The Three Myths of Film Acting: Don't Blink
You know, it's it's, true what we were talking about before film, we can use the word collaboration, a lap it ultimately it's a social act and yes, you can be anti social and still make film. I don't want the five of you to worry, but also there's a there's, a place that this process I asked you to be honest with yourself. I know that sounds maybe a little poetic, but that's kind of some of the questions before we're leading us back to there, and it will teach you something about yourself. And one thing I'll say about the business before we get back to the technical craft, the business will filter you out if it's something and there's no shame in this because it's such an unnatural process. If it's not for you, it will decide that it truly will. I'm a firm believer in that, but film for me has taught me so much more than what it aspires to. I've learned so much about myself through the study and practice of life of film about life, so here we are. I want to move into a new lesson seque...
nce of lessons here. I always get hung up about this on the salah we had david morse with us via skype, which we're still talking about it in the break when I started learning film craft, this idea of what makes good film acting or not earlier in the course, we were talking about how things affect film acting now want to talk about this kind of external expectation on film acting what makes good film acting well to me in a way, it's the same question of what makes a good wine to me? Why new like is good wine could be five dollars or five hundred dollars, maybe that's a crude response to this idea of what makes good wine, but I think acting again. It's crafting taste, crafting taste so we're not here to execute taste that's not a lot, but we want a look at some traditional answers to the question of what makes good film acting. We happen to have a camera and we have smart operator alex and we have smart actors, so we connect put this into practice. Eso we'll call this myth busting myth busting camera technique myth one don't blink actors, do you mind jumping up on stage again? Ilya and ashley ok, I feel like I'm gonna solve one and a half I'm not have a seat, guys, so we're goingto take your pre prayer, you're prepared monologues and used them almost like in a scene context you'll both have a turn it this you don't have to do anything new texturally and again, if you forget something, just make it up. Could we do something? And if this messes with the gods of cinema, let me know actually, can we have you here? Yeah. So what we're gonna do is we're gonna put their work into context of a scene it can we have? You come in a couple of feet now again what's really interesting about this just naturally. And we talk about camera technique and camera acting. Once the word that immediately pops into my mind it would shock you is intimacy film actors more than any other form of acting let's say theatrical let's say tv is similar, but film acting brings you in touch with howto act an intimate spaces and that a lot of people enjoyed not that's not entirely comfortable for everyone. Some people feel very uncomfortable when you're up close to them talking, but in film acting, you have to redesign your your special reality because again, back to earlier portland earlier portion of the course what do cameras do? Two images stretch them. Ok, so what do you think they do to space actually stretch space, they give you the illusion? If I'm filming them, they will appear on screen to be wider apart then this because the camera literally stretch that space and this is another really fun part of learning on a set you walk in a set and rooms or smaller. I was speaking to someone here creative life yesterday, and they were saying, oh, it was one of the producers here, producer of this class name zach he walked in the studio and the first thing he said to me, man, this place always looks ah bigger when I see it photographed and I said, zach, every space looks bigger one before we photograph it because of two reasons. One camera stretch space literally stretch space days, so if you stretch space, you stretch distance so this distance is going to seem wider. So whenever you're watching two actors in the scene and you think they're close, they're actually closer when we talked about when you see an actor's wait, they're actually thinner. It's, it's the same kind of converse in terms of spatial relationships. Another reason why space we imagine it to be bigger on screen is space is an amalgamation of images here's my point when I walk in this room, I taken the whole environment in one mental photograph. Ok? Ah, film requires me to take each component and build my own room. So the theater of the mind is always more powerful than the camera it's always more powerful than the camera I'm always going to build something bigger in my mind than truly exists does that make sense? Because I'll give an example we've all been in our in our kind of kitchen area are lounge area if that was a movie, what you would do is you would build that space in a relationship to this space you wouldn't build it you can you could build that any way you want you can you can pretend that kitchen is a mile away from here or close to hear you build space in your mind a very unique personal way when you watch a movie space