“What makes “1,000 Times Good Night” more than a dramatic essay on wartime journalism is Ms. Binoche’s wrenchingly honest portrayal of a woman of conscience driven by a mixture of guilt, nobility and self-importance, reckoning belatedly with her destructive impulses. Her final challenge is a trip with Steph to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya to help her daughter gather material for a school project on Africa. On a journey that she is assured involves no risk, a surprise attack on the camp puts them in harm’s way, and Rebecca disobeys orders and compulsively rushes into the melee.
Rebecca has already explained to her daughter that she is gripped by an unassuageable anger. Even when Ms. Binoche smiles, it registers as a shadow of sorrow on the face of someone who has seen too much of the world’s horrors to forget them. She is one of a few screen actors who can convey multiple conflicting emotions in a single glance. With an astonishing transparency, she disappears into the truth of her characters.
That truth can be ugly. When Rebecca is shown crouching over a fresh corpse and aiming her camera, she suggests nothing so much as a ravenous bird of prey.”
There is nothing more fulfilling to see a gifted actor acknowledged for their work! Please read this review and let it inspire you to go see the force of nature of acting, Juliette Binoche in 1,000 Times Good Night
The New York Times and Elle Magazine called to interview me. Elle Magazine’s January issue will be focused on Nicole Kidman. The New York Times is devoting an article on Michael Keaton. The bit of serendipity here is that Nicole Kidman introduced me to Michael Keaton. The Elle Magazine interview was at three o’clock AM, the New York Times at four o’clock AM. It was a great two hours. Anyone will tell you I love talking about acting. Given the opportunity to speak about talent is a real excitement to me. The way some people love to gush over cars or shoes—my gushing is over Nicole Kidman’s great gift of compassion and fearlessness; and Michael Keaton’s body of work, which has an extraordinary arc from Beetlejuice to James Angleton in The Company (TV mini series).
Many people think that anyone can act. Yes, we all can and do perform on the world stage of life. Take some of those anyone-can-act and put them on a Broadway stage or in front of a camera—your appreciation for the value of Nicole Kidman and Michael Keaton’s talent will escalate in seconds. In today’s society of reality shows, celebrities, selfies, Instagrams, web series, and paparazzi, art has a fight to get its due respect. So when asked to talk about the artistry of Nicole Kidman and Michael Keaton, my joy and pride overfloweth. Please let me encourage you to enthuse and support talent and craft, which gives our culture an importance and a chance to grow and expand. Always in the Art! Susan Batson
Joe Thompson of the Likeability-Fame offered me another delicious expression: Vertical Growth. I am of the upward mobility generation. Vertical Growth is stuff of mastery- upward mobility is of economic growth. I was absolutely thrilled when Joe emphasized that the actor must focus on Vertical Growth. You don’t have to be very wise to know that if you want Vertical Growth as an actor you must at least put in the much talked about ten thousand hours on your craft. What pleases me is that Joe Thompson of Abrams, part of the show business Industry, has expectations of Vertical Growth from the artists he encounters.
Needless to say, there isn’t an artist worth anything who is not invested in their individual Vertical Growth. What I am stressing here from the erudite Joe Thompson is that it is an expectation of the Industry. Let that encourage you to keep training-keep risking-keep exploring yourself and your art form. Often we’re stuck in the inevitable signs of mediocrity of our business, and that can be very discouraging. So let’s seize this vote for excellence from Joe Thompson, and challenge ourselves to gain our greatness, moving always vertically to our goal.
If you’ve been wronged, do you fight to make it right? Most actors feel that they have been wronged when they don’t receive the role they desired. Can you fight for it? Yes, of course you can fight for that role with all your might – with great work and passion- they say Kate Winslet moved mountains to get her role in Titanic. “No” does not have to be a final answer. To tell the truth, I believe that the actor receives the role that belongs to him/her, there is this serendipitous realm in the world in which actors live.
But, being raised by an activist I have implanted in me the commitment to always fight for one’s rights, what is just, and honest. It does not matter if you win or lose—it is the way you play the game. Recently I was horrified when I heard an adviser to actors say: that two blond, blue-eyed actresses would be cast as a citizen of Milwaukee. Then he pointed to two black actresses and said: that they would not be cast as citizens from Milwaukee. As of 2013, there were 66.6% of white Americans in Milwaukee and 38.3% of African American citizens in Milwaukee. So it is very possible that African American actors could be cast as a person from Milwaukee!! This guy who counsels actors was not playing fair–in fact he may have been playing a racist game–or simply he was ill informed. There are African American citizens living in Milwaukee.
