I always look forward to DVD extras when they have bloopers. There is usually a bit of awkward hilarity in watching actors fluff their lines and lose the plot of what they’re doing. And while this stuff is usually out of place in the polished finished version it is often fascinating insight into the process by which it all came together.
And this makes me wonder just how different these bloopers are from genuine improvisation. Going off script can be sometimes disaster but also sometimes rewarding. What exactly makes the difference?
In a sense, the acting process often seems to involve ‘do overs’, multiple takes designed to give at least one that will make the final cut. With tolerant direction there is freedom within those takes to mess up or get sidetracked. There is freedom to experiment.
The difference between failed readings and honest improvisation is usually that something gets recorded which has no conceivable place in the plot while others are manifest with potential. And straying off the page can be intentional or accidental. The difference is that some gaffs are interpretively experimental while others fail to connect adequately to the script.
Sometimes it will be obvious which is which. Other times you just don’t know. Of course the artist can trash the take by falling out of character, by breaking up with laughter, by calling another actor the wrong name…. Just as the director can call “Cut!”: There are certain things that are no longer performance but preemptive reality. But the interesting thing is that with a fairly loose approach to the script sometimes you won’t know until the scene has run its course. Sometimes you just go with it until the very end, actors trading new lines, just to see where they end up.
In the creative process, sometimes it is important to just see what happens, and not fear mistakes. In fact, ‘mistakes’ are important. They can reveal new directions that are just as valid. Their only liability is that they were not planned. But, then, planning isn’t everything either…..
The interesting thing to me is that actors fluffing their lines seem to respond with humor and good cheer. Of course they would hardly include someone getting chewed out on a blooper reel, but the important thing is that actors seem to recognize that ‘getting it wrong’ isn’t always a serious matter. Especially creatively.
(“Caution: Actor on the set”)
Its a lesson I probably need to learn a bit better. When I fluff my lines, leave my fingernails too long and gouge a pot I’m working on, put a handle on crooked, press my stamp in upside down, try trimming a plate too dry, and any other of a thousand pottery bloopers, my response is usually to yell blue bloody murder, to call down the thunder and lightning, to curse and throw my toys from the pram. I suppose I need to lighten up…..
Maybe I just need to take a page from the blooper reel and see the funny side. The good thing about humor is that even though it may be a distraction, it at least still encourages more takes. Negativity is seldom as congenial. Getting down on ourselves, punishing each and every mistake, is rarely the incentive to keep slogging away. If things are completely off track you can always take a break and come back in a few minutes. But its always better to pick up again with a smile on your face than the crinkled brow of frustration…..
Maybe the point is that creativity should be fun, even the ‘mistakes’, and that if you’re not enjoying what you are doing, then maybe you are doing it wrong…. And maybe this is also especially important to remember when teaching or leaning these skills.
Something to think about, at least!
Make beauty real!