Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Finding your way in to character... and back out again.

Once, when I was writing a particularly personal script, I found myself so wrapped up in the emotions of the characters and the drama of their lives that I would be completely wracked afterwards.  I would spend hours trying to shake off the mood, mostly by eating large quantities of chocolate.

I finally asked an actor friend of mine for some advice: How do you shake off the mood of a character after a rehearsal or performance?

His answer was simple, "I change my shoes."

It's a trick of theater that we writers don't often think of - but as an actor - getting into character is a process, aided and abetted by the time in front of the make-up mirror, getting into costume, literally strapping on character shoes (dance heels) or boots or whatever...  It makes sense that the process of getting out of character should be the reverse, that an actor could become themselves again by stripping off their costume and their make-up and changing back into their street shoes.

As a writer, we don't get that aid - we are expected not only to imagine the world, but the shoes, the face, the mind, and the words of these people.  It is no wonder then, that writers are nuts.

The shoe trick, worked, by the way.  But I still constantly find myself identifying too closely with my characters.  Right now, I am working on a movie about woman who, despite a good career, a good husband, and a good life, feels like she has lost her way.  Like she would like to throw the baby out with the bath water (not Baby Luna, just a proverbial baby) quit her job, pack up her house, ditch the city, and move to the country and live off the land.

Now, for the sake of this character and for my own curiosity (which really is the same thing), a show of hands - how many of you (my three readers) constantly question your life or your career path or the city you live in or the life you've chosen (or had chosen for you).  Is this American or generational?  Is this discontent a privilege of having choices?  Is this just something that artists do or is it something that only people in a sinking film industry do?

This inquiring mind wants to know...  Because I'm starting a commune in the country and I'm wondering who's with me!


Do not panic.  I am not quitting.  I am not moving.  Yet.  I am going to go change my shoes.

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