ACTING for ANIMATORS
"Chuck Jones Would Have Known
What To Do With This Guy!"
Dude makes a clarinet out of a carrot. On stage. In four minutes. Then he plays it. Super cool.
Now in Particular...
This Land is Mine, a powerful and timely short animation by Nina Paley
Dancing In Jaffa, a documentary about the benefits of teaching Israeli and Palestinian children ballroom dancing. Together. In the same class.
Grave of the Fireflies, written and directed by Isao Takahata and animated by Studio Ghibli. (Somebody uploaded the complete film to YouTube. If you have never seen this before, do yourself a favor before it is taken down.)
"Politicians will tell us that we are different from one another, that some of us are blessed by God and others of us are not, that some of us are good and others of us are evil. Leave them to it! It is the privileged responsibility of the artist to tell us how we are all the same."
— Ed Hooks
Acting for Animators Workshop Schedule
September 21-25, Shanghai for DeTao Masters Academy
September 26-28, Animex Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur
September 30, Singapore, Nanyang Technological University School of Art, Design, Media
"This Just In!"
Ed Hooks interview at FMX 2014 —now online!
Brando for Animators
Marlon Brando was arguably one of the most skilled actors of the 20th century. Brando’s Smile, a new biography written by Susan L. Mizruchi, is essential reading for anybody interested in the evolution of 20th century acting in America. It is, overall, the most comprehensive analysis of Brando's work that I personally have seen. Ms. Mizruchi had access to Brando's 4,000-book personal library, which was discovered in his Mulholland Drive home after his death in 2004. It turns out that Brando was a note-taker, underliner and margin-scribbler, and Mizruchi has used that marginalia, along with the notes and revisions from his many movie and stage scripts, to structure the story of the actor's life and work. It is a clever literary device that allows her to capture the man's intellectual restlessness, civic concerns and approach to acting. When Brando accepted a role, he set about becoming an authority on the imaginary circumstances given in the script. This led him to read deeply in history, philosophy anthropology and psychology.Marlon Brando was an autodidact's autodidact!
For these craft notes, I have pulled a few direct quotes from Brando's Smile, notes I think are particularly useful for animators (though he wouldn't have had animators in mind when he recorded them).
First, though, I should clarify Brando's use of "gesture" when preparing a role. The author continually notes how attuned he was to gesture, how closely he would study people's physical movement. Ms. Mizruchi is an author, a biographer, but she is not expert on precisely how actors — including Brando — bring research together into a playable character in imaginary circumstances. If you did not know better, you might get the impression from this book that Brando kept physical gestures conceptually in his mind during performance. That would be an incorrect assumption. What he did was use gesture to stimulate an internal impulse. Gesture, the way he used it, would be an "outside-in" kind of thing, an external device leading toward the inner impulse. By the time he arrived at actual performance, he definitely was not thinking about which gestures should go with which moment. It had become organic physical expression, quite improvisational in application. Animators spend a lot of time thinking about character gesture, and there is much to be learned by reading this book. Just keep in mind that a gesture, properly used, is not something applied to a character like a coat of paint. It comes from within. The challenge for animators as well as actors is to justify the gestures.
The other point that comes up repeatedly in the book is the way Brando's script revisions favored cuts rather than extra dialogue. Brando advocated saying nothing at all whenever possible. In my classes, I teach that "Acting has almost nothing to do with words," and this book shows that Brando would have concurred with that fully. Animation scripts are too often wordy, chatty even, to the point of distraction. Words are a tool of expression, but they are not the most important one.
And now to a few words from Brando himself:
“… storytelling is a basic part of every human culture – people have always had a need to participate emotionally in stories – and so the actor has probably played an important part in every society. But he should never forget that it is the audience that really does the work … every theatrical event, from those taking place in Stone Age caves to Punch-and-Judy shows and Broadway plays, can produce an emotional participation from the audience, who becomes the actors in the drama.”
“Everyone we know in our lives views us through a slightly different prism … There is no such thing as being able to judge anything objectively. It is a pose that scientists have foisted upon the world.”
“In ordinary life people seldom know exactly what they’re going to say when they open their mouths and start to express a thought. They’re still thinking, and the fact that they are looking for words shows on their faces.”
“We are all voyeurs to one degree or another, including me.”
“Our feelings are directions rather than states.”
"Great actors are like boxers with opponents, sparring with audiences, forcing them to adapt to their rhythms, their moves. As soon as [the audience] can second-guess you, then they’re ahead of you. You got to make ‘em wait and get them on your time.”
“What I’d really like to see is a time when there aren’t any boundaries between art, science, religion, philosophy…”
“If you aren’t convinced of what you’re doing, you won’t convince anyone else.”
“We couldn’t survive a second if we weren’t able to act. Acting is a survival mechanism; it’s a social unguent, a lubricant and we act to save our lives actually every day. People lie constantly every day, by not saying something that they think or saying something that they don’t think or showing something that they don’t feel.”
“Tim’s the greatest actor ever [referring to his dog, a mastiff]. He pretends he loves me and he just wants something to eat.”
“Acting is not intellectual. It is emotional. The enemy of the actor is the mind.”
“You can’t act, unless you are what you are and who you are.”
“There are many roads leading to Rome but they’re filled with a lot of strange adventures” (referring to romantic love and the ways of seduction).
“You’ve got to know when you’ve lost your audience.”
Until next month...
Copyright © 2012-2017 Ed Hooks