Gratitude Lifts its Voice From The Depth

Cara Salmeri dropped by the Studio to say hello.  She is in town with several projects ready to sell.

WATCH OUT FOR:

  • The Westerner: (Scripted Drama)
  • Street Games: There’s a World of Fun Out There (Children’s Travel Doc-Series)
  • Jeepney Journey: Destination Unknown (Travel Doc-Series)
  • Pale County Limits (Feature Film)

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,

Eric Colton

and to Chloe Xhauflaire for booking a commercial.

Cleo x

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.

Always in the Art!

Susan Batson

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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!

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

When your work is captured, it is captured forever!

I’m in Paris working with Juliette Binoche on a film. It is Sunday. In art there is no day of rest. On Broadway, the day off for others is the working day for the artist. For Juliette Binoche, when she loves someone or something, she loves it every second, minute, hour of the day, every day. For her, there is no day off with her acting. (Juliette Binoche won an Oscar for English Patient, and is most famous for her role in Chocolat with Johnny Depp. This year, she will have several films coming out: 1,000 Times Good Night, Clouds of Sils Maria, Words and Pictures.) In other words, she loves her work and the work loves her!

After 7 hours of non-stop work, I returned to my Parisian hotel to eat and to restore. I turn on the TV to find out from BBC what country is at war and how many innocent souls have died, when I am compelled for a moment to stop at the channel before BBC. Why? I don’t know. I only feel that there is a connection. The sound of the man was simple, deep, and in French. The image appeared and the man was all in black, with black hair, a beard, and a moustache. Just as I caught the image, the camera cut to Vanessa Williams for a second. Then, back to the very connected, intense actor. I scream… Wass!!!! Yes, it was our Wass Stevens that stopped me. I was so pleased because Wass is family. He began with us and now generously gives back to us by teaching Industry Prep every Tuesday at 5pm. When the camera returned to Wass, it held a moment and then the scene was over. Much to my surprise, I had stumbled upon the end of an episode of Ugly Betty. I never saw Ugly Betty until this Sunday evening in Paris. Like Wass always says, “When your work is captured, it is captured forever!”

Long live Wass Stevens! Look for him in the upcoming series Public Morals!

Always in the art! – Susan Batson.

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!

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