Okay, I get it—it is an amusement park world where show business exists. But come on, play the game with honesty, justice and equality.
Recently, I heard a cry: “I don’t know how to prepare!” I was stunned. In our program at the Susan Batson Studio, there is scheduled five times a week a class designed to help the actor learn how to prepare. I looked into the young faces overwhelmed by the difficulty of their art form. I quickly informed them of the last step of my preparation, which was to sit on the toilet having made the creative choice of how the character urinates and defecates. My acting mentor Herbert Berghof told me it was a must for an actor to know this detail. Ah Brave New World, the future of the art smiled, but they certainly did not embrace this information with the passion and profundity that I did when I listened to Herbert Berghof. I questioned if I could inspire a young actor of 2014?
It was important to stress that no two actors prepared in the same way. It takes self-discovery to develop a basic actor’s preparation. This self-discovery should be a way of life for the actor for the rest of the actor’s life. Stanislavsky termed it the “Daily Actor’s Toilette.” In order to master the art form of acting, the young actor must develop a relationship with their personal internal world. This relationship can only be achieved through the “Daily Actor’s Toilette.” Since the search for the character starts from within the actor, there is a need to stress how important self-discovery is. Further, it should be noted that every character we find within us must be transformed completely into the character of the text. This transformation causes the actor’s basic preparation to take on new elements to assist transformation into character.
Our responsibility to the humanity we play is crucial. We must create a walking, talking human being– one that lives on the screen and/or stage. Our job requires skill. You must not only be in daily self-discovery, but also the actor must learn the techniques of acting and develop their own method. Without a process you cannot be a master of your craft. You will not create an organic life for your character.
So, Ah Brave New World, perhaps a Stanislavsky is amongst you! You are certainly the future of our art form. How do you prepare? Do your “Daily Actor’s Toilette”. Develop your own method. Commit to finding the character in you and transforming that character to a walking talking human being on the stage and/or screen. Dig into your own creative resources for inspiration to further serve your actor. Finally, it is my belief that you will create your own preparation for each character, because you have committed to the powerful responsibility to the humanity you are creating.
We, at the Susan Batson Studio, wish to pay tribute to the inspiring contribution the gifted actor Robin Williams made to the film industry. We also acknowledge that perhaps Williams’ death gives
us all much to examine.
In our process of acting we say that we have to create a walking talking human being who has among many things three primary elements: Need, Tragic Flaw, and Public Persona.
Robin Williams’ Public persona was that of an explosive wit which radiated genius. It was this Public Persona that we waited in gleeful anticipation to witness, and he never failed us. Very few of us thought to question what was under this Public Persona. Yes, we knew there were many other things to Robin Williams. He did prove it to us, as he exposed the dramatic actor to us, winning an Oscar. So we knew. And, beyond tabloid fodder, Robin Williams himself was very open about his Tragic Flaw of addiction. The only primary element of the character of Robin Williams that was not exposed was his Need.
The Need- the unfulfilled dynamic of our personality that drives us through life, which dictates our behavior- and is the very thing most of us hide from the world. To expose your need is to allow others to witness your vulnerability. So we all conveniently cover our Need with our Public Persona or we act out in the Tragic Flaw. Robin Williams’ Need was brilliantly hidden by his Public Persona and/or for years he struggled with addiction, acting out in the Tragic Flaw. What did Robin Williams need? Perhaps as we praised his genius we could have stopped to investigate the inner man, a man whose generosity is acknowledged on the same level as his genius.
For years we heard the axiom: “Never judge a book by its cover.” I’ll be damn if this is not the truth. What a far better world we would live in if we were brave enough to expose our needs, and share with tolerance the needs of others. It would be presumptuous to guess Robin Williams’ Need that developed by the time he was five years old. But, I will forever ponder what the Need hiding behind his fireworks Persona was? So, we also thank Robin Williams for his gift of making us conscious of the fact that there is more to a man than fame, and more for us to invest in and investigate in our humanity.
The Susan Batson Studio sends out a huge hug full of pride and thanks for Cara’s contribution to the Studio and her continuum of generosity to the actors at the Studio, past and present. Congratulations Cara!
Also congratulations goes to Eric Colton for booking a guest spot on Oxygen’s series My Crazy Love,
and to Chloe Xhauflaire for booking a commercial.
I know that I do not have to write about gratitude. But let me share this story with you: I was walking across DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn with Spike Lee. From everywhere people reached out to him with such joy and pride, to simply say hello. The love and appreciation filled the air. I said, “It feels good, uh?” Spike said, “I stay in a state of grace. Even now walking down the street with you, I’m giving thanks for being with you.” Thanks resounded throughout Brooklyn that day, because I certainly gave thanks for being with Spike Lee.
