This one is a bit long, but it’s a pretty easy read and my favourite post so far – worth the entire read in my opinion.
This year I’ve been taking a class called directive screen performance , which is basically a class where we learn how to direct the proper way to portraying honesty on screen.
Essentially the aim of the class is to create scenes that 1) are able to hold the suspension of disbelief 2) the actors believe their characters and the situations they are placed in 3) have the actors discover the characters themselves and have the directors lead them rather than the director telling them what to do.
Although the class is designed for film students, I took the class hoping it would be useful in the process in which it would relate to experience design, and I’m glad I did because I am seeing very strong parallels between the directing process of actor and director to that of artist to audience/user.
Similar to what Max Dean has us doing in his class, Nicola Correia Damude has us having to build a relational exchange between all of us in the class – we are required to direct one scene and act in two scenes a semester: when we are directing, we need to write a directors notebook and when we are acting we are required to write an actors response. By the end of a round of scenes we do a group reflection.
Since the beginning of the semester, Max has had us creating simple pieces that have little to no guidelines in terms of requirements. This seemed odd at first and somewhat daunting, where at one point I was reluctant to show off the photographs I had taken because I had felt the lighting/angle/tone/everything else of the pictures were no good (I had no choice because I had taken photos of moments, and I just happened to only have my phone with me during those moments). Max on the other hand didn’t care because he insisted that I was judging myself too much and that it wasn’t up to me to judge my work – that was everyone else’s job.
This was quite the contrast to what I’ve been taught and been used to this point, especially to that of what was taught to us by David Green (he at one point got so fed up with the inapt ability of the class to have proper lighting and sound in our videos that he completely banned us from filming anything for future projects in the class). However similarly, this is the same process that Nicola has us do for her class: the director’s notebook which we are required to write when we are directing is basically a mini novel of details for the two characters that the actors will be playing: it has literally everything you could ask about a person : their background including where they were born, where they live, hobbies, political views, interests, profession, gender, sexual preference, who their parents were/are and going through the same checklist – and this is all just for the background , really only 1/5 of the entire biography for only one character. My last notebook took me about 14 hours to complete, however there was a problem. Two actually.
The point of the notebook is so that there is a direction which you initially take during rehearsals. The emphasis is on the word direction, because that is all the director should have to do, hence the root word direct. In other words, the director should only lead the actors toward a certain direction, and/or help guide the actors to their intentions. Thus the directors notebook should only be used when the actors are unable to build their own bridge to their characters. You create the characters in your notebook, but it is ultimately the actors who bring these characters to life – the actors bring in their version of your character, and that’s the one you have to go with. In order for this to happen, there are two rules which you can not break: 1) Do not judge your characters as you write them. Every character is as human as they are intended to be but we do not live our lives hating on ourselves for our weaknesses 2) Do not tell your actors to do certain things for the sake of trying to lead them to what you think is right.
I somehow managed to break these two golden rules as I was writing my last notebook and I was lucky Nicola only decided to take off 10% of my mark but the point is both Nicola and Max are trying to get at the same point:
The artistic process to creating a honest work of art is to create a medium that expresses your intention, but as an execution, it is up to you as the artist to create a structure that can guide the audience to their own interpretation of your piece, however not in a way that would solely impose your own ideas or interpretation of your piece as a restriction. When we choose to share our artwork, we longer have complete ownership of our piece – it voluntarily or involuntarily becomes a part of anyone else who happens upon it.
A good piece of art is about creating a sturdy, long bridge from artist to participant. As the participant walking on the bridge, they should feel safe and have time to make up their mind before arriving to their destination, not being rushed to take the artist’s statement or feeling punished for failing to arrive at the other end.