doesn't exist that way I'll give you one last example that space space is the ultimate illusion on the final frontier it's thank you, it's the ultimate illusion in this sense we watch movies the way children experience the world how do I mean that when your child when you're an infant and you're with your what's your mother and your father or let's say your mother let's say you're not even a year old and the mother leaves the room the baby's conception of her actually is that she's dead that she doesn't exist because babies don't understand space they don't extend all moms going into the bathroom the brush your teeth they don't think on an intellectual let's lesson about space that's how we watch movies when something is gone it doesn't exist and if it does we romantically re way reoriented does that make sense another example when you're watching the movie and a new character comes on screen part of your brain thinks oh who's that that sound like a child oh who is this person what's that you know if someone takes out a gun oh that's a gun it was like we that's the beautiful thing about cinema and it's also one of the unique things about the profession it's one of the few art forms that we are fans of before become practitioners of and it's also a problem because we think we should be good at it you know I love movies what do you mean I don't know how to make one it's totally different totally different act whether it's acting or filmmaking anyway this is once the cameras and thiss becomes like theater of the mind one a one anyway don't blink like I was saying let's challenge myth one don't blink so alex if your mind man we're going to operate this camera and do a climate classic will be called over the shoulder shot into ash onto ashleigh no this is now going to go slow here it's called an over the shoulder shot because we're going over his shoulder right? So we call it over the shoulder we also call this so some filmmakers, since cinematographers might call this a dirty close up dirty close it means we're filming the subject, but we have another kind of physical artifact in between the camera and the subject, the opposite of a dirty close up hold on to your pens here is a clean close up clean clothes have been plies, nothing obscuring so this we have a dirty close up alice confinement that however he wants a long as we have another object in the frame. But again, look att actually I know it's tempting to look back there actually likes looking at herself it's tempting to look like they're but don't say look at him, the three of you play audience for second feel that space doesn't fill a cavernous I mean to me, maybe I've watched too many movies that feels cavernous to may and now look at it here, see how ordinary it is. This is part of the illusion we're enhancing with photography, it stretches it, you can kind of feel it's like you've got to kind of feel it's like pulling taffy, you know anyway, dirty close up single would you call the medium close close up medium? How would you describe that? Yeah, I would say medium close because we're not getting we're not we're not privileging the waste I want to say like a looser close up what everyone would say that's just to revisit some of the points so what we want actually to do what we want actually do stay on the stage where we want her to do is want her to do her monologue, we're going to give her her eye line of this other actor so he's your other and you can respond however you want to respond, I want you to do your monologue an up week, so we're going to see her monologue and we're going toe observe her restrain, restrain her instinct to blink makes sense, guys okay, so we'll give you the typical countdown rolling camera rolling, rolling, rolling on. Okay, so stand by. This is myth busting one roll camera this is myth busting one with ashley don't blink scene one take one and actually what would you d'oh? No, it doesn't matter. You don't know yet he doesn't know yet he's out there he's right there I just couldn't find him but I feel him he's about to make the biggest mistake of his life. Do you know what stands between that and happiness? You gatekeeper master of what's appropriate decider of who gets to be heard czar of the live mic at fenway park! Listen, I'm not crazy I won't say anything that would constitute for earmuffs. For the kids, I just have something to say to the man I love who doesn't know it yet? Everyone has their chance to be brave or to be safe to be who they want to be or versus who they're told to be. To live beyond their dreams or to dream how they've been let's laid out for them. Please. No one's ever is brave alone. No, you can open that door for me. Okay? Thanks. Okay. So as if she's not here skill one to ten how did she do on the not blinking? I mean let's also say something. Is it actually came here? It's, I think it's hard in the sense, it's hard. How did it feel to not blank? Did you feel self conscious to do lose the did you lose the technique? Or was it always a concerted effort not to blank? It would kind of faded in and out of, like, being aware of it, I guess. Yeah, like at the beginning, it was just like my eyes are burning somebody down my eyes. I think at one point, one left I was blinking help. No more so like, oh my gosh, things I wanted to blink more than the other one and then it was like what's