An excerpt from soon to be released book by Michael Ray Davis
How do we learn to do the words?
For film you\’ll have several days if not weeks to learn words.
For TV you\’ll have a couple weeks, usually.
For commercial you\’ll have 48 hours max, frequently less.
How do we learn the words?
First thing is attitude.
Don\’t concentrate initially on the words and don\’t think about memorization. Find out who you\’re thinking you\’ll be when you get in front of the camera, either for audition or for shooting. Try to channel the character when you’re in the shower, brushing your teeth, or when you’re eating your hamburger.
Sample file from client:
All genders/ ethnicities accepted. Vernon/Sherry is a disappointed 40 year old who has not accomplished anything in his/her life. Been fired at least 10 times in life. The big job interview is coming up for the job of a lifetime. 20 grand a year to be assistant manager at the franchise shoe store.
I see you\’ve had quite a few jobs over the years.
Yes, but I haven\’t really been given a fair shake at any of
How do you describe a fair shake?
I just never got treated fair!
That’s fairly. Your education listings look like you haven\’t really tried to learn new skills over the years.
I didn\’t have any time to pursue more education with the kids to raise and keeping the bills paid.
You haven\’t been able to keep a lot of jobs. Were these your decisions or were you separated with cause?
Well, I can see you\’re just like every other uppity boss I apply to. I\’m just trying to earn an honest living, doing anything I can to support my family. You guys are all alike, you don\’t want to give anybody a break! I knew coming in that this was a mistake. You missed a good chance, mister!
Vernon/Sherry storms out the door, the store owner shakes his head and shrugs.
So, here’s what you do, as the character, Vernon/Sherry.
You look at these words, you realize this is a loser, angry because he/she thinks the world owes he/she a living. Read the words, make yourself a loser, find a character in your background that reflects this losing attitude if you can and channel that character.
Then start living with the script. Carry it around with you, sleep with it, have it by the plate when you eat breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Read it, read it, read it!!
And most importantly, folks, SAY THE WORDS OUT LOUD!!!
Just saying them to yourself does not guarantee they will come out right when you open your mouth and speak! Promise!
And remember, in this example, you\’re angry. You can\’t be wondering what are your words when you deliver that last dialogue!
That takes 15 seconds or less. You need to be spitting them out, no hesitation, no limitations.
Say these words everywhere you go!!!
And above everything else, you are Vernon/ Sherry the biggest loser of all time. Everybody hates you and it’s not your fault!!!
Nothing else can exist for the time you are saying these words. If the water for your pasta is boiling over, say the words like Vernon/Sherry. If the baby is crying, say the words while you’re changing the diaper!
If you are able to do this, at home, naked on the toilet, in a normal environment, you will be able to do it in front of camera!
You have to believe that nothing else is happening in the world when you are doing this dialogue.
Find a friend to read with you for timing, preferably a semi trained actor so you get the timing down.
Or learn the other actor’s words and talk to yourself.
Will Smith stayed in trouble all the time on that dumb butt show that made him famous, Fresh Prince of Belaire. He knew not only HIS words but the other actor’s words and continually would lip them while his opposite would talk. They have a lot of two shots (that’s when the camera is looking at you and the other actor) that show him mouthing the other actors lines. You don\’t want to do that, but it’s great to be that prepared.
Video yourself if you can. You can put a lot of pressure on yourself just doing this. Get your wife/husband/kids/brother/girl friend/boyfriend to watch it. Just knowing that they will be watching will you put in the same frame of mind you will need for the set. (There’s no peer pressure worse than hearing from your wife or best friend that your performance sucks!)
Now remember this!!!!
When you are on the set or audition saying a half page of dialogue and you blow a line, Keep going! Plow through it! Don\’t ever stop until the end of your words unless you hear “cut”. If you stumble on a word, wait two beats and go back to the start of the sentence. The director will tell you when to stop!
So, in summary, find the character, assume his/her attitude and practice, practice, practice. (Oh, if you are supposed to have a prop carry something around while practicing, props can distract if you\’re not familiar with them. If your prop is a gun, don\’t practice too much in a convenience store or bank.)
Aside from that, remember that you will not be first or last to cause the producer to have another take, but if you are prepared, know your character and can get through it, you will be a highly respected and valued talent. Directors and Producers love and cherish professional, prepared talent and they will use you again and again.
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