Preparation is Inspiration

Actors love to prepare for a role.

We get excited about acting and developing a chartacter and telling a story.

We can’t wait to dig our teeth into a piece.

There are many creative choices to be made when breaking down a script. And for those of us that enjoy doing so through the process of analysis the possibilities seem endless.

But here’s the thing, and it’s what I try to impart on my actors at Krater Studios who take the On-Camera Scene Study classes with me: Preparation is about Inspiration.

To give an Inspired performance you have to make Inspired Creative choices. This means you need not bring any unnecessary artifice to the work.

Your justifications to support the emotional thru-line of the character doesn’t need an elaborate back story especially something that is purely fabricated and unconnected to you. The script and everything in it is all the artifice that’s required. Our job as actors is to bring truth and conviction to the role.

What inspires us is who we are, where we’ve come from, where we’re going and the story we must tell.

When making a choice for your character in a scene if you are not connected to who you are and the story you need to tell then that choice will not resonate from within you. You will be making something up. And sometimes that may be what’s required of us, but if that becomes a habit then what we will end up with is artifice on top of artifice on top of artifice and it’s going to take a lot of conviction to sustain all that artifice.

If instead we take the risk of looking within our talent, and honestly disclosing those truths that make us who we are, and by being specific, we will discover not only the intentions and motives behind the actions we must take but what Inspires those intention and motives. What ignites us into action.

What is it that Inspires you? We are waiting to hear!


Scene Study... and Me

When we are working as actors we find ourselves within a specific set of circumstances. Each set of circumstances presents us with something we are trying to achieve, our objective, as it were.

Our scene objectives are usually clearly stated, or at the very least, discernible with some combing through of the information both stated and unstated - what we can infer through the facts of our given set of circumstances.

Our needs, on the other hand, the reason we are on the journey we find ourselves on, are deeply embedded within us.

There is a specific intention behind every action we pursue. Some intentions we are conscious of others not so much.

We may not always be aware of the motives that drive us to achieve the things we want, that compel us to action, but they are connected to what we need, what we are searching for.

Language, behavior, spectacle, everything is at the service and subject to a character’s need, to our needs.

Love is what defines our lives and gives value to the wants, needs and desires we are chasing.

Acting is about disclosure.

Acting is about how much you are willing to invest of yourself in each moment.

When we commit our talent to giving of ourselves we can trust that our inner life will take us from one moment to next fluidly without needing to invent or think or rationalize our choices.


Staying Inspired

What keeps you excited about what you do?

What’s exciting about a performance for me is how inspired the actor is in her work. She is excited to be doing what she’s doing.

Her level of commitment, her focus, her intensity, her sense of play, her willingness to take creative risks, follow her instincts, get into trouble, etc. all fill the nuances of her performance.

Wether you are seeking escape or to be impacted by what you are viewing, there’s no denying that feeling that comes over us when something magical is happening on the screen.

What makes acting an incredible experience is not only that we get to transform our reality and let our imagination take us on a journey, but also because we get to bring ourselves to our work. Everything. Especially our unique perspective. This perspective is inspired by who we are and what turns us on.

I get that same feeling when I’m reading a really good book or listening to music that just triggers everything that is raw and right with world.

Ever stand in front of Jackson Pollack painting or Mark Rothko or Georgia O’Keeffe or Caravaggio?

What inspired Dorothea Lange to travel the country during the depression and photograph the displaced, the hungry and the desperate. What Inspired James Agee (a film critic) and his colleague Walker Evans to do same and produce what I dare say is one of the most beautiful and moving stories about that Incredible time - “Let’s Us Now Praise Famous Men” - a novel with photographs about sharecroppers in the deep south.

For that matter what inspired Richard Avedon or Diane Arbus? I love still photography it is the poetry of vision.

Ever stand in front of a tree that is 4 stories tall and has been around before even your great-grandfather was born. Before the Civil War.

My wife teases me because I like trees. I like to look up at trees from ground level, I like the density of a tree’s foliage it makes me feel safe and curious. For some reason trees, I when I take the time to notice trigger this child like wonder in me that I can’t explain. I get excited. The mundane notion that I get to coexist with all this beauty that surrounds me everywhere is overwhelming.

“Often a star/was waiting for you to notice it. A wave rolled toward you/out of the distant past, or as you walked/under an open window, a violin/yielded itself to your hearing.” - Rilke

My children inspire me. They give me hope. They give me life. And even the painful thought that I am failing them is an affirmation of love.

We have all come to this crazy city from somewhere else, with our dreams in tow, despite the advice of everyone we know, we came here inspired by something.

Whatever that is for you, wether it’s one thing or many things, never lose your connection to it. Keep feeding it everyday. Rediscover it. Challenge it and be challenged by it. And bring it to your work.

One famous actor said of another actor with whom he was working with on a film project: “when you’re working with him it’s like flying!”.

