Okay, it might be a suprise to many, but I have done acting before. When I heard that there’s going to be a master class in acting, my heart leaped out of my chest and started to do the Asereje dance (that’s a 2002 reference. Dear Lord, that was more than 10 years ago). I was really looking forward to having the class because of two MAIN reasons:
- I get to exercise my acting muscles again. It has been a while.
- I get to learn a different principles of acting by Simon Woods, who is a practitioner of Suzuki Actor Training Method. What does that mean? I don’t know. Looked it up on the internet didn’t find much about it, other than it was developed by renown theatre director named Tadashi Suzuki. And that’s why I’m looking forward to it.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty.
Q: What was the most challenging part of the masterclass and why?
This may sound presumptious, but I know to a lot of people, the hardest thing to do is the exercise where you have to mirror the movements of the person in front of you while answering questions, but it wasn’t for me.
There is this exercise in the class where we were required to lie down on the floor and think of nothing. We have “metaphysically transport” ourselves to a different plane of existence. The purpose that particular exercise is basically another take of Bruce Lee’s “be water my friend” philosophy, which means stay calm and think of nothing.
And it was hard because, I am by nature, a restless guy. And doing nothing makes my mind race and heart so fast that it kicks my anxieties into full gear. It felt horrible.
The first time when we did the exercise,
as I lie down on the floor,
as I felt the cold floor on my back,
as I closed my eyes slowly and slowed down my breathing,
I realised that I have so many things to do in oh-so little time. I panicked for a while.
Then I heard Simon’s voice guiding us. And that was a Godsend. I can finally focus at something. It went smoother thereafter.
I used to meditate a lot to calm my nerves and myself, but I have been slacking off lately, just because I wanted to use that time to do something else instead. That exercise was in a weirdly way, a wake up call for me to get back into meditating.
Q: Do you feel you have gained a new Insight? Explain.
Absolutely. If there’s something that I really value a lot as a fantastic insight, it is this;
‘Acting is more than just “acting”‘
Yes it sounds meta, but this is what I’m trying to get at;
You know that feeling when you watch a scene in a movie and there’s this scene that hooked you in so hard emotionally, that it stays in your mind for a couple of days?
See, that’s what I meant by acting is more than just “acting”. Actors need to not realised that they’re performing. They need to convinced and tell themselves that they are that character in that scene. It’s easier said than done, to be honest.
It would be a blatant lie to say that I have not realised about this. But the way Simon Woods approached this understanding is superb. He filled the gaps to whatever understanding I had about it.
For example, he said that actors have to exist within two realms at the same time; the first one being the realm of the story world, where he or she is the character, and the second one being the realm of the production world (aka Real Word), because he or she needs to listen to the directions given by the director.
Wow, I have never thought of it, that way. This gave me a better appreciation and understanding of what actors have to go through when they’re performing.
Like Oh My God, did you know that Leslie Nelson acted in a more serious roles before he went to do more comedic stuff. I love that man so much. R.I.P, Mr. Nelson.
Q: How would you apply the knowledge you have learned to your own directing style?
As much as I’m a fan of following production schedules because I respect everyone’s time, I’m also a fan of working with actors to achieve the level of performance they’re satisfied with, because I respect the craft that they’re bringing to the table.
But after going through the Master Class with Simon Woods, I have realised that if I want my film to reached another level, I need to understand that no matter how many rehearsals you’ve done with your actors prior to shooting days, you as a director need to know when is the time to direct your actors and when is the time when you don’t have to.
Bottomline, Trusting Your Actors.
Back in the class, we watched a documentary of a movie called “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse. We were shown a specific part of the documentary of how Martin Sheen “get into” his character. It was brutal. It was mesmerising. It was REAL. See, in that scene, Francis Ford Coppola trusted Martin Sheen and let his actor “took over”. That trust between actor and director, is something I need to learn developing with the actors for my film.
Link below if you want to see what part in the documentary of what I was talking about:
To not regurgitate what I’ve already said, I learned a lot for what is a short Acting Master Class by Simon Woods. It was fantastic, and I am hoping to have another Acting Master Class with him in the future.