Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Action/Reaction technique

It was never my intention to become an acting coach but, as a filmmaker, I delved into the complexities of an actor’s performance as a quality control measure to ensure that the films and television shows I produced would be salable and effective in engaging the audience. The result of my studies and observations is the Action/ReAction technique. It is designed to develop an actor quickly to the point where he or she can perform like a seasoned professional. It also enables the actor to express his or her personal brand signature and to create a fan base by resonating and connecting with all of the constituent groups in the audience instead of just one or two. More on this later.

The first practical application of Action/ReAction came about in 1985 when I was shooting a scene for my movie Woman on the Beach. We were shooting a dinner party scene in a hillside house in Malibu with a half dozen people sitting around the table enjoying some post-art exhibition, intellectual banter. The dialogue was well performed by all the actors but I felt something was missing.

Before wrapping for the evening, I held everyone in place and went around the table filming each actor in turn instructing them to react to the other actors at the table. “Look at him as though he hasn’t a clue”, “Give her a look as though she said something very astute”, “Look at the actor next to you as though he had just ‘bested’ another at the table”, “Give me an ‘uh-oh, this is going to be trouble’ reaction”, and on and on. By the time I covered all of the actors, I had much more than I needed. A month later in the editing room, I cut this scene together using many though not all of the reactions and it was the most entertaining scene in the movie—a visual ping-pong that made the dialogue more potent than it ever could have been without the reactions. I recognized these reactions had become a very powerful tool.

The Action/ReAction technique puts this tool into the hands of the actor.

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