Walking the edge of the precipice might scare the shit out of you, but now that you’re here what choice do you have… but to fly?


The Basics

The Basics

I just want to talk about the basics of Scene Study/Analysis.

1. Where are you coming from?

This means both logistically and emotionally. The two are usually intertwined.

Logistically, simply means the space/location you were just in prior to where you find yourself now.

Emotionally, means how you are feeling because of what you experienced in that place and who you experienced it with.

i.e. if your are returning to work after a pleasurable rendezvous with your boyfriend during your lunch hour your mood, demeanor, perspective is going to be a lot different than if you were just at lunch with your overbearing mother whose expectations you can never live up to.

This emotional energy is where the scene starts (not on your first line of dialogue). It is what you are bringing into the new scene/space directly (logistically) from where you just came.

In the first case returning to work and encountering your boss who gives you an impossible deadline is going to feel probably less daunting when you are feeling very good about yourself, especially after a validating experience like the one you just shared with your boyfriend.

On the other hand, returning from your miserable lunch with your mother who never makes you feel like you’re good enough is going to make the deadline feel like another test.

2. Relationships.

This where things can get deeply personal.

You have a very specific relationship with everyone in your life.

The same is true in acting. If your relationships in the stories you tell don’t go deep and get personal this will effect your ability to raise the stakes and truly go after your objectives.

My advice to my actors at Krater Studios is: Allow your personal relationships to inform you and be the creative path to the relationships you will have to develop in your storytelling. (At Krater Studios we have a number of meditations to get you where you need to be).

What ends up happening, if you trust yourself and your inner life, is that you will find that you need not create an elaborate backstory or dwell too much on subtext. Who you are and where you are coming from personally will creatively fill in these blanks.

3. Objectives.

Every scene objective is clearly stated or at the very least easily discernible in every set of circumstances we find ourselves in. Finding your scene objective shouldn’t feel like pulling teeth.

Again specificity is the key. “I want her to like me.” Is too broad, it’s too general. “I want to hook up with her!” Much more specific.

The difference is Action. In the first instance “I want her to like me”, feels somewhat slightly passive and not requiring much action to achieve. I think we can all agree that we all want to be liked. Who cares? Seriously.

In the second instance there is more at stake. First of all without stating it, it’s inherent that you want her to like you. If not, then there’s zero hope of ever hooking up. So, there’s no need in stating the obvious. That’s not the point. The point is what do you want and how badly do you need it.

Validation and Affirmation are incredibly motivating forces. And even though they may be working in our subconscious mind in the subtlest of way, the conscious manifestation of these needs are very much to the point and require action to be achieved.

Some writers don’t think in terms of objectives. They think only in terms of actions. They give their characters very specific actions. To them it’s obvious that you want something. How you go about achieving it is what’s exciting.

So, find out what you are after in the scene. Get super specific and do what you you need to do to overcome any obstacles that stand in your way.

Lastly, Love.

Love is what defines our lives and gives value to the wants, needs and desires we are chasing.

What do you love? Who do you love? Where do you love? When do you love?

Meditate on that for 10 minutes every day, and you will approach your work and the characters you develop from a much richer place. This is especially true when you are playing very dark and adversarial types.

But more on that next time.


The Long Game

I am a Blue White Stripe Belt in Tae Kwon Do. This week I will be testing for my Green Belt and if I pass my test I will move one step closer to Black Belt, but it’s still a long road, I have to advance 5 more belts which will take me at least another few years before I get there.

I’ve been practicing the discipline of Tae Kwon Do for several years now. I came to Tae Kwon Do in my forties and at my age this is a challenge even on the best of days and yet it feels like I’ve been a disciple all my life. It’s like I can’t imagine my life without it. Which is exactly how I feel about the craft of acting.

What Tae Kwon Do has taught me and what I didn’t have the patience for or an appreciation of as a young actor was the long game. I am in no hurry to get my Black Belt because I know I will get there. I train at least three times a week with amazing master instructors and when I am not training I am feeling my life through it. Just as I do as an actor and artist.

For me, life is a full experience no matter where I find myself, I am far from perfect, but I truly feel the life I am living. I made a conscious choice to be an artist and to be true to who I am, and no matter where my path leads I will make an effort to experience my life through a creative lens.

And yet as a young actor I felt if I didn’t reach certain plateaus and platitudes (markers that now seem arbitrary and self-defeating) then I was failing. I was in such a hurry that I couldn’t allow myself time to examine and re-examine my experiences and my personal connection to the world around me.

If I had a magic wand I would wave it in front of all the wonderfully talented and exceptional actors that study at Krater Studios and grant them the career they want and deserve overnight!

But the truth is that though some people are lucky and win the lotto most careers take time to develop professionally and creatively. And the two go hand in hand.

