The Character is Always Right. Inspired by Casting Director James Calleri.

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.

Always in the Art!

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The Uta Hagen Cry

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.

Always in the art! – Susan Batson

A Letter to Susan Batson from Actor Rob Sampson

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.

Sincerely, Rob Sampson”

Always in the art! -Susan Batson

July Workshops with Carl Ford at The Susan Batson Studio

Carl Ford is bringing his genius expertise(s) to the Susan Batson Studio! He is making the month of July an actor’s happening at the Studio. Carl Ford is taking Susan Batson’s process and is exploring and exploding it into 2014! As a film director and writer, Carl Ford is aware of the importance of an actor having a method, aka training. As the Founder of Black Nexxus and the Susan Batson Studio, he knows Susan Batson’s work better than anyone else. It is even said that he articulates her process better than she does. For sure, he is in touch with the industry on its rudimentary level as it exists today, and the needs of the actor to maintain and gain working status.

Many years ago, Lee Strasberg stressed the need for training because, as the coach to the stars, he recognized that show business no longer had the time or money to nurture actors’ performances. Lee Strasberg strongly advised that the actor train in the craft of acting in order to circumvent the ills of the ever-present commercial environment of show business.

July is the exact middle of the year, and it is perfect preparation time for the fall through pilot season. It is the perfect time with Carl Ford to get a refresher of the work done at the Susan Batson Studio and/or to begin my process that many working actors like Nicole Kidman, Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black) use. I am convinced that those actors with whom I work arrive on the movie set, theatre rehearsals, television shows, and auditions ready and able to help their directors bring their visions into the light. If I am totally honest, where you get your training doesn’t matter, as long as you get it!

But, I will risk saying: there is nothing better than what Carl Ford will offer you in the month of July at the Susan Batson Studio! He’ll give you more than technique- Carl Ford gives passion, inspiration, and the liberation of your artist!

Check out the Susan Batson Studio (http://susanbatsonstudio.com) for details, or call the Susan Batson Studio at 212-226-4630. Happy 4th of July!

Always in the Art, Susan Batson

Putting the Artist First

Can we have an industry in which the artists come first? This is a question pressing against the left side of my rib cage. The conditions of our industry often seem anti-artist. Yet, I must encourage artists to create in spite of this because to create is to exceed oneself and one’s environment. So I cannot just have this pressure against the left side of my rib cage- I am obliged to move passed it and demand an answer. Can we have an industry in which the artists come first?

There is the fear that no one is listening and, therefore, there is no one to answer the question. Do not take my aphorism as one of a victim, but as one of a fighter determining his/her strategy. The role our industry is playing is one of commercialism- the mighty dollar first. So some of us have compromised our passion for art to fit into this sluggish reality of the big bucks busters. Make 520 million dollars in the first week of a movie, and they say that’s art! Yet, I must encourage you to fight for art and to put your artist first in an industry that has placed mad profit as their primary concern. So, do not make your only solution dissolution or compromise. Be aware and passionately assert your art amidst the shoot-‘em-ups, technological violence and innocuously loud humor. Those that have the guts break through enough to be seen and find the luck to establish their own perfect time and space.

All of this is being stated in generalities, but I am certain that will takes courage, and the courage to believe in one’s desired principle is worth the trouble of willing its realization. I know that I am talking to many artists who exemplify great passion for the art and have the desire to bring it into the world population. All of you are poetic, conscious, innovative, powerful, and with all the qualities to begin an artistic revolution. Yes, even with the state of the industry and the world today, I do believe in the creative artist. You are out there, eager, hungry, and deeply passionate. You are still dreaming, believing, hoping, and struggling to bring truth to your art. No matter where I go around the world, I see your eyes light up full of love, gratitude, and inspiration for the art form you love. It is for you that this pressure against the left side of my rib cage is released with the hope that I am able to instill in all of us the motivation and guidance to bring us an artist-first industry with a healthy environment to create.

Always in the Art, Susan Batson

Perfect Time and Space

Understanding that things come in their own perfect time and space can try your patience or set you free. There is a bit of mythology surrounding the actress Mildred Dunnock, who started her acting career in her late 30’s. Some say she was a bank teller and some say she was a teacher. The truth about her prior occupation is irrelevant, because that day in her late 30’s, when she made the decision to act, brought her great rewards (two Academy Awards nominations, one for Death of a Salesman and the other for Baby Doll, and many other awards). Certainly, one can say that Mildred Dunnock’s career arrived in its perfect time and space.

Recently, I was watching the 2014 Tony Awards and experienced perfect time and space example. Let me set the stage for you: in 2004, I joined David Binder as a producer for the Broadway revival of the great play A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, starring Sean Combs. It was a very successful production. The 2004 production was Tony nominated for Best Revival of a Play- it did not win. The three actresses in the production (Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald, and Sanaa Lathan) were Tony nominated. Phylicia Rashad and Audra McDonald won. Of course when I was involved with the 2004 A Raisin in the Sun revival, I wanted not only to be nominated, but to win. It was not about me- I couldn’t believe that this great play didn’t win!

Ten Years later (2014) as I watch the Tony Awards, I saw A Raisin in the Sun, now produced by Scott Rudin, win a Tony for Best Revival of a Play. Perfect time and space? The director, Kenny Leon, won the 2014 Best Director Tony for Best Revival Play- when he was directing the play in 2004 he wasn’t nominated for a Tony Award. Perfect time and space? Seated in the audience of the Tony ceremony was David Binder, the producer with myself and others of the 2004 production. This year, he was the winning producer of a Tony for Best Musical Revival (Hedwig and The Angry Inch, starring Neil Patrick Harris).  So as A Raisin in the Sun is winning for Best Revival of a Play, David Binder in all of his generous joy and passion accepts the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. Yes, all perfect time and space.

As I watched all the happenings, I was laughing and crying, experiencing an epiphany filled with poetic justice. Divine intervention, truth, love and passion, for a moment the world spiraled in perfect time and space, from prehistoric time to me present. All has come to us in perfect time. The question is: Will you be ready when it arrives?

Get ready because it will arrive in its perfect time!

Congratulations to all Tony winners, and a big smile for Kenny Leon and A Raisin in the Sun winners. And David Binder, I thank you for your inspiration and integrity.

Always in the art, Susan Batson

If Loving You is Wrong- I Don’t Want to be Right!

I like that these days I’m wrong- Every once in a while I’ve been slapped into humility My arrogance splattered floor before me, stinking like vomit. Righteousness and arrogance amongst artists are violations of the unwritten artist’s code. A real artist is quite aware of how humane an artist must be to achieve their craft. Like all beings they are flawed, but even with a multitude of imperfections their struggle for truth integrity authenticity and humanity in their art gains them grace. It is understood that there is no such thing as perfection. Failure is always a lesson in art. And you can’t please all of the people all of the time. What speaks to you may not speak to me- And it is not a reason for condemnation.

So, I don’t want to be right if I don’t like all of Tyler Perry’s movies. If the truth be told, I honor and respect Tyler Perry for all that he has achieved, and when I walk on the grounds or through the halls of the Tyler Perry Studio, his passion and acknowledgement of all who have gone before him is not only informative but touching. Although our drummers may differ, Tyler Perry opens his ear and shares with me our differences and our commitment to what we love doing. For this feature, I am most grateful. Tyler Perry has many detractors, perhaps they are jealous or sincerely critical of Tyler’s work, but let us put our harshness and arrogance aside and share with Tyler Perry his commendable achievements. So if deep appreciation, gratitude and respect for Tyler Perry is wrong…  I don’t want to be right.  Good luck Tyler on your new project, If Loving You is Wrong.