"The label you give yourself cannot impact external forces that are not motivated by your own psychology or influenced by a third party's pre-existing consciousness of you. We are all presented with reasons to struggle which come from completely external forces; to pretend that one is not struggling is either arrogance or an admission of defeat. To admit that one is struggling is a sign and a source of strength." - Evan A. Baker

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Struggling Actress Can Answer Your Questions!

I'm sick and the Dayquil is messing with my head and brain. Luckily, I received a question that should still allow me to answer coherently:

Dear Struggling Actress,
Last night I found out that a friend of mine, while acting in a scene in his acting class, got SLAPPED full on the face by his scene partner. The slap was not rehearsed, nor was it planned, but the actress who did the slaaping had the excuse afterwards (after she issued an apology) that she was "in the moment" and that she "couldn't not" because of the way she was feeling. This isn't the first time I've heard about actors hurting each other on set or in scenes because they are "in the moment". Can you take a few moments (or however long it takes you to write a blog) to talk about a level of professionalism in the industry when it comes to stage combat and how "method" someone should or shouldn't go with hurting their scene partner? I'm so tired of hearing about actors getting hurt in the name of someone else's "art."
Frustrated in LA

In my experience, it's the people who DO know stage combat who end up getting hurt! Because the people who don't know the dos and don'ts of basic fight choreography hurt the ones who do.

For instance, I once worked for G4 on a sketch about a video game character doing a reality dating show. Hilarious! But when we were filming the football scene, one of my co-stars, Clueless, full on body tackled me. My head hit the ground so loudly (I guess it's hollow?) that everyone on crew heard it. I had to lie down for a few minutes before I could get up. And had the worst headache the entire day. (And imagine how nervous the director/producer was with an actress with a possible concussion/medical bills) Now, because I've been doing this film thing for awhile, and because I know all about film editing, and because I know you don't purposefully hurt people for ANY reason, I was not expecting this girl to be so stupid as to 1) not tell me she was going to tackle me and 2) actually do it.
So I knew, okay, this girl isn't so much an idiot, as she is just utterly inexperienced. For another scene, she was supposed to hit another girl from behind in the head with the butt of a rifle, knocking her out, so I made sure to go up to her saying, hey, there's this thing called "perspective" in film, which means even though you're a foot away from this girl in real life, on film, it looks like you're right behind her. And then I explained that she wasn't going to actually hit the other girl, she was just going to do a simple grunt sound cue, so that when the girl heard her go "hunh!" she knew to fall down, and, magically, it would look like she hit her with her rifle.

Frustrated in LA, I feel so badly for your friend. It is NEVER okay to "be so in the moment," that another person gets hurt. In school we had a fun little quote that we were to be 98% character, and 2% actor. That 2% actor has to ALWAYS be aware of what is happening around him and what he's doing to the other actor. For instance, what if the scene was reversed? And the dude hit the girl? The selfish and ridiculous "I couldn't not hit you!" would never fly. I mean, "I'm so in the moment," really translates to, "I am so incredibly selfish to not give a flying fish how you or your character feels, as you're just a prop to me, with no feelings or pain sensors whatsoever! Cause I'M Going to Be FAMOUS!"

WHENEVER there is any fight in a scene, unless your partner says, "hit me with full force, as hard as you can," and his name is Tyler Durden, you are not allowed to hit them. No hitting, no slapping, nothing. In fact, I never even TOUCH my scene partners without asking. And if it's a romantic scene, I let my partner know I am okay with touching, hugging, and even kissing, cause sometimes, that's the only time I can get some, you know?

The instructor of the class should have explained how this girl did the exact WRONG thing to do. Not only because she hit her scene partner, which is never okay (even in theatre and film, they block it out so no one gets hurt) but she also ruined the trust her partner had with her. And I'm sure all the other students are not exactly itching to work with her either.

And if any of my acting peers are doing a scene where there is a slap or tickle, it MUST be talked about beforehand, with everyone's choreography, and limits out in the open, talked about, and accommodated.

Be careful out there!

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