Bring Joy in the Room

Bring Joy in the Room

You’ve heard the phrase, “leave your baggage at the door,” well, I’d like to introduce you to a new phrase: “Bring joy in the room with you.”  A happy attitude can get you closer to booking a job, and at the very least it helps you build stronger relationships with the people that can hire you in the future.  Having a joyful spirit is seen and felt by everyone you come into contact with. It also seeps into the camera lens and past the fourth wall.  Happiness is magnetic and people (including the ones who can hire you) want more of it themselves.  If they see you’ve got it, something in them wants to have more of you around.  Now I’m not talking about faking like you’re happy or playing joyful like it’s the word you drew in charades (although if that’s all you’ve got, then use it!).  I’m also not talking about hyper, over the top, spastic behavior.  I’m talking about real genuine goodwill that flows from the inside out.

 How do we cultivate genuine goodwill?  It’s simple.  You’ve already got it in you.  It’s not something you have to invent, you just have to get in touch with it and then let it out.  How difficult is it to wish someone well?  Try it (silently) on the casting director who happens to be eating a sandwich while you audition.  Even if she never has eye contact with you, you’ll feel more in control and better about yourself.  I think what happens to some of us when we feel like we’re being judged, critiqued, or worse yet, not really seen, is that we get a tiny bit defensive, we clam up, we are a bundle of nerves, we think it’s all about us and not screwing up the lines, so we have nothing to give beyond just getting through it. 

 But what if we gave just a little more than we think we have?  What if we gave joy as soon as we walk into the room?  Forget the lines (well, don’t forget the lines!), but do your prep, have your stuff together, know that you are an equal player in this creative process, and then bring another gift besides your awesome talent and abilities…bring joy.  Just try it.  See if it makes a difference in how you feel.  So the next time you’re on deck to go in the casting room, take a big breath in, and secretly say to yourself: “I bring joy in the room with me.”  Now go kick some acting ass in your joyful way!

Don't Play a Nun

Don’t Play a Nun

This past weekend I gave a student in my workshop a scene from the screenplay, Doubt.  It is a 3-person scene and all three actors assigned to it are talented, driven performers.   The actress reading Sister Aloysius, the older nun, was very precise and her intention was clear, but she was so formal in her read that it seemed she was “playing a nun” or what her idea of a nun would be like, sound like, act like.  I asked her to drop the “sister act” and just use herself within these imaginary circumstances.   She knew exactly what I meant and read the scene again giving the character all of her own humanity.  It was engaged, passionate, conflicted, and super fun to watch.   She made her own discovery in our discussion afterward that the costume itself (if she was hired to play this role) would be enough to indicate “nun” and that she didn’t have to help sell it in the scene.  Exactly!

I believe it is always best to start with what you know and to use yourself.  Of course part of the fun of shaping a character is playing with physicality, voice, mannerisms, etc., but I believe those things come after you connect with the humanity of the character.  Start out playing the scene as you in the circumstances so you can really feel and understand the heart of the character and then begin playing with the outer layers to shape and form the differences between you.  

Do you feel like you step into the shoes of a character right away or do you work from the inside out? Let me know your thoughts or questions in the comments below!