Why We Teach.
It is the little things that show directors, producers and editors that you know your craft.
Just the other day Penny and I received an email from a actor who recently completed our Advanced On-Camera Class. This “Acting Lion” paid attention to all of the major and subtle camera techniques we teach in this class. The techniques that all the stars and major supporting actors know. The techniques that are the difference between a career of minor roles or career of leading roles.
We mentor our actors. Our joy comes from knowing an “Acting Lion” who knows who they are, what to do and the success that leads to.
Now enjoy the best “Thank you” letter an acting teacher can receive.
Dear Penny and Hank,
I hope you both are doing well.
I just wanted to reach out and let you know how grateful I am for your Advance On-camera class. It literally was the key to my success on set earlier this month. I have been out here since January 5th– but I filmed my first 3 Scene co-star role on Blackish on February 4th; opposite of Tracee Ellis Ross and Andy Daly.
They were just thoroughly impressed by my overall professionalism and awareness of the camera. YOU BOTH WOULD HAVE BEEN SO PROUD.
I got to set early- ahead of my call-time because I wanted to settle into my trailer.
1st scene was with Andy Daly
Literally there were so many things going on- but it reminded me of being in class. The set is very relaxed, but the lights are very very bright, and everybody was doing something. I bought my sides on set along with a pencil-which was great because the blocking was completely different then what the script had. I took notes and I asked questions– one in particular- the director Rob Sweeney- wanted me and Andy to begin walking on a certain line so when Tracee was done- I would be able to say mine right after. I asked him what particular line he wanted me to begin walking on– and he told me and then asked If I wanted someone to “que” me. I replied “No Thank you” but then proceeded to ask what word he wants me to listen for to begin my walk. He looked at me (impressed) and then we went over the sides that I had in my hands and he specified a word – I circled and made sure to know her lines as well as I knew mine, because I knew I needed to walk on a line and listen for when she was done to immediately say my line to Andy. — I kept my body gestures to a minimum, but I definitely was aware of my continuity. I made sure I knew were the camera was at all times and my face was ALWAYS in it.
2nd scene was with Tracee Ellis Ross
Now this is where a majority of my dialogue took place. They CHANGED THE ENTIRE BLOCKING– I was supposed to be sitting and she comes in to see me crying and then asking what happens. NOPE. They switched it and had me coming into the room and talking to her about my problems.
Now here’s the cool part
We were going in for our first take— it was basically an over the shoulder shot on her– we did the scene she has to walk off, and that is, supposed to be, it. What happened was, she walks off– the director didn’t call cut– so I continue the motion of walking into the shot– turning around and instantly squaring myself to the camera, pretending to watch her leave, I added a line, stood there for a little longer, turned around and started very frustratedly making coffee.— The director then calls cut. I thought maybe they would have said something negative about what I did– but no— they liked it and it instantly became a two shot. They asked me to repeat my blocking so they can get the camera lined up correctly with my movements. Tracee comes to me and says “That was really funny” —
So, every take after that— that blocking was there, and I had another line/ and more camera time.
So now it was time to switch around the camera for my shot/ and a push in.
THANK GOODNESS FOR YOUR CLASS!!!!
I HIT MY MARK EVERY-TIME I HAD TO WALK IN
They wanted me walk in the room- and talk to her.
I created my own blocking before our interaction. IN CHARACTER— I rushed into the room, stopped, found her and proceeded to continue the motion of going to my mark. When I reached my mark, I gathered my thoughts and then proceed to speak. It felt great to know what I was doing! They took notice
So, they then changed/added lines a few moments before we were going in for a take. I literally felt like it was a test — the script supervisor came to me and told me the line changes– I repeated them a few times and it was back in for another go. Literally kept my exact blocking, still hit my mark, and didn’t miss a word I was supposed to say.
Tracee and I had a very improv’ feel to our work, wherever she went – I followed, and she respected it a lot. After Tracee shook my hand and said “see you tomorrow”
3rd scene was with Tracee and Andy
So, we came back, and this scene was them singing me Happy Birthday (which was cool because my Birthday was at the end of the week). Anyway, we ran it a few times before going in for a take and I had walked up to the Director and told him “I really feel I should say Thank you when Tracee hands me the card”– he said sure. So, I approached Tracee and told her my thoughts and she told me ” You are lovely and amazing– so whatever you do I am fine with.”
It was great because they used TWO cameras for this group Birthday shot and I was so happy because that is what you two taught me. I had to bend over and blow out candles, so I was aware of moving slow for the camera to pan up etc.
All in All. I was very comfortable and wasn’t at all in shock with everything going on around me— I believe they saw that– The writer thought I was funny, the director thought I was funny, basically everyone on the crew thought I was funny and very much knew what I was doing. When they wrapped me, everyone said, “See you when you come back” and I was told by one of the producers – a phone call about me was made in the middle of the day to the executive producers about bringing me back.
I was prepared and they saw that– I knew what i was doing– I spoke to everyone and was kind to EVERYONE. So, I tell my friends in NYC to look you up because If I would have not taken your class— I would have drowned in the chaos.
This can also have the positive result of his agent looking at him differently and submitting him for more important roles in the future.