Your challenge of being an actor has many difficulties—so when good comes as small as a blade of grass or as grand as an Oscar, gratitude lifts its voice from the depth of us.
This past Thursday, James Calleri was at the Susan Batson Studio for Industry Night. After viewing an actor’s work, James Calleri gave the actor the following adjustment: approach the scene with the conviction that your character is right, no matter how wrong he may be. James Calleri went further to suggest this tactic as a tool for the actor’s technique.
In life, I have been accused many times of approaching everything as if I am always right. I’ve been hurt by this accusation, because it is passion that I bring—not right or wrong. After watching the actor make James Calleri’s adjustment, my point was substantiated. What James Calleri’s adjustment did was help the actor to infuse his performance with confidence and indeed passion. Inadvertently, the actor found a way to handle the audition with confidence and with his passion intact, instead of being stuck in a very safe pedestrian performance.
It has always been a contention of mine that the great actor makes CHOICES! Daniel Day Lewis makes choices. Doesn’t the fun of building a character come from the multitude of choices given by the writer, by life and by the imagination? If acting doesn’t bring you joy perhaps it is the wrong choice for you? It is an art form that is predicated upon the ability and willingness to play. So, not having fun making choices and not just learning lines and repeating them aloud are the antithesis of what the art form of acting is.
I witnessed what James Calleri’s adjustment brought out in the actor. And, I would advise that if you are going into an audition feeling not one hundred percent certain of your choices— do the Calleri technique of “my character is always right—no matter how wrong he is.” If this technique is fully employed by the actor, the audition will be alive with confidence and passion. Now, for it to be art? Please explore and employ the joy of making choices in creating a character, and breathing life into the writer’s words.
As you may know I work with some famous people, and recently I’ve been enjoying the new young and passionate Zac Efron and Usher, who are eager to share the work. Also recently, a new phenomenon has occurred– it is that my hard working actors are being paid pittance. I’m not talking about Zac or Usher– in fact, I’m not going to name names because this isn’t an exposé but an observation. You are not interested in famous working actors being paid a pittance? Let me suggest you be interested!
Jack Nicholson was one to fight for the recognition of the actor’s work. Jack Nicholson understood that the actor had to dig deep down into self and supply deep emotional material in order to produce great work. This emotional material had to be accessible for the period of the shooting of the film and ready to go on the word “action.” For him, the actor who did this in-depth work should be paid 20 million dollars. The point is not the exact amount; the point being stressed is the recognition of the work. A pittance does not acknowledge the work!
Often as a young actor you are asked to do plays and student films for nothing. You do so to grow in your craft, and to develop experience and your reel. When do you stop working for nothing? And when do you stop working for a pittance? An actor will go on a film set and see huge lighting instruments on it and will wonder why those instruments are more important than the actor. It seems that the acting instrument is not the essential instrument to tell a story– but it is! This is not an observation of the nickels and dime-millions of the movie business– it is the Uta Hagen cry “Respect for Acting.”
The director can seduce an actor into doing the film by talking about the great talent and how he/she would love to work with that great talent. But it has often been proving that the director will put money into technology and not into that great actor. So to the young actor who goes into the business with the consideration that you will make good money—yes that is possible– but I repeat respect what you do– especially those of you who will give a little piece of your heart to every character that you play and every film that you do—respect that you are an essential, important instrument in the process of story telling.
I’m standing up and shouting with joy for actor Rob Sampson! I’ll let him tell you the story in his own words:
“Thursday I had a dream come true–my first real scripted scene to speak of–a small scene where I played a father walking through the woods with his family and they come across a corpse hanging in a tree. The show is called “Redrum” (Investigation Discovery) directed by Ante Novakovic. After shooting the scene, one of the first things he said to me was that when he hires actors he looks at their training and when he saw I was a Susan Batson trained actor, he knew he was getting the real deal. He commented on how I had spoken from a center and that he got “father” and “husband’ connected to family. He said that it made his job easy that he didn’t have to direct and that it was really good stuff.
He went on to ask about you and if you were still doing your all night workshops and went on and on about your work. Of course I mentioned Carl since I always do, and he knew him as well.
It was such a great experience that I had so share it with you and let you know that the work, the journey, the dream, all my hopes as an actor, I owe to you (and Carl), and when something connects with what I carry with me everyday– your training–I wanted to share a real Susan Batson moment and tell you how proud I am that I’ve trained with you and that no matter what I’m doing as an actor, I always do my best to have something “operating” and I get that from you and your training. Thanks for everything that you have done for me and for creating opportunities during your Industry Nights. I really appreciate it.