going on with my eye for be it from me to be the voice of compassion, which I really I think you did a great job. I'm not saying you, didn't I actually I would put it higher in the richter scale, but be that isn't made two point two takeaways here that it is that it can be it first uh, this idea of a of a technique that the thing about technique and david moore senator low earlier in the courses that and a friend of mine who went to juilliard said something funny, she said once, oh, I should I should bastianelli arden, I'm not, but she said, I spent four years learning a technique and the rest of my career unlearning the technique and that's kind of what david was saying, but I don't think either of them were saying don't train there saying a technique is a core principle and you use what you know you can, but I think this idea of don't blink it's not a natural disposition in the sense you know you could get better or worse, said it I'm sure ashley who's really smart student really talented actress can do it and almost like a muscular uh exercise d blank her life d blank our life so before we compare takes I want her to give herself free rein I know it's hard to say don't think about blinking now she's really going to just do it just do it again on what we're going to see is is there an advantage art it artistically and in terms of performance does something get communicated without blinking? You know what is the realities of not blinking? Is there something that is do we get more insight into the performance? Does it seem unnatural will be the judge of that but actually if you could do it one more time and just in your natural eyes and in ears and all that so standby so this is we're going to roll on this one so we have played back and you know sorry to digress playback for cinema is a creation of the late seventies he's so sleep on this fact movies like the godfather and star wars didn't have playback they didn't know what they had shot until the next day so anyway a little more trivia for your evening meal so well camera this's blink explanation point uh scene one take two she could blink as much as she wants free to use your eyes we're going to watch and observe the difference and action what would you d'oh? No, it doesn't matter you don't know yet just like he doesn't know yet he's out there he's right there I just can't see him I couldn't find him but I feel him he's about to make the biggest mistake of his life and you know what stands between that and happiness you gatekeeper ok cut we're going to send a little different because she's being too good a student I want you to purpose way blank ok thiss maybe even harder than not blinking I know now her she's ready for a long string of therapy sessions I want you to blink actually because I think you're hardwired now too because in a way I I you know I think ashley knows this idea and is exploring the technique this common technique and it may be the great technique we don't know yet that not blinking is actually advantageous so I'm gonna give you a stranger bit of homework on this take this is going to be strange I've never tried this don't try this at home well actually try this at home ok camera rolls this is thank you this is a scene one take three called please blink blink early bright blink often is the name of this take and action what would you d'oh no it doesn't matter you don't know yet he doesn't know yet look he's out there he's right there I looked for him I just couldn't see him I couldn't find him but he's there I can feel him he's about to make the biggest mistake of his life and you know what stands between that and and happiness you gatekeeper master of appropriateness decider of who gets to be heard czar of the live mic at fenway park listen I'm not crazy I won't say anything that were constant for earmuffs on the kids I just have something to say to the man that I love everyone has a chance to be brave to or to be safe teo live beyond their dreams or to follow those that have been laid out for them no one ever can be this brave alone please know you can open that door for me cut I thought was really interesting actually have a seat guys thank you for now she can't stop blinking I have my own thoughts on that quite frankly I I was fascinated what did you think about her blinking a lot and her not blinking at all I mean, obviously we're dealing with poll polls here. You know, I think a cz in life as in technique probably a balance is a path we're not interested in balance today we're interested in the extremes what did you think of those two extremes and then we'll get ashley's report on executing them would you think photographically yeah well the the not blinking felt very unnatural to me like they're definitely points during that tequilas sort of sort of realized I was expecting a blink and then she didn't plan can I was like put off by that um and then the like last take where she was blinking a lot felt like she was losing control emotionally more which I don't know if that was the intent but that was my how I read that ok I thoughts about these two peace is side by side it's obviously the actors can judge any other thought again the myth being less blinking is better film acting that's the myth well I think it's just in the context of the pieces and it's you know, just to echo what he said they are two extremes