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Actor/Director Film Lab

Lesson 15 of 16

The Three Myths of Film Acting: Speak Softly

Robert Milazzo

Actor/Director Film Lab

Robert Milazzo

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Lesson Info

15. The Three Myths of Film Acting: Speak Softly


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1 Shot Sizes Duration:16:46
3 Camera Movement Duration:14:06
4 Actor Critique: Speed Duration:19:09
5 Actor Critique: Motion Duration:10:35
6 Actor Critique: Size Duration:14:49
7 Dynamics of Rehearsal Duration:11:53
8 Dynamics of The Shoot Duration:18:51

Lesson Info

The Three Myths of Film Acting: Speak Softly

Speak softly. What do you think? The myth we're goingto take on now is was terrible grammar. Speak softly. Well, yeah. I mean, a lot of times, film actors were taught softer, gentle with the instrument and its having people start using the word instrument. You know, you have to speak, so you can't say instrument loud, your instrument. So this idea and I think you know it's funny when I was watching ashleigh and thinking about marlon brando, one of the great master classes and arguably the biggest turning point modern film acting is nineteen fifty four on the waterfront. You've gotta watch two scenes in particular. One scene where he's, where he even marie saint, he puts his hand on offense and says, are can I ask you out again, or can I walk you home, watch his eyes? They never blank. They always move his foot. I focus is always moving. Another thing he did in that film which may have ruined everything for everyone, is, well, you don't need to be allowed. No, no, we do not want to be a...

