Saturday, January 31, 2009

Oh, Yeah..

One thing I forgot to mention in "Last Friday's Beatdown Calvalcade of Fun"...

The really impressive thing about Sam and Voicetrax - after we had collectively whiffed on the script the previous week, rather than just figure that we (the class) was lazy or "off" or just not paying attention, she regrouped and asked the more difficult question, "Are we doing anything wrong?"

She spoke with other teachers, pooled their thoughts and resources, formulated an immediate plan and put it into action by the next class meeting.

And, most importantly, effected change.

Thanks, Sam!

Intense Couple O' Days

End of a long couple days. Intense final Sam session midday Friday in which we took a reasonably serious scene and then "raised the stakes" considerably. That hit with a bit o' the old blunt force trauma. Then we performed a monologue which we had written for a character we had created. Most of the scenes started out with relatively high stakes. Then Sam guided us deeper - much deeper - into the scene.

There were tears, both in the booth and the audience, and by the end of class, we were pretty wrung out. Amazing what that does to you.

Hung out with David J., Nicki and Annalisa for a twixt-class meal, restored one another a bit and laughed our way back to sanity.

Then we headed back to Voicetrax, and dove into a class by D., who was up from LA and had the goal of making us "Great" on commercial copy. It was a pretty high-level class and I spent the first night just trying to get my head above water. About half the class are working actors and it was pretty clear that the quality of the work was going to be high. It was pretty danged invigorating to be operating in that kind of atmosphere.

It was also a bit humbling. When things didn't go quite right, the errors tended to stand in high contrast. As I've said before, that's why I'm taking classes, right?

Back at it all day today, with a couple of successes and at least finally feeling like I was bringing the right amount of energy.

As usual, it all came down to acting. Or, "Acting"...

Which, as I mentioned above, kinda wrings you out. Which is where I am right now. Gotta go to bed.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Last Friday's Beat Down Calvalcade of Fun

Of course, you first have to know that two Fridays ago, all of us in Sam's Advanced Character class collectively forgot pretty much everything we'd ever learned or been exposed to so far. Maybe it was the last distraction of the Bush years. Might've been nervousness over whether the Inauguration was going to to take place. Perhaps everyone's biorhythm had tanked. We really stunk the place up.

David J. had a comment of actual content last Friday, and pointed out that it had actually been the first non-comedic animated script we had all read on in a long, long time. There's actually a fair amount of reasonableness in this observation. I hate to embrace it too fully, as it might tend to become a crutch or easy rationalization. Behind the mic, y'either do or you don't.

Fact is, I was reading the script - with that specific verb-choice intended - maybe knowing who I was, but with no attention upon what that meant to the scene or the other characters. Bad voiceover, no donut.

While working our way through the script (and I got to read it twice in different roles), it was painfully obvious that nothing was really working, but we didn't seem to be able to correct ourselves. It was probably the only time I've been reading something when I had the distinct and frightening thought, "This is taking an awfully long time..."

It was, in short, the emotional equivilent of calling up a girl back when I was in 7th grade and absolutely and completely running out of things to say, yet having no idea how to end the phone call. It was pretty excruciating.

So, last Friday things started off with a reminder of that. We demo'd a character script from several options - everyone doing pretty dang well, actually - read a short commercial character dialogue and then the punishment began.

"The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves"
Courtesy of Chuck, it was. We were on our feet, going through basic placement exercises and immediate character creations. We laughed our way into character. We said hello a lot. We stopped our stinkin' thinkin'...

Then we had an excellent couple rounds of dialogue scripts. We were given only the words - no direction, no staging, music, scene setting or anything which would give us a hint. We were paired up and sent out to figure it out, then came in and got one take to nail it.


Um, one question. Is my script supposed to make sense?

Bill and I stood outside for a bit, trying to make sense of odd non-sequitors which our characters were saying. We took a stab at it, both of us trying to create all the reasons that our characters chose the words they did.

After everyone had a take, we were given a hint - in the form of the comic strip from which our dialogues had been lifted. Ah-haa! Zippy the Pinhead. No wonder...

Another take with the specifics of the scene thus fixed. Compare the takes. Some folks actually did better with the "rudderless ship" version, as they had worked very hard to do the work. In some cases, adapting to the visuals of the scene required a large shift of tone. Not easy.

Then we did a similar exercise, this time with the scenes from action hero comic books. Again, the specifics of why these folks were saying the things they did were a touch confusing. (I must admit a certain lack of familiarity with the specifics of the various superhero escapades, leagues and alliances.)

Afterwards, as we backed up to go, most folks were exhaling a bit heavier than normal. It was mentally taxing work, but I left the class session pretty dang revved up.

Just gotta remember - always go further, always be specific. Y'know, the basics...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Scripts Are Cool

The rescheduled private with N. went well tonight. A bit too fast, but well. For some reason, I bobbled a couple of openings and wasn't as clean as I could have been on some takes. Do so like to be perfect. Which, of course, doesn't help the issue.

I'd kind of jumped from work right to the lesson, so maybe I was still a bit uncentered. But, it isn't like that won't happen in the future, so it's just got to be something I learn to deal with.

Things would "lock in" after a sentance or two, but I spent too many takes (in my opinion) being just slightly out of focus for the openings. Ah well. If I did it right every time, then I wouldn't need to take classes and lessons, eh? I liked his advice to "be mindfull" of my openings.

Mindful. Present. Aware. Good steps on the path.

N. had forwarded a number of scripts to me a day or so in advance, reflecting some of the recent stuff that had crossed his desk. Maybe it's the latent tech-geek gene, but I really like getting scripts I haven't seen before, that feel "new." It helped that they were a broad variety, and a good number were exceptionally well-written.

But, I enjoyed chewing them over to prepare. Playing with the phrasing, the emphasis and trying to find the little things which weren't so obvious. Scripts are cool. Which may be a reason I'm drawn to this whole thing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Snowball Blues

Was doing some non-essential recording yesterday evening and things got all wonky. I've been using a Blue Snowball mic running through the USB hub to Audacity (on a Mac with OSX 10.2.6 - don't ask...)

For some reason, when I went to record, there was a huge amount of staticky, hissy noise. I had trouble getting my voice to even cut through it. I unplugged, restarted, rebooted and tried again - no real change to speak of.

I'm hoping that it had something to do with leaving the mic plugged in for a couple of days. Rather than disconnect it, I'd been leaving it connected to the USB port, which of course keeps the power on for the mic. It almost sounded like some weird static loop, particularly since the vocal level itself was so low.

I dinked around with some OSX system settings and dropped the level down. But, I still need to fix the issue - that really didn't have a definite effect upon it. I've unplugged the mic, and will see if having it disconnected for a day will change anything. Othewise, it's Odd Problem Research Time...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wacky Wednesday

Late Monday I got word that I manged to score a private lesson with N. after someone else had to cancel. Loaded up work-stuff onto Tuesday so I could be there on time. Nothing like a little forced efficiency.

That gave me a nice gap in the morning on Wednesday, where I entertained the dog with some Character homework. Then got a call that my private was cancelled, with a request to engineer that night's class instead. Private pushed back a week. Sudden fluster at work had me there until later than I'd wanted. Show up to engineer and found I was working the board for N., who had been called in to cover the class.

Good class - actually one I have yet to take. A couple students were in the class who I hadn't seen since last summer. Both of them were bringing it and their work had definitely gone up a notch. Nice to see. Good to see them again, catch up a bit.

Only a couple fumbles on the board and two takes I would've mic'd a bit differently. Tested my ears against N's for the evening and as usual learned much. I'm pretty sure he has photographic hearing.