Don't Miss Your First Beat
We were working on THE BEAR (FX/HULU) in class this week. If you haven't seen it, you should. It's excellent and fun and unique and so many things I love about television. But something became so clear while we were breaking down the scene.
The basics are that Carmy is about to see his sister Sugar (Natalie) for the first time since some major family loss and trauma happened. The breakdown gives wonderful given circumstances for her that add so many fun levels.
But the first moment of the scene wasn't really landing. Why? Because despite all of the givens, actors want to get to the dialogue fast.
Here's where I tell you that the scene has a trap in it. It says Carmy instantly grabs something from his sister. Anyone following the text would rush right into dialogue and action. The script told me so!
But when we watch the show (or your audition), we can't skip over what's unspoken between the two of us. That's the richer, more primary given circumstance. It's, in my humble opinion, kinda the whole reason for the scene. To emotionally understand their relationship through the plot of this pilot. And if I can't see you take them in, I won't see how you feel about them.
I went back to look at a frame from the moment in the episode. Here it is:
Every piece of this frame tells me that she's incredibly happy to see her brother but can't hide her fear for him. Her hair is done, she's wearing jewelry, she's colorful. She's out of place, like a flower in a jail cell. She lights up when she sees him. But despite all of these positives, her body language is just slightly pulled back. I see the love. I see the trauma.
Despite what's in the script about rushing into action, this shot comes before Carmy's action, and it's why I care about the rest of the scene.
Don't skip those first moments. They wordlessly lay the groundwork for where are story begins. Solid work their allows for change later on. And it allows you to act without having to rely on words and exposition to do everything for you.
It's so cool to work on material like this in class. I love it.