By: Jess Canty
If you want to make your brain explode a little bit, I recommend listening to the Behind the Screen podcast where Pablo Helman from The Irishman is interviewed.
The first 95% of the interview is about the technical process behind the de-aging technique that was developed for the film. It is one of those instances, where you know the people are saying English words, but it is as if they are speaking a foreign language.
Most of the technique that was developed for the film was developed because De Niro, Pesci and Pacino refuse to work in the "controlled environment" of VFX and with dots on their faces while they are acting. Flat out refuse. And thank goodness for them. Score one for the method actors because they may have just saved you from this fate when this new technique becomes more the norm.
So the VFX and Camera teams had to create a way of capturing the same information that those little dots capture in a blue/green screen environment - but instead on a practical set, using no dots. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
And they figured it out. It is a complicated mess of multiple cameras and infrared light and ... head exploding. BUT...Right at the end of the interview Pablo said something so profound. He described working with an actor on a movie and when the actor showed up on set he was frustrated that it was "all blue."
Well, I thought, he's an actor, he should be able to do that. You know, now I understand. It's not just about that. It's about the truth that they feel when they are with each other.
It's about the truth that they feel when they are with each other.
I think that is one of the best explanations of what an actor does I have ever heard. What makes an actor great is that they are able to evoke a feeling in the other actor, and feel a feeling from another actor and let us all watch.
What Mr. Helman learned by working in this way was that no matter how many dots map the face - because the actor is put in a controlled environment, they are not ever really able to give the most truthful performance possible.
But you figure out how to map their faces when they are on a practical set, in costume, working across the other actors in the scene and now you've got something. He spent weeks watching their performances at the facial-muscle level (in order to properly de-age them) and what he discovered is that the "truth" is written in their - in his words - biology. Their DNA. Their own personal particular way of reacting to the other actors in the scene, or a piece of wallpaper that the art director has chosen, or a chair they are sitting in.
Which brings me to auditions.
Auditions are controlled environments. Sterile. Self-tapes are worse. If you are lucky, you are in an office with a good reader. But in any case, you might as well be standing there in front of a blue screen with dots all over your face.
Your job, in these rooms and in these tapes is to make us FEEL something. And that is incredibly difficult when you have 24 hours with material.
But what if you approached it this way?
Forget about the beats.
Forget about the technical aspects of the scene and ask two questions:
What do I want them (the CD or your reader for your self tape) to FEEL from my performance.
And what do I DO to get them to feel it?
Pick big words - primal words. I want them to feel angry. Sad. Disgusted. Joyful. Afraid. (yes, I am listing off the characters from InsideOut).
I want them to fall in love with me. I want to seduce them. I want them to lose their place when reading with me because I got their attention. Create a truth for them to feel when they are with you in that room, or watching your tape.