llowed that good acting. He's with soft tone of voice I have my own very strong opinions on this which I will relate very soon but let's see it in action so the first time you do this I want you to speak louder than normal don't want you to shout at her I just want you to speak in a way that you realize you're louder than you want to be or should be ok, so we're going to see his monologue actually we're going to hear his monologue we're going to hear it would what I would call kind of vocal lift to it yeah vocal left so whenever you're ready we're gonna roll camera we're going to throw the image a monitor were good monitors up and this is scene one take one not a shout, but louder than the normal tone of voice, so we know he's using his instrument and action you ever see those snickers commercials? You know the ones where ah cranky old grandma is conducting a symphony and then someone hands or a snickers bar and she turns into this confident young conductor the guy we has the stickers to her always says the same thing you're not you when you're hungry, what does that mean like actually, who else am I? Who else could I possibly be? No matter what day, no matter what I'm feeling than me cut so, alex, keep rolling. Once you go back from to the beginning and without destroying our are delicate sound of sound here, I do want you to slightly yell at her. Okay? Don't scream at her. And if it's too loud, production will say melissa, what are you doing? I just want more of a vocal attack on her. Ready? We're also want to see how the vocal quality affects the character quality. You know, we are often a subject of her own vocal patterns, you know, and I hate to make it, you know, there's, the loud american and, you know all this stuff. But forget all the cliches there is. There is a persona that that is integrated with vocal quality. So he's not going to yell at her. But he's, I want want you louder. Okay, so camera rolls, this is take two louder than natural and action. You ever see those snickers commercials? You know, the ones where ah, cranky old grandma is conducting a symphony and then someone hands or a snickers bar, and she turns into this confident young conductor. The guy answer the snickers always says the same thing. You're not you when you're hungry, what does that mean, like actually, like if god, is it ever possible that I could ever be anything other than myself that I could be mason two point oh, if I want a game or mason to your point five if I didn't wake up early enough, it sounds like complete nonsense, but I had a day recently when I felt like I was someone else. I can't even explain it. I I woke up and I felt like I had woken up into another person's life. I looked at myself in the mirror and I just thought, who is this person with that huge knows those tiny hands? I put my suit on a kiss, my wife went toe work, I went through a whole day's worth of motions feeling like I was living another person's life. And honestly, I thought that I was about to lose it. I mean, how could you possibly ever know that you're living the life you're supposed to be living? How do you know that you're living the life you live yesterday? What if one day I woke up and I was living someone else's life seen through their eyes and my brain, for whatever reason, told me that this is the life that I am supposed to be living, how would I ever know? Would that be me? Would that be? Riel doesn't even matter I was about to lose it when I went to the gas station I forgot my pin number I think on one side to pay the storm plug with cash he's about to he asked me do you want to pay do you want to buy anything in addition your gas I grab the first thing I saw I gave it to him I paid for it I took the rapper office I walked outside I took a big bite out of it end I just zone back in ok from the top sort of ok half half volume the exact opposite polarity of the vocal range whenever you're ready camera still rolling in your own time started the beginning take two so dave okay uh from the jump from the top and action you ever see those snickers commercial flight you know the ones where ah cranky old grandma is conducting a symphony and then someone gives you a snickers bar and she turns into this confident young conductor and then the guy gives it the snickers always says the same thing you're not you when you're hungry what does that mean like actually what what else am I what else could I possibly be no matter what day no matter what I'm feeling other than me and I mason point five if I don't sleep enough two point oh if I win a game it sounds like complete nonsense but I had a whole day last week when I felt like I was someone else I can't even explain it I woke up feeling like I was living another person's life I looked at myself in the mirror and I just thought who is this person with that huge nose that's tiny hands I put on a suit kissed my wife went toe work went through a whole day's worth of emotions that felt wrong unattached whisper too I actually thought that I was losing my mind I mean how could you possibly ever know that you're living the life you're supposed to be living that banker living the life you live yesterday because it doesn't even matter this make any sense? I mean what if I woke up one day and I was in another person's life seeing through their eyes living their life and thinking that that was the life I was supposed to be living? Does it have any purpose to save me in anything? I was actually about to lose it when I went to the gas station and I couldn't remember my pin number and I had to go inside to pay with cash and the store clerk asked me if I wanted to buy anything with my gas I just I grabbed the first thing that I saw paid for it walked out toward the wrapper off took a bite and then I just saw him back in jesus thank god for sneakers making you the chills uh it's fascinating. Thank you guys have seen that was wild, you know, it's funny I got to say when I was thinking about the midst throw up here I didn't know that they would provide more questions finances that was fascinating let's get it from the the artist first, then we can talk to the audience. How did you feel about voice here about us off? Actually, I thought that it kind of liberated and free me up a little bit, going really loud at first and I felt like I kind of unhinged a little bit more and focused on communicating and really full, expressing kind of my deep seated concern, I guess with the situation and then when I got softer, I felt a completely different emotional tenor. Well, what's wonderful about that is that is the myth that we can't bust that it is a different character it's a different choice, you know, like it's a different choice, I think going back to blinking those of two different choices it's not the same engagement animal or did you have a preference in terms of stylistically knowing that monologue again? This is just taste it's not I think more of the originally thought more of the loud, but as I went through the soft yeah, actually I felt like the story was more more compelling more fascinating actually well, you know it's interesting a vocal coach once told me and I think it's true very true it's easier to sing loudly than it is to sing softly another bit of homework out there and in here next time whether it's in the shower or actually to a real degree and you find yourself singing sing softly and feel the energy there's a different energy it's a diaphragmatic energy it's a different kind of physical energy it's a different energy it doesn't mean there's more or less it's just a refocusing we comment re combining of the of the mechanism of energy again we could sit here all day and talk about the scene study choice but let's, talk to your colleagues here your four colleagues what did you think about those differences? Is anything illuminating? Do you buy this idea? Was that the same character? What was the cause and effect there for you with the vocal changes and did you have a preference? Yeah for me completely changed the dynamic of the character and you know, it was almost like night and day things started off on speaking softly and my first instinct was like it's coming across like a bit of a stone that was telling a story and then as it gradually went lower and lower and it became a lot more kind of meaningful yeah there's no depth to it what's interesting and again, I think what I was really seeking to prove empirically is that something that's very common and film acting now is better softer is better, and I don't believe that in any way, shape or form, I like your reasoning. I like your reason that that the choice mechanism realized with the actor and it's and it's a it is a choice blanking there's a choice vocal vocal toning vocal approaches is a choice. What bothers me is that when it becomes an industry standard and I'll give an example, we've all seen this movie the movie where there's no movie title but we've seen the situation to people bothers me so much when I watch this movies and tell that you see two people it allowed club people like dancing around and obviously on the set there's, no music and you have two actors talking with this hey what's up okay, people in a club I wouldn't use that it's not that volume it's about vocal tenacity, it's about convincing us of the tenacity of the voice in the shining there's, a really great sequence where nicholson walks into the ballroom and there's a full on ball going on it's like a danceable and he goes up to lloyd, the bartender says, hi lloyd, uh good to be back any orders a drink and when nicholson does so well when he walks in that room on the set there's no no dancing there's no it's all an illusion right? The people are in the background dancing to music that's going to put him later but what nicholson does is he helps the illusion by talking as if there's noise in the room does that make sense? I think that's a part of the taste mechanism context that is needed if an actor isn't allowed club and they're talking like there a library that bothers me too peppy because I think that's where the myth should be a myth I think we should abolish it. I agree in the sense of we consider all day and say one was one was more captivating than the other, but I like the fact that maybe the the take away the actionable thing here is don't dismiss it in your in your catalog of choices and also as a filmmaker don't dismiss it maybe the note you know softer here don't shout here were really, really and I don't like notes like shout or don't shout to me that's very ordinary more attack here more vocal attack, more aggressive vocal tone sometimes you may just need to say ladder we may just need to say, look, you're being very soft here in this scene there's there's an explosion outside, so I need you. You know, another thing of filmmaker khun, do with an actor's provide context, and this goes back to nothing you were you were stuck on. Sometimes the way to explain something to an actor is to illuminate the whole context. If you say, I want you to be allowed in the actresses, why do you want me to be a lot of oh, well, someone's dancing to music in back of you, okay, you know what I'm saying. If you put their choices into a context, you can change them based on your illusion and based on your vision.

Class Description

The relationship between the filmmaker, the actor, and the camera is an integral part of every production, but is rarely discussed. In Actor/Director Film Lab, Robert Milazzo explores cinematographic craft and collaboration and its relationship to acting and performance.

In this beginner-friendly class, both filmmakers and actors learn new ways to work together to bring their best work to life. Filmmakers develop new skills for effectively communicating and collaborating with performers. Actors learn how cameras capture performance and how to adjust their work to suit a production’s technical realities.

Actor/Director Film Lab equips those who work on both sides on the camera with insights that improve their working/artistic relationships, while strengthening the quality of their professional film work.

Special Guests:

  • David Morse, Actor 
  • Kasi Lemmons, Writer/Director/Actor 
  • Keith Gordon, Writer/Director


Philip John

I thoroughly enjoyed and became a better craftsman by watching and partaking in this workshop. Congrats Rob you're inspiring and down to earth made this experience a real pleasure. Cheers Mate Phil from Sydney Australia

Carlos Sandoval

I´ve seen a couple of lessons so far, and this is really a great class. Robert know his subject. Just by listening to him talk about Cassavetes and other fascinating filmmakers that rarely get mentioned nowdays, I get on track. The best.

Laura Latimer

Great Class - Thank you!