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Posts Tagged ‘emotional truth’

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.

Exhale.

{x}

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.

{X}

Give me rain, I’ll show you dance.

In life, Love, XX & XY on December 18, 2011 at 1:57 am

Rain On Me

It’s been 8 months since I’ve written for myself; the kind of writing that is indulging. I admit, I’ve been bottling up, and now? Now I’ve ran out of bottles…

8 months have passed, and perhaps the biggest change is that I’ve learned to genuinely feel again. Silly, because I’ve always felt, certainly, I’ve felt deeply since my very first memory, and I have an impeccable memory. I remember everything, even the moments I’d rather have not lived; it’s a blessing and a curse.

Through with the generalities, the problem – my problem(s) – with being so acutely and intensely sensitive, is that it’s actually tormenting to live, and exponentially worse to love. You see, I have a tendency to fall for the wrong people, and when I do, I give and love so intensely that I get blinded, derailed, and there’s no one there to catch me. Did I mention I fall for the wrong men? Legitimacy is so overrated.

I gave myself into love and into madness. Yet I never gave myself a chance to be loved. The moment someone confesses serious feelings for me is the moment I fly away, you can almost count on that. I’m a free spirit that will not be caged. If you want to keep me, don’t date me. That’s what I always say I’ve always said.

But that’s changed…

I’m in love. It’s scary for me to say this, because I’m going out of my comfort zone – and as a performing artist and trained actress, that’s a pretty big zone – if I could figuratively pinpoint a place where I feel I’m at, I would say Siberia… Yeah… I’m that far out of my world. But don’t judge just yet, because I have a vague idea of how ridiculous this equation is… chasing dreams in NYC + in love = Siberia. Under the circumstances, I can forgive you for not believing me, but really, I’ve always excelled at math…

Maybe Siberia has rainbows and butterflies, too, you know. But I’m really not trying to make it sound like Venice or Vienna or any other romantic, exotic, happening place. I say Siberia because, well, I hate to repeat myself, but I fall for the wrong men. Okay, so things haven’t changed completely…but enough.

Enough to make me feel, for the first time in my life, intoxicated in love. Only weeks ago, did I experience one of the deepest pains of loss. In darkness and isolation, I was mourning, yet when he spoke, his presence was like a ray of sunshine that penetrated right through me… he was like air, lifting me out of darkness, and making me breathe again.  I felt my world was a 2D black and white image compared to the kaleidoscope of colours that I see through him. I felt so much I’ve never felt before, and I wanted to feel more… I suddenly realized that when I gave myself into love before, I gave up what I deserved.

And perhaps by being in love this time, I’m doing it again, and perhaps I wouldn’t even come out whole, but even then, even with all the pain and hurt that is inevitable, I am surrendering myself, with reckless abandonment. Because it’s worth the trip; it’s the only trip that ever really matters.

So rain down on me, pour it all out on me. Some people stay idle to wait for the storm to pass, but I dance with every raindrop that falls. I’ll even throw away my umbrella, so that I could be completely free to embrace all that there is, so that I could catch it all. I won’t run towards shelter, or hide under a bridge… I will dance with the rain, to the rhythm of the storm, let passion decide each turn and the wind choreograph each twirl. I will captivate love, the way you’ve had it captivate me, and I will be ever-electrifying.

{X}

To be Vulnerable

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

BlackSwan
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…

{X}

Starting from Emotional Truth

In Acting & Politics, NYFA journals on December 28, 2010 at 5:59 am
soft-power-the-means-to-success-in-world-politics

Recommended Reading

 

This is a concept that is hard to fathom. Some (i.e. charismatic extraordinaires and liars alike) are naturals; others (actors, etc.) invest in training.

{ Originally written on July 20, 2010 }

Good acting begins with emotional truth.

I understand this as being able to convey and deliver a truthful experience. Skills required, as mentioned in class, are those of concentration, communication, and connection with others. While this may be the key elements that make a good actor, I feel that once these skills are mastered, it would make anyone a master of persuasion.

International relations theorist Joseph Nye had coined the term “soft power”, which has been greatly appropriated in the international politics arena to describe countries such as China, India, etc. Debates about what constitutes as soft power and what it is capable of achieving have become the latest hot topics in the field. Essentially, it is the ability to get others to want what they want; it is influence at its greatest. I think a good actor encompasses a great amount of soft power, and I believe that the training they put themselves through in order to acquire this influence would be of great interest to all those interested in soft power.

Fast-forward to now: Well, it seems that I really do believe in what I say. Having always aspired to a career in international diplomacy, in 2011, I shall be NYC bound for some full-time training in Acting for Film, at the New York Film Academy. Before that even, in less than a month, I’ll be meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger in Toronto when he comes to talk about Canada-US relations!!!

I may just be too overwhelmed to Tweet live.

{X}