My Experience as a volunteer Actor for Mary Lou Belli's USC Multi-Cam Directing Class

November 21, 2014

Hi Readers,

As an Actor, I have been fortunate to volunteer a few times for Mary Lou Belli's USC, Multi- Camera Directing class. When asked, I usually jump at the chance. Why?

 

1) It is a completely free class experience for the actor.

 

2) Mary Lou is an actual working director and a good teacher.

 

3) well, read on...

 

Hi Mary Lou,

 

I wanted to send you a quck "thanks" and notes of my experiences in you class thus far.

 

Here are some of the great things I have been able to observe, and practice,

while on your USC MFA student sets:

 

1) Experiencing different director's styles and personalitites.

Some of these student directors are very loose, while some are closer to perfectionists and micro managers. I have found this to be true across the industry having worked for David Fincher (who was amazing) and many others, some, who in contrast, you hardly knew were there.

 

2) Having fun between takes & Returning to the Actor Focus on "Rolling"

While working as a BG actor on "Hart of Dixie", "Kickin it" and other sitcom shows with younger comedy casts, I have observed the principle actors often goofing around loudly, chatting and relaxing between takes. So, while on your student set at USC, I emulated this behavior to see what it is all about. My first observation  is that it was nice to have the permission and comfort to talk loudly on occasion, or just to hang loose with the actors taking a break, while crew is going about their business. Goofing around has sort of let us claim the space and put our energy into it, and to sort of feel at home,  (rather than always waiting quietly or 'behaving' like a good actor should).

But make note, I do all this, while still having an ear and eye to what is going on around me at all times. And importantly, I am getting better at zooming back quickly into the scene, in character with full focus when we hear "rolling". This is a skill that needs to be practiced. Tuning in as a working actor, and then relaxing and acknowledging the real world around you. The set can be distracting to the actor,  but by being able to feel comfortable and switching between them is a great asset to claim a few moments of "ahhh".

 

3) Stretching and trying out different Comedic roles.

Some of the roles I was cast in by your students felt easy and natural to my type, such as playing Jerry Seinfeld. Others were completely new to me, such as portraying the stern and authoritative Boss of Ross on "Friends". All of this is helping to stretch and explore my comedic ability and range.

 

4) Getting accustomed to 4 cameras. Deer in the headlights.

I have a secret. Cameras are intimidating. I have this urge at times to just stare down the barrel of the lens, to face the stares of unseen millions in the audience. Yes, I have actually done this at USC, between takes. So, If you see the look of a Deer in headlights on the monitor, that may explain why. This USC class has been an opportunity to get that urge out of my system. I have also 'camera gazed" while working as a standin on many Network shows. And as a result, am less likley to catch an eye on on of the lenses as i sweep my view across their path, or even get too intimidated by them.

 

5) Befriending and learning to work fast with fellow comedic actors.

When on a set, as the day player, we need to Deal quickly with the various on set personalities. Luckily, every actor has been pro and pretty much  ego-free in your class. One actor, who was super talented, by the way, was also a bit nervous, and got kind of pushy on set, and started getting really close in my space both as an actor and for the character in the scene. I think it was in an effort to control the scene, due to his anxiety. That can happen. So, I kind of waited until the director pointed it out, which she did, and I also playfully pushed him away a few inches. That worked, he got the message, we both kind of calmed down and settled in. We got along great from there, both in the scene and in person, and hung out chatting after the shoot. We actors are are very emotional creatures.

 

6) Networking with my future directors and writers!

I already had the pleasure of working with one of your graduates on the set of a feature film.

 

all for now,

 

Karl

 

- Rehearsal's up at USC Multicam Class -

 

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