As a process the craft of acting takes time to develop (even for the most naturally talented people). An artist’s voice takes time to develop. I believe everyone who comes to the profession of acting has talent. But by no means does this mean that because we feel talented and destined for something that we can forgo the work. If talent isn’t honed and developed it just becomes a personality quirk, and creatively speaking, that will only take your work so far.

Actors develop their craft in two specific ways: on set as working actors or in a classroom with challenging material in an environment that is conducive to connecting you with your artistic voice and who you are as a person and an artist.

If all your plans and goals do not fall into place exactly as you wish this is by no means a measure or a verdict on your talent. The truth is sometimes there is no rhyme or reason as to how things happen. And there are some things that we have absolutely no control over. But, what does belong to us is our creative voice and our talent and as we patiently wait for things to fall into place we continue to grow and move forward as artists. And if you stay the course you will get there. You have to to be committed to the long game. And acting is a long game. Look at how far you’ve come already!

As you are growing, seek out the projects and jobs you know you are right for. Develop projects that speak to your soul and challenge you creatively.

What I love about arriving at the DOJO where I train is that there is a community of martial artists who support one another and help each other attain the goals we are all after.

I also love the fact that today I get to go in and practice my craft, hone my skills, get stronger and more confident in my sparring and really perfect the technical aspects of my Tae Kwon Do training.

Not long ago I was at a tournament and got my ass kicked. It wasn’t pretty. My first impulse after the tournament was over was “Screw this!”, “I’m done!”, as I walked away with my tail between my legs. Did I quit? No! I walk back into my DOJO and was excited for all things I’ve yet to learn and allow myself to grow into. I couldn’t wait to get back in. And I’ll tell you what, I can’t wait to get my ass kicked again and learn more and grow more.

There are many things that we want to say as artist, with time, we will also arrive at not only what we want to say but what needs to be said.

Beckett said “Ever tried. Ever Failed. No matter. Try again. Fail better.”

If you’re in it. … then you have to be in for the long game. Some days you succeed, some days you fail and some days you fail better. But if your are committed to the long game failing better is the secret to long term success!

March 18, 2019

Creative Convictions

Your convictions are an integral part of your artistry. Your convictions are an integral part of your voice as an artist. Your convictions are the reason for saying and expressing the things you are saying and expressing.

What you believe about yourself and about the world you live in.

I can’t stress this enough because as actors we are given the words we must speak. They are not our words. And yet we must find a way to make those words ring true as if they were the very words we would chose to speak in the given circumstances we find ourselves in.

How is this achieved? Through our convictions.

The webster definition of conviction: the quality of showing that one is firmly convinced of what one believes or says

When we view something and our suspension of disbelief is broken it’s usually because the piece or the actor “lacked conviction”.

Some might view personal convictions as things that can hold us back and as perhaps even myopic.

I personally don’t hold this view. For me one’s conviction are a dynamic part of what makes a person unique.

I’m always fascinated by other peoples beliefs. And in storytelling those very beliefs are at the core of every good narrative.

In other words, your convictions are not a limitation of creativity but rather the path on which your creativity thrives.

What is it that you believe in? What is it that motivates you? What is it that affirms your existence?

How much do value who you are and where you’re coming from?

Answering these questions for yourself will help you understand the plight of your characters and what they are after.

What we believe in will be challenged at every level and this can create conflict and conflict makes for good drama and storytelling in our lives and in our work.

We must stop validating our experiences only if they make us feel happy.

Lastly, your convictions are ever evolving and subject to change because they are grounded on a foundation that makes growth possible, necessary, & inevitable.


Feb. 2019

Creative Connections

Personal Connection

Our work always begins with us.

What is going with us. Where we are in our lives, how we feel about ourselves, our perspective.

This is the first part of connection. Personal connection.

Dropping into our emotional life and opening up into our talent.

How much of ourselves we are will to invest in our work will determine the creative journey we want to embark upon.

Connection with Others

When we connect up with another actor we are opening ourselves up to everything going on with us, whether this is verbally articulated in the moment or subtly implied, either way, energetically and emotionally we are putting ourselves out there.

We are exposing ourselves to another human being - the good, the bad & the ugly.

This is where the risks are. Regardless of plot, circumstances, character needs and dynamics, as artists we have to be willing to let others see us.

An environment that is supportive and makes you feel safe to delve into the depths of your talent is necessary to opening up and exposing yourself. But, connection isn’t necessarily about feeling comfortable - though some may feel very comfortable sharing themselves- it’s not the the goal.

Connection is about disclosure.

Disclosure can makes us feel a wide range of emotions, and it is this that gives voice to our talent and shapes the the dynamic of the narrative.

Connection is everything for an actor. The schisms produced when that connection is fractured or lost can lead to interesting storytelling. But to get there first we must be able to connect to ourselves and others. If we don’t have connection to begin with then there’s is nothing being risked in our work.