that being us to do but one old and look a lot better and and hunts onda monologue that was trying to deliver in this context and you know none of us are experts on the text actually is do you feel one was more suitable? Well blinking because emotion t understand that's interesting and the other responses to what technique served the context of the peace more I like the blinking but there was just too much of it. You know, I think of balance is better so I guess the question the point is not that you like the blinking but it didn't diminish the piece it's interesting I guess I'm getting old and conservative I thought based on what we saw let's watch it, then we're going to watch it. But based on what we saw, I think the not blinking was visually, visually strange in a way like the blink, the blinking it's funny that the artifice of blanking was more distracting because I'll be honest, I'll say something, chris, I wasn't listening to what you're saying on daschle's like you get that no, I mean that I was actually on ly looking at the photographic realities of what you were doing because these gentlemen are into a much more sophisticated world pool, which is matching the text to the technique I'm totally with you. We were talking earlier about taxi driver in de niro and it's about not looking because in the shootout, as we all know, if you blink, you get shot so I get that full stop, but I actually would say that there's something about the rhythm of not blinking that to me feels very llegado feels very continuous, inappropriate, you know? And again, you know, editorially and this is another part of the myth. You know what? You know what them busting of the myth busting in the myth is this if an actor and this is a filmmaker piece, if an actor is doing something that state actors blinking a lot in a take its cut away if it's really if it's really I'm not saying cut away and never come back come saying head this cut her out of the film no I'm saying that we again going back to something mentioned earlier in the course this editorial paint job that a filmmaker and editor khun do so I think the myth busting of it all is you're all intellectual and intelligent enough to know that it's never one thing but I think what we do need to look at is like a technique not blinking is a technique in a way we're talking about this being is myth busting but really what we're doing is examining technique a technique and it's a very common trope in training that don't blink um so we put her to the test let's john if you don't mind let's let's play it back I believe this is the first one which is blink free actually living the blink free existence I believe so if we can cue that up okay with ash on my golf link scene one take one and this's don't blink what would you d'oh no, it doesn't matter you don't know yet he doesn't know yet he's out there he's right there I just couldn't find him but I feel him stop for a second job the thing that's great about this is and it speaks to your note about emotion I think he used the word emotion you know, this idea of technique, it can often kind of we call it a paralysis by analysis, you know, I think this idea of and this may sound I anticlimactic of ah, camera technique, you know, camera technique is we're learning today is subject to these things subject to the material subject to the type of collaboration we just talked to david morse working with large country and working with whomever kathryn bigelow whom ever going to be different experiences, you know, is he was talking about working in television every process has a new set of realities, so you know, this kind of again, we're exerting a polarity of technique and it's gonna look awkward it's going to look unnatural, but what I do like about eyes open here is it sustains. I have a little thing I have a little, uh, craft point that I'd like to use with young actors and it's very simple don't ask a question you don't want to know the answer to it's, a common trap with actors and scenes scenes become rhetorical. You know, we're not working on the scene on the level of actor director, but if you ask a character in a scene, a question that you don't, I want to know the answer to it will show john, can we won this from the beginning if you don't mind. So we're going to run this from the beginning and watch her ask the first series of questions. And you, judge, does she really want to know the answer? Or is it just rhetoric? So let's, watch these busting one with ashley, don't blink scene one, take one. And what would you d'oh? No, it doesn't matter. Okay, stop. Thanks, john. Do you did you buy the fact that she was asking him a question and be honest? No, and then that's. Okay, I think actually would be the first one to say I get your point. You know, one of the things it happens a lot with screen tests and monologues on one of the we've asked our actors to prepare model is but one thing that happens, I think, with monologues one of the traps with monologues is when an actor prepares a monologue that they get into this rhetorical pattern where they know no one's going to answer their question so they don't expect it, you know, and again, we're diverging into a different point of craft, but I think in general is a point of craft. When you're acting on screen, never ask a question you don't really want to know the answer to