By: Jess Canty
In conversations with a few of you lately around acting - especially for self-tapes one thing has come up a few times: making specific choices. So let's talk about it.
First thing to remember about auditions - especially self-tapes - it is YOUR TIME. And that's all over the second you ride up in Troy's bucket.
So take your time. Go on the adventure into the character. What is the scene about? Who are you talking to? About? Dive into the language. What tone is appropriate? What gestures? All scenes are ostensibly a specifically chosen moment in the life of this character. So what is THIS moment illuminating? What does it reveal? What change happens? Or is this expository? You should be answering all of these questions and more before ever starting to memorize a line.
I want to share a story from my favorite screenwriter / author William Goldman when he was in rehearsals for Marathon Man (this is excerpted from his book Adventures in the Screen Trade and if you haven't read it put it on your summer reading list).
[Olivier] and Roy Scheider were rehearsing a scene. In the story they are very close to violence, but both are still trying to figure out what the other knows. The dialogue went like this:
OLIVIER: We must talk. Truthfully. Are you to be trusted?-- SCHEIDER: --No-- OLIVIER: --Was that the truth? Or are you trying to upset me? SCHEIDER: --I know why you're here--and I know that sooner or later you're going to go to the bank-- OLIVIER: --perhaps I've already been.
Schlesinger [The Director] interrupted them. He said, "Larry, that's supposed to go fast, and after Roy says the line about the bank, you're taking a pause before 'Perhaps I have already been.' Don't take the pause."
Olivier said "of course" and they started into the dialogue again. And then he stopped. "I have a problem about not taking the pause."
"I'm trying to find out information. Roy says, 'I know why you're here.' And I need to find out what that means. Then Roy says, 'I know...' And I'm listening. Now he says, 'I know that sooner or later you're going to go..." And I'm still listening. Finally he says, 'I know that sooner or later you're going to go to the bank." That pause I'm taking is to give me time to register the information about the bank.
"I understand," Schlesinger said. "But we've got to get rid of the pause."
Olivier then turned to me, then. "Bill," he said, "could I suggest an alteration in the line? Would it be all right if I changed it so that the line went, "I know that you're going to go to the bank sooner or later?' You see, then I could register the word bank while he was saying 'sooner or later' and I wouldn't need the pause."
Obviously it was fine with me and the line was altered and we went on without the pause. And probably this two minutes of rehearsal explained at length doesn't seem like much put down in black and white.
But in that moment--when the actor of the century asked me would I mind if he switched six words around--is the most memorable incident of my movie career.
Now... please take from this NOT that you should be going around asking to change lines lol... but that your level of knowledge of the language, of the scene, and your choices has to be THIS specific. THIS granular.
And is it hard when you only have the scene and not the whole script? You bet your butt it is. But even more reason to make choices. They can always re-direct those choices they just want to see that you know how to make them!