Paolo Pagliacolo

Feb. 2019

Carrying the Work Forward

Acting with authenticity is a lifelong pursuit. We must move forward, but equally important is how we move towards what we want.. There is so much conversation and pressure on what an actor needs to do. It becomes difficult to hear, let alone listen to your talent. Training is all about finding what works for you and strengthening those muscles. Once you have a sense of what that is, make sure you don’t change course when you move out towards being seen.

“I have a dream”. An actor’s career usually begins with a thought. I would love to do that. I want to be an actor. I want to be in movies. There is a wish... a desire. Very often that connection is incredibly powerful. It is at the root of why many people do this in the first place, but it is still just a thought until an actor takes action.

The realization of that desire begins the first step in an actor’s process. Understanding what you are and what you are not able to bring into fruition sets you on a path forward. I have met hundreds of actors who think they want to act. Not all of them are willing to put in the time and passion to making it in this career. Fewer still are able to come to terms with the reality of the dreams that they hold and their ability. Understanding that need for growth is necessary to determine an actors process.

That awareness doesn’t mean that we give up on the dream. Quite the opposite. It means that you hold firm to your goal, and you stay committed as you begin to express yourself in your work. An amateur has the luxury of getting frustrated when their work doesn’t represent all that the actor wants revealed. A pro understands that it is a journey to get there. They don’t judge their ability by one take, one scene or one role. They understand that there is always an other layer to reveal. They commit to the discovery. They learn how to own where they are. Both their ability and their limitations create the environment to grow.

Training is the forum to put all of this in practice. It is deeply personal how an actor puts all this together. One of the biggest mistakes I see actors make in their process is they focus on a right choice or the perfect take. Using their time in class to prove to themselves or others the validity of the things they want to do. I think it is by far more useful to discover how you need to work in order to open up and take risks. Focusing less on the destination and more on developing a process that allows an actor to respond with abandon and honesty in their work. Cultivating those skills demands that the actor lets go of the results. It requires that they experiment in their work. It requires trial and error. Inherent in that process is failure. One of the best teachers for an actor in their process.

My goal as a teacher, is that an actor learns intimately how their instrument works. Once that takes place, then we focus on exploring. I have seen some of the most beautiful work in class. I have seen actors putting things together in the moment that is truly powerful. That is the aim of my teaching, but it doesn’t stop there.

During this time, of course, an actor also needs to extend their team professionally. Developing your brand, marketing, finding representation and cultivating relationships within the industry are all part and parcel of becoming and being a working actor.

It is amazing to me the disconnect that can take place between who an actor is, what they are able to do, what they explore in their work and their professional persona. From pictures, to reels, pitches to representation, I watch with amusement as some actors move forward with no clear connection of who they are or what they are doing. DON’T FORGET WHO YOU ARE.

Often times, actors just haven’t thought deeply enough about putting all these pieces together. At other times, they abandon themselves to follow the latest gimmick to be seen. Sometimes an actor looks for someone outside of themselves to tell them how to do all of this. I am not saying you won’t need to be direct-able or have mentors, but at the end of the day, you are the artist, you have the vision, make sure that it is in alignment with what you are doing in your work.

At this point of an actors career, it is important to look at this collaboration as a dialogue. Learning how to incorporate what another needs of you without losing yourself is another part of the process. Everything you do in your career, if you are doing it well, will demand that you continue to grow. Process is about learning how to listen. Learning how to follow direction and your instincts simultaneously.

Once an actor arrives on set, keep in mind that all actors work differently. Suddenly you are collaborating with directors, and other actors who may have completely different training than you. Gently remind yourself that you are not trained to work their way. You have experiences at this point of how to get to the work. Use it. Listen. Be inspired by the talent and the opportunity around you. Stay present and engaged. Own who you are and what you do. Tell the truth. It’s easy when you start feeling insecure to reach for footholds outside of yourself.

One of the main tenets of the technique I teach is trust. You can be sure to feel almost everything when you are on set. What matters is what you do. Where you place your focus. I would encourage my actors to double down on what they know works for them. I would ask them to give up it looking a specific way. I would encourage them to articulate what it is like to really be there, in that moment. I would tell them to breathe and remind them that they are going to be fine. I would whisper in their ear, “have fun.”

Think of all of this as practice. Once you become a public figure everyone is going to have an opinion. As you move upward in your career you encounter all of these things over and over again with more money and pressure attached. And in the world of the internet, our world is not kind.

You will never please everyone. If you do, you are either Tom Hanks or completely boring. A vision for a successful career in art requires vision. Fight for what matters for you. Demand of yourself that you turn over every rock to uncover every strength and weakness you have. Keep taking risks that are in alignment with your work. When you need to shake it up, it will become clear, but you will find it is never “just because”.

If I could get all my clients to project their career forward in this way, it will help them commit to their training. It isn’t about just being in class. It is about becoming everything you were meant to be.



