Answers 4 Actors

Thursday, September 24, 2009

It's all about Relationship

It’s All About Relationship.

Today I want you to look at the relationship between your character and the other person in the scene. Have you taken the time to determine who is the other person to your character? I am sure you are going to tell me that you did that already. But did you go far enough?

You say to me, “She is my wife.” That is just the place you should start not stop. You need more details, than just she is my wife. Is she your wife who has just done something you hate? Is she your wife who is hurt or injured? Is she your wife who you trusted yesterday but now in this moment you don’t trust? You must add details. Exactly how are you feeling about her at this moment?

Take some time, grab a notebook and write down how you are feeling about her before the scene begins. Pretend you are talking to your closest friend and confide in him about her. Tell him everything you are thinking and feeling at this very moment. Tell him about her as if he has never met her, describe her and your relationship to her. Yes, your feelings and opinions may change but fill yourself up with how you feel about her at the beginning of the scene. Once you have actually done the work, it is there in the back of your mind, so when you see that person you will see her through this filter. If you do, the scene will start in a very believable moment.

Why is this so important? I cannot tell you how many times I have seen an actor start a scene without knowing this information. It is as if he is starting in “neutral”. Well that is not believable because real people, believable people, always have opinions about the other person even a stranger. That is your goal, to be believable, so believable that your listener, the audience, is driven to watch you. Can’t take their eyes off you!

In real life we have all this information in our mind and memory. We are not aware of it but as an actor you need to make sure you have filled up the “memory disc” of your character with everything you need to make me believe you are this character and a very important part of this information is the relationship you have with the other person.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Book Review of The Right Questions for Actors plus more

My News

It seems like ages since I was in Hong Kong in May. I have so enjoyed hearing what all my Hong Kong friends have been doing. So many fun exciting projects. It is so much fun to watch your projects grow into these beautiful exciting films, television shows and theater performances! Thanks for keeping me posted.

So what is going on with me. Well I am so pleased and honored to share a review of my book, The Right Questions for Actors. It was online at the NoHoArtsDistrict. I have put a copy here.

The Right Questions for Actors

Written by Paul D. Marks Wednesday, 29 July 2009

The Actor's Detective Series – Volume 1
How to create exciting, believable characters for Stage and Screen
from The Actor's Detective, Jeanne Hartman

When you watch a play, movie or television show you can often tell when the actors are "acting" or when they are truly inside the character they're portraying. When they're going through motions, reading the lines and hitting their marks or one with the character. And that latter ability is often the difference in how we as the audience react to not only that character, or the other characters, but to the show as a whole. If you've ever had the chance to see more than one actor in the same role you'll know what I'm talking about. One actor can make you believe, draw you in, make you part of the drama, while another actor reading the exact same lines makes you aware of the proscenium arch or the parameters of the movie screen.

So what makes the difference?

Some people are born with an innate ability, perfect pitch, athletic skill or the facility to portray a character. Most people, even those with natural talent, still need to practice. They need a coach to guide them and help them be the best at what they do. That's where acting coach Jeanne Hartman's The Right Questions for Actors comes in. And the title truly says what it is – a series of questions for actors to help them get to know their character and draw it out. But the book is not only helpful (and necessary) for actors but also for writers and directors who want to get the best performances from their players.

Some of the questions are directed at the actor's character while others are directed at the actor himself or herself. Question #11 is "What information is it that only you know?" I found this particularly interesting in that knowing this info can truly change how one might interpret a role. Another intriguing question, in a book of intriguing questions, is #13, "What's the Game?" in which Ms. Hartman lists several "games" for identifying the roles of two characters in a scene. A couple of examples are The Victim and the Oppressor and the Taker and the Giver. In looking at this list it truly helps one to crystallize the relationships and power differentials of the characters in the scene. There are, of course, not only the questions but also discussion of how to utilize and delve into them.

The book is in a spiral bound format, making it easy to use as it can be set down to any page and stay open. And there are worksheet pages for every question where the actor can fill in their answers to the questions.

Actors are not the only ones who can benefit from this book. As a writer, I've found it to be a great tool in helping me think about and write richer characters. And actors don't act in a vacuum, they act within a scene, within a script and with other actors. The Right Questions for Actors is an essential tool that will help them dig deep into their character's background so that, even if that specific information doesn't come out in the scene or even in the story as a whole, it will inform the actor's decisions about their performance and help them give a richer, deeper characterization. And that can make all the difference between a good actor and a great actor, whose performance involves the audience and engages them in the play.

Paul D. Marks is a fiction writer and script doctor. He can be reached through his web page at

Also I wrote a piece called My Love Affair with the Noho library.
Here is a link to it.

I also just finished an interview with a theater director who has a play opening this fall. It will be posted soon.

So besides coaching actors, I really have been writing a lot. I’ve got a few other projects in the oven but will let you know as they come alive. I’ve been invited to have a monthly blog about Acting as well. I’ll let you know when it is up.

So stay in touch and keep the info coming. Hope to see you all again very soon.