And now for the dreaded protocols…
Hello, there are none—“protocols” that is. There are wonderful theories each and every week that actors in all career stages manage to pass around. (It’s kind of like being in the army, and being privy to the latest rumor.) But protocols, for what to do, when to do it, and whom to do it to or with, in order to make it big in our world of subjectivity are really non-existent.
Back to James Cagney:
If there is a protocol for success, and that protocol happens to be telling the truth, it makes many out there begin to smile when the truth and Hollywood become synonymous. The facts, however, are really very simple. They never change. Those who make it as actors have talent. Those who make it are willing and have sacrificed in order to succeed. Those who make it do so because they have practiced their craft. Those who have made it manage some way, somehow, to convey the truth, either through their eyes or through the eyes of another.
Years ago, it was one of my students that won the job. It was part of my continuing evolution. I remember it as if it were yesterday. She finished her read, and I immediately congratulated her. “Wow, what were you thinking about,” I asked. The answer, of course, became part of my Method’s evolution. “I was remembering how my nephew looked and acted when I took him to Disneyland,” she replied. She proceeded to reenact the young boy’s face and his exact words as what she used as her method for delivering the truthful degree of wonderment that was called for.
If a brassy waitress has ever served you, you might want to take a few moments to figure out what was the cause of her delivery. It’s just a trick, but it could be helpful if you are ever called on to be brassy. But caution… your agent isn’t going to call you in to portray a brassy waitress when your natural signature is one of a demure or reserved librarian.
Then there’s the role of the anal-retentive headmaster at an Ivy League middle school. If you were born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and you have a distinct accent, don’t expect a miracle to occur, no matter whose eyes you’re attempting to see things through.
Here is the main gist for all that must be sacred when conveying an emotion:
Now stack up the emotions. Create your own personal and confidential file to call on in time of need. You may begin with the simple. Happy, sad, beaming, glad, abrupt, rude, crude, alarmed, disarmed, betrayed, lost, found, discovered, uncovered, revered, relished, embellished, wasted, tasted, smiled, frowned, important, renowned. Your place, his, hers, theirs, inside or out, raining, thundering, lightning, wind, hot, cold, humid or dry, on a mountain, in the sand, shivering in the cold, lying in the sand seeking to be tanned.
Take a breath. What’s in the air? What presents itself? What do you feel? In that one moment in time, you are the one in total control of whatever natural response nature dictates. And within your response, therein lies your signature. Without betraying any worldly confidence, your answers will be revealed.
How vivid a recollection is, will usually be dependent on the broadness of the colors nature has provided for your individual palette. In short, some human beings are more flamboyant than others. Their revelations will be painted with broader strokes than the average person might use. If that is their natural way, then that is what will be the basis for their signature determination.
Then there are those people who appear tight-lipped. They play it close to the vest when describing any of life’s dramatic moments. That’s not to say that their way is the wrong way to express an emotion. If it happens to be their honest signature, then that is what will rule their moment of reflection.
Then, we have one of my favorites: A talent is asked to display a degree of frustration and anxiety over being unable to figure out their checkbook balance. (We don’t even have those anymore!) It happens that this particular actor has a business manager, and this talent hasn’t had to handle a checkbook for a prolonged period of time. Like the example given previously, they, too, were able to nail it. When I asked them what this actor had been reflecting on, they replied with, “That was an easy one for me. I was thinking about my terrible ride in this morning. The freeway was jammed, and I was both frustrated and concerned over whether or not I would make your audition on time!”
Above, I have given you two examples of the Kalmenson Method at work. Both of the actors in question were graduates of our school. Both have reached the upper levels of success within our voiceover world. Both exemplify the extraordinary ability to bring their delivery into the present; both have got the meat, or the chops if you prefer.