The Present Moment

What goes into creating a moment on camera? I would say EVERYTHING.                            
The scope of what you connect with, what stories you tell, what you open up to as an actor is
really an individual choice. I am constantly reminding my actors that you will only get out of the work what you put into it.                                                                                                    
In my experience, there is much more to be played than actors allow. Sometimes they are
limited by playing what is on the page, but there is so much more to living in the moment than
the plot line.                                                                                                                              
When we see a character appear on screen, often times, there is no dialogue. It is film after all,
so we see and we feel what the actor is living through. We don’t need words to be expressive.   
In order to capture an inner life, the actor needs to bring themselves to the moment. They may
not be doing anything, but their energy must be high, their focus must be clear and their
attention to detail must be alive.                                                                                               
In my Instinct classes, I begin with a lot of moment to moment work. Asking the actors to truly
be present and process what is going on with them. For me, that is a base level connection that must always be utilized while working. It looks so much better on camera than an actor who is sitting there waiting for a scene to begin.                                                                       
The moment starts long before you say the first word. The moment encompasses
everything that may happen in the scene. But the moment also includes things that will never
be played, but they exist.

This is the internal work of a film actor. They fundamentally know how to open up to what is
available to them when the camera rolls. I encourage an actor to utilize everything that they are feeling in the moment. We are capable of feeling a million different things simultaneously. It
goes way beyond the content of a line.                                                                                      
There is also another life going on with the other person in the scene. Connecting to that
life gives you many options of where the work may go.                                                               
Of course we are informed deeply by the script. Living in the moment allows you to truly
hear what is being said in real time. That is what I aim to shoot. It isn’t just listening for a cue,
but how it is said... how it is heard...what does it hit in the context of what is going on in that
particular moment...what does it imply... what are the two people trying to say to one another.   
In film we capture so much in such a short period of time. In the present moment the world
really opens up to you if you understand how to get there. Connect. Listen. In a moment there
are all the feelings of the actor, all the experiences of the character, all the takes, all the days on set. There is also the journey an artist has taken to arrive at that place. Their history, their
emotional life. There is the unknown, their creativity. There is the world we all live in and how it
all intersects.

My advice...worry less about getting the moment right. Engage instead and be prepared to be
informed. It is all there. All the time. As my mentor Sally Johnson use to say “There is never
nothing going on with you. Ever”


Best of Luck!
- Jen

Getting Ready To Work - How Do You Prepare For A Role?

What do you focus on when you first get a script/scene in your hands?

Is memorizing the piece your first priority? Once you “have it down” then you can start the real
work of developing your character?

Or do you work the other way around: Once you understand your character then you commit it
to memory?

My preference is the latter. You don’t want to inhibit your creative process by having
unconsciously decided how you're going to play a scene because you’ve memorized it a certain

In my experience, once you’ve committed something to memory it becomes a challenge to take
adjustments that don’t jibe with how you have envisioned a piece. When your first priority is
memorization this can create other obstacles as well.

Acting doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It requires other characters, other voices to tell the story
that must be told. Unless you are in a production where you get to rehearse with a director and the other actors, like in a play, the only voice you hear when you are working on your character is your own.

So, when you are memorizing a scene and constructing your character as you memorize your
scene you are not only expressing yourself the way you want to be heard but you are also
responding to what others are expressing about you and what is going in the scene as well.
When those other voices are not around during this period of preparation then you are deciding how those voices will be expressed based on how you want the story to be told. In other words, you are creating the narrative. What’s wrong with that, you ask? Well, for starters it’s going to create a certain amount of resistance when you’re on set because the other actor(s) are not aware that you have decided how they should play their parts in order for you perform your part the way you memorized/envisioned it. Secondly, taking direction will feel like someone is telling you are wrong, or they disagree with what you’re doing.

At Krater Studios, in my on-camera scene study class (Making The Scene) we work on scenes
two weeks in a row. I always remind my actors when they get a new scene to just familiarize
themselves with it. In other words, the words are not the first priority, memorization is not the
main focus. Rather go over the script a number of times, 3, 4, 10 times without committing a
single word to memory. See what wants to stick, what resonates with you, what gets your juices flowing and then ask yourself why. If you don’t have an answer that’s okay, just go over the script again. Then put it down and forget about it and get on with your day. Then go back to the script and ask yourself some specific question about motivation, intention, objective, what are the dynamics of the relationships involved, etc (things we go in to great detail in my class). All these questions should resonate within you and the answers if they are available to you should also come from within you. Once this happens, bringing the work into class will allow you to continue exploring these very important elements even more personally. And then, and may be then, when you feel you have a strong understanding of character should you start to think about memorizing the scene.

Know Your Camera

One of the most challenging aspects of acting for film and television is stepping in front of the lens.

As the actor it is your responsibility to bring the character to life. But, your job doesn’t end there. Once you’re on set the next part of the creative process is telling your story through the lens of the camera.

