A story by Mark Fryer
Ever since i got myself a indie filmmaking camera, i started shooting independent films and i learned a lot during the process, so i decided to write this tutorial to share what i learned.
Sit back and think of a time that you went and saw a movie, or a play, and you were completely taken back by a character. Not really the actor that was portraying them, but the actual character. If you think about this time, you will begin to remember that you forgot that this “character” is not real, and that it is just an actor reading lines from a script.
But rather, you felt as if this character was a real person, and you were being allowed to take a look into their personal lives without them knowing. The difference between a good actor and a great actor, is when you can perform a character and the audience forgets that you are you, and you become this character, whomever they may be.
But how do these actors do this? Well, first off, it comes with experience and training – just like everything else in life. However, it also comes with a better understanding on how to create a deeper, richer character. I like to think that characters are like ice cream. Sometimes you will get an actor who plays a character and it become like runny, thin ice cream, it’s still okay to eat, but it’s not very good and you become quickly sick of it.
However, there are the other actors whose skill is like thick milkshake, you know, the kind that gets stuck in your straw. And as most of us know, we would rather indulge ourselves in the thick milkshake, than in the melted ice cream. But, how can you as an actor become a triple fudge milkshake? It’s not too hard actually; it just takes (1) experience and (2) proper training.
Creating a deeper, more in-depth character is fairly simple, once you know what to do. I myself have dabbled with hundreds of various character analysis methods, and most of them work, however, they all pretty much say the same thing over and over again. I have found a method that has helped me in creating a truly multi-dimensional character every time I use it.
This method is extremely simple, and when used with your other various character analysis methods becomes very effective in creating that mind-blowing character that will have audiences laughing, crying, screaming and ultimately loving the performance.
This method is very simple, and requires a pencil, your script and an open mind. The basics of this character analysis moves from the outward physical actions and reactions to the other characters in the script, and allows you (the character) to think internally, instead of externally. However, for you to fully understand this method we must first take a look at ourselves.
I want you to sit and think about a time that you were talking with one of your friends, co-workers or even a stranger. When they are talking to you, you aren’t in complete mental silence, are you? You are thinking of what you are going to say next, you are having a literal inner monologue about whatever inside of your head. Your mind is throwing various thoughts about the situation that you are currently in.
And most likely, you will never say these internal thoughts, but they are critical in shaping your overall conversation and attitude towards the situation you are in – even though no one will ever hear them. Even right now, as you are reading this article, you are having various thoughts race through your mind, whether you are thinking deeper about this process or if you just remembered that you left the dinner in the oven, you are having separate thoughts constantly running through your mind. This is how human beings are so complex.
Now, just think, when you add this same concept to your characters, you will then begin to create a truly “lifelike” character that has inner thoughts, struggles, wants and desires. So now, take this information you just read and go look at one of your scripts. With your pencil begin to write down all of the inner thoughts that will never be outwardly spoken, but still have precident on how the character views the person they are talking with. An example would be(their inner thoughts are in italics):
Dan: I told you that last week, what are you never listening to me?
“I am sick and tired of having to constantly repeat myself to you, maybe I should hire a new receptionist.”
Sarah: I don’t remember you ever telling me this, but if you would start to write things down, than we wouldn’t be in this situation.
“I may be your receptionist, but I’m not your mother. If he yells at me one more time, I’m going to quit. I should have never left my old job, there I was appreciated at least.”
As you can see, these inner thoughts can take your character in any direction. They don’t have to line up with the script, because they are just inner thoughts. They are the thoughts that are never spoken, and yet are the backbones to your characters every move.
When Sarah thinks about never leaving her job, what will this do to her current position? She is going to become more and more bitter and resentful, even if it’s just towards herself. The same with Dan, even if he never plans on hiring and new receptionist, he still is having this fleeting thought. It is with a multitude of fleeting thoughts that we create our true personalities.
By applying this small, yet powerful, technique to your character analysis regimine, than you are on your way to creating a truly lifelike character that will have all wondering how your character is so, well, lifelike.
The job of the actor is to completely dissolve themselves into another person, and to do this, you must first realize what makes a human tick. After you have done this, than you will be able to correctly create a believable character.