Thursday, May 08, 2014
All the world's a stage,And all the men and women merely players.
I signed up for an acting class at the local community theater to learn about body language.
I had read an article about how body language could undermine whatever verbal message was being delivered. Plus, my native environment is in sweats in front of a keyboard, making any time I'm in the spotlight an unnatural occurrence with attendant and resulting feelings of woe is me, alas, and oh shit.
"Think you only kings have power? Stand on a stage and hold the hearts of men in your hands. Make them laugh with a gesture, cry with a word. Make them love you. And you will know what power is.”
So, I trundled myself downtown for six weeks of acting lessons.
It was interesting for me to realize that actors use their whole body as an instrument, and I'm used to living in my head. Usually the only thought I give my body is to wonder if it will accomplish getting me to the next place I am going.
Every screenwriting tome I've ever cracked has stated goals and obstacles as the key ingredient in drama. What does the character want and what is keeping him from getting that is the essential element. Snappy dialog and character development trail along behind.
Goals and obstacles = drama in both art forms but there's a difference.
A writer gives a character goals as something to reach for. An actor uses goals as something to push against to reveal character.
That's a different picture.
I've watched interviews with professional actors saying how they had to move off the text or between the text or beyond the text, and as someone working to provide the text, I felt like putting my hands around their throats to choke the disrespectful life out of them.
But as a neophyte acting student, I've learned the actor is using the text to make the character REAL for himself to give the story life.
Writing, I might be better served to create text that makes it real for the actor. Make them feel it on the page, not just read it.
I think that would be more elegant writing. That's my new goal.
So, did I become an actor?
Except . . .
Everyone at Austin last year was engaged in the Pitch Fest going on at the same time. Where is Vince Gilligan and how'd you do at the pitch contest were the most frequent conversation starters.
That's right. Not me.
I hate pitching.
I won't do it.
You can't make me.
Early on in my screenwriting adventure, I witnessed a pitching opportunity at the Selling to Hollywood Conference. There was a panel of expert professionals from the Biz. Intrepid, brave, hopeful, wannabee screenwriters stood before the panel and pitched their scripts for a designated time.
I overheard someone say the pitches were a crapshoot. Emphasis on crap.
Yes alas, ideas are like hair. Everyone has some and sometimes it ain't pretty.
Soon the expert professionals weren't supportive listeners hoping to find the next tent pole money maker. They were more like cats in a cage somebody poked with a stick.
As I watched more than one intrepid soul sweat through the back of his shirt I decided, not me pal. No way. No how.
Except, of course, a screenwriter does have to tell people about the script. And, I suck at that.
I write a blazing query letter, but talk the story and I sound like Helen Keller figuring out water.
I'm okay on the phone. No one looking. See.
The times I've been invited down to LA, I've gotten points for quirky.
I'm a writer. Quirky is the base layer.
But I suck at pitching. I hate it. I'm not doing it. Just stop talking about it less I feel compelled to put my hands around your throat.
Except, at Austin, everybody was pitching. As we waited in line for Vince, Shane, Terry and Callie, we'd ask about each other's script. It was only polite. The more times I fumbled through mine, the better it got.
More importantly, I realized from the reactions I saw, which part of the script was the strongest. And which wasn't and where I'd misplaced the story engine. Not that the pitch sucked, but what I'd done wrong with the script.
O Never give the heart outright,
For they, for all smooth lips can say,
Have given their hearts up to the play.
Okay, I'm convinced. Pitching is something I should do.
Woe is me, alas, and oh shit.
Except, EUREKA and all that.
I don't have to conquer all my quirky character twitches or overcome my self-esteem issues.
I will create a PITCHING PERSONNA and ACT the pitch.
As I begin my second round of acting classes, Pitching Person is my new acting project.
I'm going to call her, Ace.