as in life, you know, and I think actually, you know, not a child the young students tend to do that let a young actors will yeah, do you really want to go to dance with me and start walking like stay president? Asked the question, expect the answer and that's the thing. Expect the answer anyway, not to pick on ashleigh because she's doing exactly what she's told the point is and overcompensation of technique can take you out of natural instinct, and we've given her a new abundance of technique. So what? What you do and this is why we call this the film lab we're asking you to take on a kind of different working condition, you know? We're saying, hey, don't blink so in a way, all the other things that make actually a great actress like go away, go away so let's watch more of don't boy sorry, in one second there I just couldn't find him, but I feel him he's about to make the biggest mistake of his life. Do you know what stands between that and happiness you gatekeeper, master of what's appropriate decider of who gets to be heard? These are the live mic at fenway park! Listen, I'm not crazy I won't say anything that would constitute for earmuffs for the kids I just have something to say to the man I love who doesn't know it yet everyone has their chance to be brave or to be safe to be who they want to be or versus who they're told to be to live beyond their dreams or to dream how they've been what's laid out for them please no one's ever is brave alone no, you can open that door for me. Okay, right well said that was may I love I think again we can go back and forth and then we're basically quibbling about taste what you guys like I would say this I think the eyes open do that thing where you're not giving him wiggle room it's I don't know the monologue well enough I'm just playing by here but I don't know what I love about it is you're not giving him wiggle them in this monologue open the door only you can do it you you are looking at you this isn't about me it's about you. You you again we we consider here and do a text analysis all day but I do I just think what is interesting and what we're getting to is whatever the technique is it's got to be grounded I don't think free floating technique or technique for technique state sake is valid because we're seeing what you're doing because you're developing your mechanism of evaluation, you are watching and listening. That's what sophisticated technicians and artisans do you're watching and listening so technique that free floats don't blink is ok, that sounds great, but what's the piece about no again, I don't want to get into what I like versus what you like, but I think the subject, the eyes and I go back to earlier in the course, the psychology of the eyes, I mean, something we probably would never debate how powerful that psychology is, how powerful psychology what did you think about it? We haven't asked the actress yet about thiss take that one. Yeah, yeah, I don't I felt I mean, I heard what people were saying afterwards, but I felt a little bit more president, I guess then the time where I was asked to blink a bunch because it felt a little bit more natural, too. I not blink, I guess, to forget about not blinking versus not going to do something. Yeah, it's kind of like if I say hit a nail versus don't hit the mail at some point, you kind of lose, you're just not doing it right, yeah, which I love because I think for some actors, not blinking is is strenuous, it could be really strenuous and I'm not sure I'm not saying it wasn't for you but I love again trying to stay away from taste but I do think you know what I think I forgot about the technique here I thought it was interesting elements to it very interesting elements to it what? Sitting across from her? What did you think? That it seemed odd other than knowing at the very beginning that she was trying to keep your eyes open and then you're kind of keeping it together? I actually I agree I I felt more president more transfer transfixed and communicated tio in the version where there was no blinking right? Actually, I personally felt more not just at ease, but more invested in the dialogue that was happening. Well, I find in film and in life it's almost film is is if life is a sweater that's forced comes if life is a sweater than film is the the sweater turned inside out. You know that's truly what I believe in the sense that what that which we seek in our films is not what we seek in reality you may say I want when someone's talking to you I don't want them the blank I want them to look me in the eye next time you have a conversation with someone asked them either to do it not blinking at you or you do it without liking so my point is film logic and reality these words are so malleable you know what makes technique what makes reality? I often think it's the opposite of example the most artificial kind of shot size earlier in the course retirement shots as the most artificial shot sizes close up we don't see life in close up and if you do you may need professional health I'm looking at you but I can still see actually I know her legs were still crossed yes I just saw them a second ago but if sheehan crosses her legs or uncross your legs she just did it so I you know I'm saying my peripheral vision we don't have perfect vision and film we have guided we have myopia which is near