We were privileged to have a visit from Laurence Saunders who is an experienced actor on film, on television, on the radio and on stage.
Body Language is VERY important.
He told us about the importance of body language - not just to the audience, but to the actor him/herself. He invited us to try putting a light in our eyes and then turning it off and feeling the difference. He asked us to look at the person next to us with hate and then with love and asked us to notice the difference in our own feelings. We could feel the difference as well as see the difference.
Laurence learns his lines by memorising them line by line. He described once learning 40 pages of script in six weeks! He puts himself into role. He imagines how he would say them. He practices by saying them aloud to himself or his partner or his children. Again and again until he really knows them.
Of course there is always a risk that even if you know all your lines, you’ll forget them when you get nervous in front of the camera.
How can you relax yourself before you start?
Apparently Emily Watson has a mantra which she uses before a take: it helps her to relax. If you feel the weight of yourself in your backside you immediately relax yourself. Or, you could try sitting back in your chair, closing your eyes and very slowly breath in through your nose and out through your mouth a few times.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the final practical exercise. Jill Lampert and Mike Parris volunteered to act out a short script, directed by Laurence.
Thinking about how you feel about the other character will affect your own acting
When acting it is worth thinking about how our character feels about the other character as that will show in our acting. He invited us to think about what the character wants out of the scene and why our character is the way he or she is. For example if he/she is really nasty…why? Look for the vulnerability, because that is what audiences will be able to connect with. If there is no back story, we may have to invent it.
Use body language and gestures
He emphasised the importance of using your body as you speak. So even in a radio programme, actors often actually do the actions that the character would be seen doing if it was on television. This is a pointer to the importance of using your body when doing a voiceover despite the fact that no one will ever see your gestures.
If you’re showing a character crying, it may be more interesting to show the character trying not to cry than to show floods of tears.
Keep the volume down
On film it’s not necessary to raise the voice…speak to the microphone, not to a wide audience. As a director, if you think someone’s ‘over the top’, ask them to turn the volume down. Important to keep the vocal energy up, but voice down and body language will surface.
Laurence was a very entertaining and knowledgeable speaker, and many members have said that he’s left them wanting more - especially wanting more practical exercises similar to the one Jill and Mike did.