A Word On Directing

If you’ve read any of my books you know I place a lot of emphasis on technique. However, in class I approach the craft differently. In class I talk to the actors in result oriented terms. Why? Because on the set, if you get any direction at all it will most likely be “Move here. Say this line like this. Show this emotion.” This doesn’t mean the directors aren’t good, it’s just that time is money and the directors tend to speak to actors in result oriented terms because it’s the quickest way to convey what they want.

Case in point: Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SO, WHAT ARE YOU THINKING?

The other night, leaving class, walking to the subway, one of my assistants asked me what was the hardest thing for actors to “get.” She had barely finished her question when I blurted out, “Getting actors to think in character in the moment.”

Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“WE NEED YOU MORE THAN YOU NEED US!”

These words changed the entire perspective of my acting career. Here’s the set up: It’s 1978 (yeah, I know a century ago) and I’m a young actor in New York City. Like every other actor in the city I’m hustling, trying to get an agent. I’d been cast in a couple off-Broadway shows but hadn’t broken through the “actor without representation to actor with representation” conundrum.

I was so poor I didn’t even have a typewriter (it’s 1978 – the only computers around were those floor to ceiling jobs that took up entire rooms) and my handwriting sucked. So I asked my girlfriend to hand write letters to a few agents I wanted to meet. One of them was J. Michael Bloom, who in the 1970’s thru the 1990’s was the head of the hottest commercial agency in town. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of Thee I Sing…Baby

Last week I saw a concert version of the old Kaufman/Ryskind musical Of Thee I Sing at Carnegie Hall. (Music and Lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin.) The concert version was directed by Tommy Krasker and starred (among many, many talented actors) Bryce Pinkham and Denee Denton. The evening was narrated by a very funny Mo Rocca.

Considered bold and daring in its time – it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1932 – it was interesting to see how topical certain aspects of the musical were – a less than qualified candidate gets elected to the office of the President of the United States. Actually it was interesting how some of the jokes written 86 years ago still resonate today.

And although there were several good laughs there were also many moments where Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Director proof. Do over.

Heard from various sources that, for some reason, only a few people got the following post. So, if you didn’t get it, here it is. And if you did get it…well, here it is again.

In a recent interview I was asked if the technique I use in my classes made actors director proof.

First of all I think there are a lot of really good directors working in the film and TV industry now. A lot! But having said that I know directors, just like the rest of us, can have bad days — for a myriad of reasons. And regardless of why they’re having a bad day – they’re sick, the new baby kept him/her up all night, the shoot the day before ran way over, or the project they were hired for wasn’t a good fit for their sensibilities – regardless of what is throwing them off their game, in the final analysis it is going to be you up on the screen not them.

Because of that you have to make sure you’ve done everything you can so that no matter where the director’s head is you’ll  still come out looking good.

I’ve been teaching now for twenty plus years and as a teacher I am constantly evolving, growing my craft – just as actors should be evolving and growing their craft. In the five years since my first two books (film and commercial acting) were published I learned a tremendous amount from my students about what worked in those books and about what could be better. I incorporated that info in to the new book The Science and Art of Acting for the Camera. click here  As acting is a living, changing craft so is teaching acting. Remaining static is one of the worst sins an actor or a teacher can commit.

So, how does this relate to actors being director proof? If you don’t have a technique you can rely on you won’t be able to fully develop your character, you won’t recognize the arc of the scene. And if you can’t do those two simple things then you will miss all the other information available to you in a script. Having a technique is like having a treasure map that highlights all the good stuff so you’ll have a fountain of information to draw from if/when you discover your director is off his game, for whatever reason.

Please understand this isn’t about alienating directors; it’s about supporting them, giving them options. The more you know about what is doing on in the scene the more “choices” you can offer the director. The great thing about all of this is if your director’s having an “off” day you’ll still look good. And is he/she is having a good day you’ll look great.

Either way, it’s a win-win…for everybody. And, oh, did I mention the producers? Yeah, you being at the top of your game is good for them too.

Upcoming classes:

Two-Camera Scene Study class starts December 5th 2017 and goes ‘til February 6th 2018 (off Dec. 26th and Jan. 2nd).

Commercial Level 1 class starts 13 Nov. and goes to December 8th 2017.

For information regarding these classes go to: http://www.johnhowardswain.com

Tommy Day – booked a co-starring role on the new network TV show INSTINCT.

Caitlin Kerchner – is one of the leads in the web series OTHER VOICES.

Diana Craig – booked co-staring roles in GOTHAM and BULL.

Bill Cannon – shot two commercial projects: SWITLIK MATTRESSES and RIVER SPRING RETIREMENT COMMUNITY…drum roll, please…on the same day. Way to go, Bill.

Steven Jones – shot a national network commercial for BDO.

Jody Watkins – booked a commercial for Jendu Pharmaceutical.

When you’ve booked something let us know so we can share the good news.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Director Proof

In a recent interview I was asked if the technique I use in my classes made actors director proof.

First of all I think there are a lot of really good directors working in the film and TV industry now. A lot! But having said that I know directors, just like the rest of us, can have bad days — for a myriad of reasons. And regardless of why they’re having a bad day – they’re sick, the new baby kept him/her up all night, the shoot the day before ran way over, or the project they were hired for wasn’t a good fit for their sensibilities – regardless of what is throwing them off their game, in the final analysis it is going to be you up on the screen not them.

Because of that you have to make sure you’ve done everything you can so that no matter where the director’s head is you’ll  still come out looking good.

