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...

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