magazine, January 2011, p.37). You see, vulnerability is sort of a secret ingredient in acting.

{Originally written on July 22, 2010}

On Vulnerability
This is another area that echoed the material from another class – song interpretation, to be exact. We were instructed to make up the details/story for each song, and were encouraged to not be afraid to show our vulnerable side. “In fact, most actors get casted for their vulnerabilities”… our instructor told us.

It is on that note that I wonder… can vulnerability be trained? If so, is trained vulnerability almost a pretence? Or is it more vulnerable than the original vulnerability? Either way, I feel that good acting requires the letting go of insecurities, and the breaking down of walls. Perhaps insecurities will still be there, but not hiding them is already a step forward. As another acting instructor said, acting is the ability to be private in public. In my view, it takes a lot of honesty with oneself to do that.

It always comes back to honesty and truth
I suppose honesty and truth would be the two core pillars of good acting. This is because as audiences, we feel connected to what’s going on when we can relate to something that they are doing. Even though the situation is make-believe, or contrived, the acting is not.

Fast forward to now: After all this mental tug-o-war, I’m ready for bed. Perhaps next time when a bad day comes, I’ll deliberately spend some time in front of a mirror. I’m going to find that vulnerability, I’m going to study and recognize that face, and I’m going to capitalize on it…


Lost & Found in NYC

In NYFA journals on December 28, 2010 at 5:25 am



From Quotable Cards, Barnes & Noble, NY, NY.

New York’s been on my mind a lot lately, mainly because it was where I last felt (extremely) inspired. I learned so much while studying at the New York Film Academy (summer 2010), so over the next few posts, I will share some journals that were originally written for my acting technique class, taught by the wonderful Rebecca Tourino.

{ Originally written on July 20, 2010 }

Context: we each had to attempt a task that was impossible for us to do, prior to the live-attempt in class, within a given timeframe. I picked the splits. If I practiced like I tried, I’d get it back.

Journal: The second session of the class unfolded with each person’s “impossible task” performance. Even though I often tell myself, “do what’s possible, try what’s not”, I’ve never come across such an exercise before, and I’m really glad that I did. Investing belief in success is one point to keep in mind, but also having a clear goal is in and of itself a fundamental part of establishing a strong sense of self. Goals are often hindered by obstacles, but they can also be affected by distractions.

When I first arrived in New York, I was immediately overwhelmed – not because it was my first time here – it’s not, but because during those initial few days, I had a lot of time and space to myself, and not a lot going on to keep myself occupied. My goal of
being in New York this summer is to train at the NYFA, but prior to classes starting, I often found myself in a state of wander.

At the time, there was the heat wave, and without AC in my apartment, I spent a lot of time outside, in and out of air-conditioned stores, while walking lots around the city just to explore and become acquainted with the cultural richness there is. I felt a bit lost at the time, and I didn’t know why. All of a sudden, in the middle of the seminar, I came to realize that I fell victim to all the distractions in this city that never sleeps… I felt lost because I was distracted by everything else that was going on around me. However, what’s worth noting is that distractions are only recognized as such when one is clear about one’s purpose and focus. I feel that I am now… and because of this new found certainty, I am able to not be distracted.

Fast-forward to now: Words don’t do it justice, but the roller-coaster experience of being lost-and-then-found in what could be a daunting city, inspired quite the epiphany. It pushed me to dream, to dare, to risk. Alas, qui ne risque rien, n’a rien. Like the quote on the card, life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself; yet, finding yourself seems to be a pre-text. A bit of a catch-22; #DefinitelyJeNeSaisQuoi.