Knowing where your camera is. How to stay open to your shot. And having a basic understanding of how shots are composed can give you the confidence you need to elevate your performance for any role in film and television.

In my Making the Scene Class (on camera scene study) at Krater Studios, we develop an actor's knowledge of the language of film and how the technical demands of a shot can add to the artistic expression of their work on camera.

Here are some quick tips to keep your performance on point.

Know your camera/know your shot.

Where is the camera positioned?

Is it an over the shoulder shot (OTS) - where the back of the other actor is also in frame, creating the feeling like we are witnessing something that is intimate, private, and intense? The OTS emphasizes relationship usually in some kind of power struggle between 2 characters. Who is in control, who is subservient.

Is it a 2 shot? Where 2 characters are simultaneously open and exposed to camera, i.e. a couple sitting up in bed after a long day; 2 strangers on a park bench; a mother driving her teenage daughter to school, etc.

The 2 shot is most effective when establishing that what both characters are feeling is equally important and of interest to the audience. It is great way to underscore tension before we cut to a different angle. In the 2 Shot both characters are communicating their feelings to each other (dialogue) and most importantly they are communicating with us (the audience) non-verbally with how they really feel about what is happening.

As the actor, being specific with an eye-line, we can place these feelings in a way that the camera can pick up on the subtleties and nuances of character.

Is it a clean shot? When the camera is solely on you as in a Close-Up (CU) & Extreme Close-Up (ECU).

When it’s you alone with the camera then your point of view is all that matters to us, and conveying that point of view is paramount not only in pushing the plot forward but in order for us to understand your motives to the point where we empathize with you and experience the narrative vicariously through you.

The CU & ECU is more about how we are being affected by the those around us as opposed to how we are affecting them. Attention to detail is very important because the moments here are usually more distilled and subtle. 

How is the camera positioned?

Is it tilted slightly upward? Then we are creating a feeling of power or dominance.

Tilted slightly downward, we are creating the feeling of subservience, victimization, etc.

If the camera is at head level then we want to create the feeling that our protagonist and the audience are equal.

Status is everything in a scene. Knowing how your camera is positioned can inform you on where you need to be emotionally.

Why a Full Length shot or Medium Shot?

Because more of our body is exposed to camera in a wider shot this may allow us to live out our experiences more physically, especially if we are feeling nervous or anxious or if we are trying to affect the other character in the scene in a specific way. When there’s blocking or movement like in a walk and talk scene or romantic scene, the wider shots allow us to involve ourselves in a more animated way.

These are a few examples of the things we explore in Making The Scene Drama (On-Camera Scene Study) class at Krater Studios. Having the footage for the work we do in class validates what is working for us and at the same time allows us to take a look at where we need to strengthen our on-camera process.

As the actor in the title role of any project you want to seize every and any opportunity that will elevate your performance through the lens. Having the fullest impact possible on your audience is the whole point of Film and TV acting.


April 2018

Do The Work!

Acting can be incredibly rewarding. Especially when we are having break-throughs in our work.

Learning something new in our process allows us to go deeper into ourselves and our creativity. Discipline and commitment are prerequisites to this process.

You have to do the work. That can mean many different things for many different actors.

What makes you tick, what motivates you, what inspires you to act. This insatiable need we actors have to put ourselves out there can be both powerful and terrifying.

Powerful because it’s empowering, especially when we have something to say and we are connected to our voice as artists. We can have an impact as much as we are impacted by the world around us.

It is also scary at times especially when we are coming up against resistance in our work and in our lives (for me the two are intertwined). When we are still developing our voices as artists and learning to trust who we are (that we have everything we need within us to take on the demands of any project) we sometimes can be very hard on ourselves and insulate ourselves within the limitations of our insecurities and become very defensive.

Whatever you are experiencing in your life/work is the work and finding a way to allow yourself to be informed by it both personally and creatively is the best way to move past the resistance that is coming up for you. It’s easier said then done, I know. But you got to do the work.

Try this the next time you are feeling stuck:

Find a quiet place where you can sit with yourself undisturbed for 20 minutes. Close your eyes and listen to your breathing and moment by moment allow whatever is coming up for you to be sent energetically forward on the exhale into the space. Don’t judge yourself or try to “fix” or “correct” what you're feeling, just have an awareness of what is coming up for you and express it honestly through the breath and with sound if you like.

There is no substitute for doing the work!


Risk it, again & again!

Taking risks, physically & emotionally, and staying committed to the circumstances of the scene opens us up to the moment to moment exchange between the characters. When this happens, the scene unfolds, allowing for truthful spontaneity between you and your scene partner. There can be no half measures on the actors part. Whatever you are feeling, embrace it as the character and make it a part of what is actually happening between you and the other person. It's interesting to see a vulnerable person approach her situation with uncertainty because of inner conflicts that she is struggling to reconcile as opposed to seeing an actor resist impulses and react self-consciously to what is happen because she is uncertain of herself and what the scene is about for her. Commitment and risk taking require that we make strong choices that are not always obvious and may take us out of our comfort zones and catapult our creativity to a plane that is not on the written page but is what the scene is actually about!

Keeping risking!


Moment to Moment

There is nothing quite like the dynamic that takes place when two committed actors are fully engaged with one another. The moment to moment work is where we listen with our entire instrument, not just hearing what is been said so that we know when it is our turn to speak again, but feeling it and letting it settle in us and allowing this to inform our response. No matter how prepared we are or single-minded our objective is, if the moment to moment exchange isn't taking place on an honest level then what we are left with is two actors in two completely different scenes.

When I ask you to take your time, don't worry about pacing. Really hear what is being communicated, see where that wants to settle with you and how it makes you feel (what feelings/emotions are triggered and what thought processes take place). It is usually because we have a tendency to plow through a script in a preconceived fashion that we end up skipping past invaluable moments that are the life line and essence of the characters we take on.

Yes, there are technical requirements that also come into play, setting the tone and feel of any given piece, but until we truly allow ourselves to live the moments fully then what we will end up doing is going through the motions and developing bad habits.

The moment to moment work is where the story comes alive. It is a spontaneous and organic process that requires an openness to be heard and to hear.


Your word...

Many people think they want to act.  

We have all heard the conversations...if only...
...I could get in the room
 get the right agent
play the right role...

Yes, that is true and yet we need to be mindful that success comes to the people who work for it.

When you think about how much you much you can much you have to offer...make sure you put that talk into action.  It is precisely in the moments when we think we couldn't do anything more that we must. 

The people who come to LA to work know what they want and go for it.  Actors need to hold themselves accountable to deliver on good days and on bad.  You cannot pull back when something is uncomfortable. 

People who succeed at anything know they must show up rain or shine.

If you say..."I want to be an actor", than do the work.  Everyday.

It is you, not anyone outside yourself, who claims that title.  Choose wisely.



Getting older does have its advantages.

One thing I have discovered is how precious your time is.  We truly don't know how long someone will stay in our lives or what the next day will bring.  Keeping that in mind allows us to make the most of the opportunities we have at hand.

Making the most of those opportunities is what brings the work alive in our acting.

Each time we step in front of the lens, we have the opportunity to take a risk, fall in love, reveal a truth and discover something we didn't know before.  We have the freedom to define a thought, articulate our experience, and share in what it means to be human.

The unknown has the potential to be filled with magic and discovery.

We musn't let the mundane take away our appreciation and curiosity for what we do.

In acting exploration is everything.

When we focus on making a scene work, getting the line right, or following some type of rigid demand that the intellect makes of us, we lose our ability to create.  We cut off the most vital part of who we are as an artist. That kind of experience is limiting and at times frustrating, because on some level we have given our work over to someone else's way of thinking.

When we are young we want so much.  We feel so much.  We have energy reserves that literally propel us forward into our lives, our self discovery.  If I could give advice to young actors everywhere (and I suppose young and old alike) it would be to not waste your time worrying so much about what everyone else is thinking.  The present moment offers an actor the ability to experience whether we are speaking from a sense of truth or obligation.  The actor him or herself ultimately determines the worth of what it is they have expressed.

We must get past the fear, frustration, and self consciousness when we work to that sweet opportunity of knowing this must be expressed.  This moment is what I am feeling.  I am giving my all to this experience and allowing myself to be revealed.  This is who I am!

People settle all the time.  The actor's job is to rise above and remind everyone there is a beauty to being alive.

Leave the cynicism to the internet.

Heightened Reality

When we're working on camera in class we sometimes fall victim to a tendency that has us plowing through the scene and, in the process, editing our performance out of the story. My advice is always to take your time. Let what is going on moment to moment affect you and then allow that to be the impetus for your reaction.

Another concern is our ideas and preconceived notions of what is expected of us (usually by no-one but ourselves) and how to play that. We can become tunnel-visioned in our pursuit of an objective or getting our message across that we forget that there is a living, breathing, feeling human being in the room with us that is being affected by our behavior and that in turn is having an effect on us and, possibly, (most likely) if we are connected to one another this has the potential to open us up to other feelings about them and ourselves and where the scene wants to go.

When we are working against these two conflicts a self-preservation mechanism kicks in that wants to keep us safe and so we behave accordingly by pulling back and using the words of the script as a security measure against anything harmful that can befall us, and in life in most circumstances that may be fine, but in Film and Television we do not have that luxury. There is nothing gratuitous in the 120 minutes or less within which the lives of complex individuals are thrown together. This is true of all genre in both mediums. As closely as we identify and empathize with the characters we take on, as much as their feelings and thoughts resonate with us we have to on some level recognize that the world they inhabit is heightened in reality compared to ours because they don't have a 100 years of screen time to live out their experiences. They have 120 minutes or less. Nothing can be taken for granted and moments must be lived out fully.

- Paolo.


To act.  
To take action. 

This business is not for those who want to sit around and day dream.

But what about the notion of hope?

It is a valuable asset in your work as an actor.  It is the ability to see past the clutter and the noise to the edge where a dream or wish becomes a reality.  It is the buffer between the soul and cynicism/bitterness.  Without it we risk becoming humorless and demoralized.  Our characters have nothing to fight for and at times nothing to lose.

This business is about big dreams.  It is about big risks and rewards.  You have to believe you will find yourself achieving what you set out to do or else what is the point.

But you cannot leap without the floor. We cannot just wish from a vacuum.  Life isn't easy or fair.  It is beautiful, complicated and at times quite savage.  It is indifferent, numbing and tedious.  We must encounter the truth of our surroundings and hope anyway.  That is where the power of the moment lies.

It takes courage.  
It takes action.  
It also makes the reward oh so sweet!

Jen Krater


We're currently enrolling in our instinct, breathe, and making the scene classes! Call or email us for a free audit, and we'll find the class that best serves your needs.

Let's Stop Waiting!

We can all get caught up in the waiting game from time to time.  It happens at various points in our lives, careers and it can manifest itself in our work.

It is a place that can cause stagnation, frustration and impede growth.

Personally, I think it becomes a habit.

As actors we wait on so many things.  We wait for the phone to ring, the cue to come, the word action to be called.  How might it serve the work if we stopped waiting to bring all that we have to offer and started to give of ourselves, express our voice, offer up our talents and get moving!

An easy antidote is to be mindful of the definition of "to act".  As a verb it means to take action or to do something.  As a noun it means a thing done; a deed.

I have been meditating on this since Monday Evenings Instinct Class at Krater Studios.  We observed how a scene can sit there...feeling like it is an unmoving entity or it can pop and sizzle.  Usually the difference has to do with where the actors are coming from, what they are listening to and/or what they are bringing to the picture.

Once in awhile, I see actors get up without much going on either energetically, emotionally or psychically.  The go to the page or the line, point out the most obvious clues from the script to support uninspired choices and they read dialogue.

Rather than waiting for someone to point out where the opportunities may be, an actor wants to be in tune with his or her process, opinions, life experience and inner aliveness.  We don't need to be told how to respond to a novel we may be reading in the privacy of our home and it should be no different when we are working.  Lifting that experience up off the page and being willing to play with the other actor takes a certain amount of risk, but it must be done.

I see actors wait for the lines to tell them how to feel.  It is common place to have someone sit right in front of your nose and miss what is going on with them.  We don't connect as a society and so from time to time we ignore that obligation when we get up to work.  Ask yourselves if you really give a damn about the person in front of you.  If you aren't sure or the answer is no, turn that around because nine times out of ten your performance is in your partner.  The character you are inhabiting surely cares about the journey he or she is on or there wouldn't be a story to tell.

Listening is such a crucial part of an actors process.  Sometimes it seems as if actors believe this is about listening to the line better.  Although that may be true, there are so many other amazing things to connect with when we act.  From time to time we are limiting ourselves to just one or two, but as an actor you want to reach out and listen to the lines, the temperament of your partner, the tone of the environment being established, the moment, your intuition, a deeper level of understanding, your point of view, the obvious....need I go on?  Actors forever will be discovering how to listen better.

Lastly, I think it is important to recognize that you have something valuable to offer the production, your community or the world.  An actor must recognize and develop his or her voice.  If we want to be more than a bit player from time to must be done.  It is perfectly okay not to know what that may be, but then we must go about the discovery.

In being called to act, suddenly there are so many things to realize, discover and express.  Keeping all of this in mind will prevent you from sitting back when you need to take a stand, keeping quiet when you should speak up and pretending you are just another actor when indeed you are a force to be reckoned with.

Think how it feels to be on your heels when you work.  Why search outwardly for someone to offer you the platform or permission to do what you do best.

So much of this career becomes about taking care of yourself.  Please make sure that you do.

Now, go Act!
Jen Krater


Impulses stem from an intuitive connection we are experiencing in the moment that is connected to something deeper within us.

Impulses can lead us to the full expression of that experience when we commit to them fully.

Following through with our Impulses will move you away from a place of safeness to a place ripe with creative possibilities.

When an actor takes a risk and follows through with her impulses she elevates the scene to a plane where anything can happen.

So why are we afraid of our impulses? Well, the obvious reason is that they lead us into trouble.

The best thing that can happen in a scene is the least expected thing when impulses are followed through.

So, get into trouble.

We like trouble. We welcome trouble.

See you next week.



We have spaces available in Paulo's audition class- contact us at for a free audit.