Kalla - To Call: a Short Film
As usual this project began with a series of books. I wanted to begin working with actors using dialogue, and this daunting prospect was made much more feasible by the phenomenal books I added to my reference library.
The first one being 'Actor's Art and Craft : William Esper Teaches the Meisner Technique'
by William Esper & Damon Dimarco
This amazing book taught me how Meisner was interested in creating striking and natural screen performances by focusing in on the relationships between the actors, rather than their individual performances.
As someone that wishes to work with both trained and untrained actors, I found the idea of starting a regular workshop style process appealing, so I needed to approach the individuals that had caught my eye whilst thinking about the film to see if they were open to this plan. The core idea of the technique is to break down the actors’ barriers of social niceties and access their honest emotional life beneath. A process that requires a huge amount of trust in the director from the actor’s point of view, so it felt only right that I read up on the technique and was able to enter the exercises with them as equals, open to being vulnerable alongside them.
The main exercise is called The Repetition Exercise, and requires two actors to face each other with the director or workshop leader observing, once either of the actors feels an impulse to say something about their partner they do, for example, "Your jeans are red", and then the partner must respond to the way the statement was made, did it feel disparaging, complimentary, disgusted, curious? "My jeans are red?", They must try and reply to the subtext, the meaning behind the words. The original speaker then says it again "Your jeans are red". This goes on for as long as the actors can, developing the repetition into a rich emotional discourse using arbitrary words.
As you can imagine, this is incredibly awkward. Especially for non-actors that have been lured into my project out of curiosity, so I spend a lot of time and effort thinking about how to create and sustain a safe working environment, where all participants feel safe to be vulnerable, safe to be honest and most importantly safe to fail as spectacularly as they succeed at uncovering powerful emotional realities from imagined scenarios.