I’ve been teaching now for twenty plus years and as a teacher I am constantly evolving, growing my craft – just as actors should be evolving and growing their craft. In the five years since my first two books (film and commercial acting) were published I learned a tremendous amount from my students about what worked in those books and about what could be better. I incorporated that info in to the new book The Science and Art of Acting for the Camera. click here  As acting is a living, changing craft so is teaching acting. Remaining static is one of the worst sins an actor or a teacher can commit.

So, how does this relate to actors being director proof? If you don’t have a technique you can rely on you won’t be able to fully develop your character, you won’t recognize the arc of the scene. And if you can’t do those two simple things then you will miss all the other information available to you in a script. Having a technique is like having a treasure map that highlights all the good stuff so you’ll have a fountain of information to draw from if/when you discover your director is off his game, for whatever reason.

Please understand this isn’t about alienating directors; it’s about supporting them, giving them options. The more you know about what is doing on in the scene the more “choices” you can offer the director. The great thing about all of this is if your director’s having an “off” day you’ll still look good. And is he/she is having a good day you’ll look great.

Either way, it’s a win-win…for everybody. And, oh, did I mention the producers? Yeah, you being at the top of your game is good for them too.

Upcoming classes:

Two-Camera Scene Study class starts December 5th 2017 and goes ‘til February 6th 2018 (off Dec. 26th and Jan. 2nd).

Commercial Level 1 class starts 13 Nov. and goes to December 8th 2017.

For information regarding these classes go to: http://www.johnhowardswain.com

Tommy Day – booked a co-starring role on the new network TV show INSTINCT.

Caitlin Kerchner – is one of the leads in the web series OTHER VOICES.

Diana Craig – booked co-staring roles in GOTHAM and BULL.

Bill Cannon – shot two commercial projects: SWITLIK MATTRESSES and RIVER SPRING RETIREMENT COMMUNITY…drum roll, please…on the same day. Way to go, Bill.

Steven Jones – shot a national network commercial for BDO.

Jody Watkins – booked a commercial for Jendu Pharmaceutical.

When you’ve booked something let us know so we can share the good news.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

How Does Riding A Segway in Salzburg Relate To Acting?

Several years ago I read an article about Dean Kamen, the gentleman who invented the Segway. I remember thinking at the time what a cool invention it was and how great it would be to ride one. It took me almost twenty years to do it but man, was it worth it!!

Salzburg, which literally translates to Salt Town, was the end point of my most recent bicycle adventure – Munich to Salzburg. Questiondo Austrians think Salzburg sounds as glamorous as we think it sounds? Cause it sounds pretty alluring to me. Anyway, after biking over the German Alps – no broken bones this time – the thought doing of a walking tour wasn’t very appealing so when I read there was a Segway tour of the city we jumped on it. Not literally jumped because you don’t want to jump on a Segway, you want to step up on it. Gently.

How was it? Unbelievably terrific!! If you’ve never done it, I highly recommend it. The Segway is a marvelous machine that moves the way you tell it to move. Lean forward and it goes forward. Lean back and it goes backward. Lean to the side and it turns. In a matter of minutes we were off exploring the sites of Salzburg.

So why does riding a Segway relate acting? Acting is about heightened moments of reality. When you’re doing a scene you know how it ends but to make the journey interesting the writer and/or the director place a number of objects in your way that your character has to overcome. If your character achieves his/her goal without too much struggle we, the audience, won’t be invested in their journey and wouldn’t care about the outcome.

Staying on a Segway falls into the category of heightened reality. It’s not exactly Evil Knievel time but if you aren’t paying attention, if you don’t adjust to the obstacles that come up, you could end up ass over elbows in a ditch.

BTW, this is true in life as well. Rarely, if you’re seeking a goal of any real value, are you going to travel start to finish without having to overcome some obstacles, without having make some adjustments to your original plan.

In Salzburg we had to deal with rain, traffic, difficult terrain, and hordes of pedestrians (there are a lot of tourists in Salt Town). Learning how to drive the Segway wasn’t difficult, what was difficult was getting to where we wanted to go. We were constantly dodging people, avoiding huge puddles (did I mention it rained while we were there? Oh, yeah, it did. A lot. We’re not wearing those ponchos to start a new fashion trend.). We had to traverse up steep, winding hills all the while mindful of other moving vehicles.

Our guide was clear about where she wanted to take us and we were clear about what we wanted to see but sometimes the way was blocked (I mentioned the tourists, right?) so we had to find another way. We never lost sight of our destination but we were constantly adjusting our course to get there.

It’s like flying an airplane from anywhere to somewhere else. The pilot is constantly correcting his course to stay ahead of the weather, adjust for the wind but eventually you arrive where you wanted to go.

So riding a Segway…and acting…and life? Who knew they all had so much in common?

Mary Loorm is wrapping a twenty-day shoot on the film Like Father, starring Kelsey Grammer.

Daniel Sovich – booked the off-Broadway play, Downtown Race Riot, directed by Scott Elliott, starring Chloe Sevigny.

Stacey Scotte – booked the lead in Last Night of the Ballyhoo, with the Florida Rep Company in Fort Meyer, Florida.                                 Melanie Little – booked a regional commercial for Downtown Dental Arts.               Rebecca Pitcher – booked the upcoming Broadway show Carousel, directed by Jack O’Brien.

Leslie Russell – booked a national commercial for Balsam Hill.

Anybody else working? Let us know so we can put you in the shout outs.

Upcoming classes:

Two-camera scene study class: 3 Oct. – 21 Nov. 2017. Two spots left.

Commercial Level 1 2 Oct. – 6 Nov. 2017. Sold out. Wait list available.

For more info on these classes – click here

Hope to see you soon.

John

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment