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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Trust- Inspired by Casting Director Brette Goldstein

Industry Nights at the Susan Batson Studio present much food for thought. Brette Goldstein recently came up with two gourmet dishes. First, an actor asked her, “What do you think my type is?” She cringed and responded, “I don’t like to think like that.” I applauded her disdain for type-casting. Then, after a moment, she said, “I like to think about it like this- if you could choose two people, who would you be the love child of?” This question turned out to be such fun for us all. So, I pass it on to you.

The second dish came when I asked Brette how she felt about a certain actor. She responded, “I don’t trust her.” To tell the truth I wasn’t shocked by her answer- but I am seizing upon it to explore and find the way an actor builds a paradigm from which to operate trust.

What evokes trust in the industry? Honesty? “My mother died three weeks ago- I know my work is in trouble.” This statement will perhaps evoke compassion, but not trust. See if this helps: A resume with perfect margins, good font, no misspellings, clarity of information, which gives a picture of the actor’s career and where to get in contact with the actor, a list of skills, and, finally, citizenship status and union affiliations. This begins the trust. A good picture that looks like you- and more trust is established. Regarding the picture: if you have an obvious scar above your left eyebrow- and you’re drop dead gorgeous- do not have it airbrushed on your picture… you will not be trusted. You have an audition and you dress like you just had a run in Central Park or a dance class at Steps… You won’t be trusted. Wear tight fitted expensive leather pants on your incredible sexy body when you audition for a social worker- you will not be trusted. Wear a suit, shirt, tie, and a pocket-handkerchief when you audition for a lawyer- you will be trusted and appreciated. As you see, the paradigm is first being built from the outside. It is the external things that first come into the auditor’s view. Oh yes, you can be trusted if you walk in the door with warmth and energy. A great smile covers all evils, and you will be trusted.

Unless given to you at the casting office half an hour before your audition, have the text in- in other words, have knowledge of all the meanings of the words, names, places, and things. If done, you will be trusted. If tears are required for the material you are auditioning with, they must be invisible upon arrival into the office- and they must magically appear when the text dictates their appearance. Trust is instantaneous. A well-trained, emotionally accessible actor can make this happen. Taking an adjustment– even the most outrageous ones- brings respect and trust for your actor. Weep to the raw bottom of your soul, but restore immediately at the end of the audition—this evokes trust and sometimes curiosity. Mucous is dangling from your nose- no trust, just disgust. Guns at an audition- even if it is your nephew’s toy gun- do not create trust, just fear. If, in audition, a new impulse hits you and you decide to follow it through, make sure that you do so in character and in the character’s circumstances. If you do not artfully follow the impulses, you will be considered crazy and not be trusted. It was a psychotic impulse when van Gogh cut off his ear, but wonderful art when he crafted Starry Night.

As you build your paradigm to gain trust, remember that you can have personality disorders, perhaps like van Gogh, and still be a great artist. Also, as you know, in this day and age, mental disorders not only have names and pills attached to then, but they can be diagnosed and co-exist with talent, if responsibly treated.

It is not only the job of the actor to prepare the audition material- it is also mandatory for the actor to gain the auditor’s trust. You are brave, hard-working souls who take on the arduous task of acting… Stay in your dreams.

With deep respect and well wishes- Always in the art! – Susan Batson

PS- Thanks to Brette Goldstein for inspiring this post!