I came back from the best improv week of my life. A few days after returning from Slovenia, I’m still thinking about it, and celebrating this fire in my heart. People ask me – what exactly is Ohana? And I think, and see images and feelings, trying to answer in one sentence. And you know what? It’s not that easy.
“Think about who must be the man to have the right to speak from the stage to the other.” – I’ve read in a magazine, lying on the beach, during my improv-vacations. I sighed heavily, because what kind of vacation is this, when the idea sat on the blanket and I send me kisses.
This sentence is recalled by the actress, in an interview. She heard it from the professor, while studying at the faculty of acting. And this is the first question which I would like you to think about.
I warn you. In this text there will be more questions than answers. And you have to answer them. Not to me. To yourself. Or yourself first, and then me, in the comments.
During my fim directing studies I disappeared from the world. From dawn to dusk, sometimes with only 3 days off a month (and there was no such thing as a “free weekend” in our school), buried in the scenarios, scenes, frames, heroes and editing. All professors, tarnishing my nerves, said – you’re not going to the festivals. You’re not going to improv shows. We don’t want to hear about improv, forget it. Movie is your life now!
All except one.
Professor Wojciech Marczewski, whenever he came, he preferred to go with us, students, to the cheap bar, instead enjoying the hospitality of the headmaster and eat a decent lunch at the office. And once, going for dumplings, and splashing autumn puddles, I told him about improv, and he said something I will not forget. “Excellent! You need to do it. No matter what others say. Do improv. This is your own value, what more – once you will make a movie about it. I can’t listen to young filmmakers, on festivals, who have a beer and don’t talk about anything other than making movies. I’m terrified. Have they experienced anything in life? Anything excites them? Do they have anything to say? All your directing and storytelling skills are for nothing, if you have NOTHING TO SAY. ”
You can be a very skilled improviser and be unremarkable. If one day, you go offstage and you feel, that something is wrong, go back home, make some tea, sit back in a chair and talk with your private director, and screenwriter. Perhaps, in the persuit of attractive characters, you’ve gone to far away from yourself . Maybe your characters are super original, funny plants in the belly of Diplodocus, but they have nothing to say? They are an empty shells? Have you prepared your cup of tea? Let’s talk.
What do you want to tell the world?
What you show on stage, it a reflection of what you’ve experienced. What is important to you. What you do in life. What you believe. What you know. What you feel. This is your value. Enjoy it.
In the process of character creation, I often ask improvisers some questions. They have to answer, just in their heads, as their character. And now I would like you to answer the same questions – as YOU. Have you ever answered them to yourself? When was it? You should refresh them, once in a while and observe, how the responses change during life and experience.
Why do I want you to do it? Because conscious man = consious improviser. Let’s get to the point:
- What is most important in life?
- What do you dream of?
- What are you afraid of?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- When are you happy?
No one needs to know what you really think about yourself. But you should understand how you act. Maybe, for example, your weaknesses arise from your fears. Or, anxiety is associated with a possible loss of what is most important to you in life, or what makes you happy. Or conflict between love and fear. You’re probably perfectly normal human being, full of inner dilemmas, and you’ve experienced years of relationships with various people, so generally, you are the perfect base for a thousand characters.
Questions can be multiplied, but even one answer to one of the above can make your character believable. I know that there is nothing pleasant in thinking about your fears and weaknesses, but that makes us humans. And makes our character humans.
What an actor should know in the scene, is WHAT HIS CHARACTER WANTS in that scene. What he’s trying to acheve. What is his purpose in the scene? What do you want from the other characters? Love? Vengeance? Acceptance?
What the director should know is WHAT IS THE SCENE ABOUT. What are you trying to tell the audience? I’m not talking about the events, like “he met her, she didn’t want him, but at the end they are together”. “What” is a sense of story. The growing up? Being lost in today’s world? What thought you want to put into to the audience minds after the show? That love will overcome all?
What the improviser should know, to combine the above points, it WHAT HE HAS TO SAY AS A HUMAN BEING. You think that the media lie? And corporations are evil? Use it. That in every man is a bit of good? That you are afraid to end the relationship, because you are terribly afraid of being alone? You don’t find these in the diplodocus belly. And believe me, when audience identify with your point of view, fear, or a dream – it’s worth a thousand laughs in the diplodocus belly.
So? What you have to say?