By Allen Levin
Last night I got word of a bunch more bookings, including yet another excellent series booking, congrats Maddison Bullock! I wish I had known when I wrote “Lifebookings” a couple days ago, however the great news is I can’t ever keep up with all our bookings. They are numerous and wonderful. Maddy, during her announcements mentioned that she had caught herself taking directions personally, as if she’d done something she shouldn’t have. She said she’d taken a hit after getting directions so she’s looking for opportunities to work with directors (even at no pay) to get rid of this habit. Get her while you can!
I told Maddy that she should be like water. Water will fit any container you put it in. Water doesn’t get offended. Water doesn’t take things personally and have to decide if it wants to fit the container. Water simply fits. The director is your container. Take nothing personally. Just fit the container. That’s why I’m going to hire you. I can give you any direction and you can do it. I don’t have to worry about any kind of backtalk, or treating you like a sensitive being. I can just give you the direction and you’ll go there. No questions asked.
Later in last night’s class another of my actors was getting direction in a redirected monologue. She was having trouble getting away from her rehearsal choices and she wasn’t present in the moment. The work came out dishonestly. As I was directing her she began to cry. I told her to put the tears into the work which she did, ultimately losing her place and she couldn’t go on. Once again, this is a problem with directors. This is taking something personally that isn’t personal. I explained to her that I love her and this is simply how I direct. I mentioned sometimes you’ll know in your heart that for whatever the reason the director can’t stand you (could be your remind her of her ex) and she’ll give you directions. No matter how she does it, no matter the tone of voice, you still can’t take it personally. Be water.
I was working with another actor of mine last week and giving him directions for his scene. He’s newish to acting and he wanted to deflect the directions and explain to me his take on the character. I cut him off and told him his take was his business. My directing is my business and that’s the direction he needs to go. This is a director’s medium. If you want to ensure that your choices go in, you need to be the top producer on the project. Otherwise, your interpretation is irrelevant. It’s highly relevant before you book the part as you are your own director. Once you have the part, now if a director gives you a note, take it. No need to fight for your interpretation. Be water. Fit the container. He later came up to me and apologized. This also wasn’t necessary. He felt he must have offended me in some way. Incorrect. I hadn’t considered any offense. I know he’s newer to acting and I don’t mind that he wants to express his interpretation. It was a nice wake up call that sometimes that conversation should be skipped.
A fun point to make in an article called “Be Water” is that we are water. Every human being is over half water. You are made up of over 50% water! In some cases it’s 60%, even 70% and over! So, just be what you are. Be what you’ve always been. Take inspiration from pure water. Water will fit into a balloon and into a glass. Water can fill your shoes even if your feet are still in them. Whatever space is in there, water is able to fit. So, let’s all be the water we are. If you choose to take things personally, you simply won’t last. Be a technician. Someone gives you a direction, be open to it. Be flexible. Take it. If it’s wrong (like my example of giving CPR to someone that is coughing as an EMT in a film) calmly state your case. If your case is denied, go ahead and begin giving compressions. They can (as they did in my example) cut the cameras on the coughing victim and still make the scene work.
As you are given directions, particularly directions you don’t agree with and wouldn’t do if you were self directing, make them make sense. It’s your job to create logic. Figure it out. Make it work. Take the direction and make the change. Remember it’s not personal. It’s a director trying to tell their story and you are a story teller helping them out. If they are stressed out and acting like a dick, that’s on them. You remain professional. After taking the directions, remain removed. Don’t get involved in a squabble. Save all the drama for between “Action!” and “Cut!”
Onward and UP.