First-Year Studies: Working With Performance For Screenwriters and Directors

FYS

How does an emerging screenwriter understand what an actor needs from a screenplay? What does an aspiring director need from the screenplay text in order to help an actor shape a performance?  Whether you are an emerging screenwriter, director, or both, how does one get the best results from actors without confusing or overcomplicating the creative process? How does one create a collaborative environment among the screenwriter, the director, and the performer? Whether you want to write or direct or both, it is imperative that you understand the rigorous demands of the acting process. This is not an acting course for actors but, rather, an exploration of the actors’ art and craft for the emerging screenwriter and director. The course will offer the student the opportunity to develop a tool kit for the creation of “actable” screenwriting and meaningful performances to be rendered on screen. It will help the screenwriter and filmmaker tease out what a character is meant to be “doing” in any given scene. The course will also explore a language of communication between the director/writer and the performer. This will be both an analytical and physical class. Key to the course is a student’s understanding of the need for character definition through action on the page and a director’s understanding of how to help an actor realize that action in the performance rendered by the camera. During the first semester, students will immerse themselves in the world of the performer. They will work on emotional expansion and trust exercises and on improvisational skills and act in scenes from published works. Students will be expected to analyze and write about performance so as to gain a deeper understanding of the creative process. Using scenes from contemporary films, they will observe, write about, and discuss the political, historical, and cultural evolution of contemporary directing and acting styles. Using published screenplays and clips from their attendant scenes, students will learn the relationship between the words on the page and the interpretation of those words by the performer as the performance is revealed on the screen. During the second semester, students will work with actors and apply the skills developed during the fall. Scenes will be rehearsal shot, reviewed, and critiqued as a group during the next class. As a final project in class, students will pursue an analysis of a screenwriter’s writing and a director’s direction thereof, revealing the relationship between the writing and eventual realized performance on the screen. The spring conference project will culminate in the creation, through collaboration, of a scripted scene, which will be revised, rehearsed, shot, and edited with the technical assistance of experienced personnel.