sightedness so this is artificial but people will go to movies and said I want I like real movies about real people no you don't he want to see a close up of reese witherspoon because you want to be in that experience because more than anything else people who want to go to movies want they want access they want to be someplace that can't be otherwise and they want to be here in between ashley and yet they want to be in the middle and that's where the camera is placed us so in a way, this idea of testing technique technique is often the reverse image of reality itt's that sweater pulled inside out let's watch just so the other cute can drop here for you let's watch the blink a thon this was fast I found this fascinating I I just didn't you were such a good sport to do let's watch her blink a thon one of you ready one take three cold please blink blink early brooke blink often is the name of this take and actually what would you do know it doesn't matter you don't know yet he doesn't know yet look he's out there he's right there I looked for him I just couldn't see him I couldn't find him but he's there I can feel you can you stop refer saying because actually a za filmmaker I've got to be very sensitive to the actress working I'm also noticing when I actually blinks we get a lot of this so what I'm queuing in on is a filmmaker is the eye but yes forget that this was a ridiculously polarizing exercise but I also want one thing and this goes back to something you're saying is very important you were asking earlier when I don't quite know the words to say or I don't have the grounding and performance look I'm not an actor I've trained as an actor because we were thrown in front of a firing line if we didn't train but I also know what I've developed over time in my technique is I understand mechanism so what I'm seeing is when ashley blinks it's a reliefs and what that releases coming it's coming out and so if I say to her if I'm watching her performance and I want to get rid of I may do something else with her eyes do you sense that everything like a stalled cause and effect so if you don't know the words the actor words you could also look at patterns engage cause and effect I can the cause is the the exertion of power that now she's exhibiting in the performance on we're getting a huffy puffy version of it okay, so everything I think an actor ville has a cause and effect so even if you don't know the words don't let the we talked earlier in the christian vocabulary but the vocabulary acting and directing I guess I believe that's more to be authored by the participants you know that goes back to what all I guess today have been saying every experience is unique yeah, the vocabulary we were talking about today was camera vocabulary very clear that this was about scientific empirical camera vocabulary not that not the collaboration of actor director I'm sorry john whenever you're ready we'll just wrote will keep rolling on this I think the biggest mistake of his life and you know what stands between that and happiness, you gatekeeper, master of appropriateness decided who gets to be heard czar of the light might get fenway park. Listen, I'm not crazy. I won't say anything that were constant for here must on the kids. I just have something to say to the man that I love. Uh, everyone has a chance to be brave, tio, or to be safe. Tio will be on their dreams or to follow those that have been laid out for them. No one ever couldn't be this brave alone. Please know you can open that door for me. I mean, you know, don't get me wrong. They're both fascinating takes for what we're looking. I'm watching you watch it. If you one of the great experiences I did. Ah, discussion was like a workshop not too long ago with kristin wig and I was watching her watch brides. Maid's. I was like, standing in back of her watching her performance. I was just watching you watch that. What were you thinking when you're watching this? No, I mean that's. One of the story for a different day. I mean, but I again, though, the technique unlock something. But the thing is actually in everyone and everyone that's, ours to be eternal. You know, I do think there's a difference between watching yourself and studying yourself, and I say this to my students all the time when you come into my class, we're not gonna watch movies, we're going to study them it's totally different. So for those actors out there and here who find a hard time watching yourself, maybe maybe studying yourself is a different is a kind of different aspect of it studying your filmmaking, you know, you mentioned you were a writer studying the silhouette of the foreman and the content, everything is foreman con you know, I wasn't even listening to what she said I couldn't quote one word back to you, but I also I'm skilled and experienced enough to see patterns and see attributes that developed really quickly, so to me, don't blink. Yeah, obviously, who knows? But I do think we can't leave this section without saying how profound it is in the sense it, especially in this kind of shot size, yeah, and there's that other point wolf from a mile away from the camera doesn't really matter obviously it's a different it's, a it's, a horse of a different feather, but I think this idea of blink ege watch taxi driver watch a few good men tell me if it feels artificial or organic