Loyola Marymount students’ directing class with Alexis Latham

Comments on the varied tension exercise

I had two directing lectures with Alexis Latham and he showed us a variety of different exercises, but my favorite was walking around the room. When we walked around the room in two groups, Alexis gave each brian l heartgroup a different type of tension to hold and then made us interact with  scripted dialogue. This exercise helped me feel how simple dialogue can be interpreted differently with varied tensions, and also how timing can be altered very easily by directing someone to hold a specific type of tension. Further, it added a lot of body language that I would have had trouble explaining if it weren’t for the names of tensions. (Brian L. Grant)

When actors were given a tension level, and a scene, then we would have to guess what level they were at based on their interactions. It made it interesting how tension levels are relative, how a 10 seems very hyper to a 4, but pretty mellow to a 18. I thought it highlighted how to speak and instruct actors in theirmathew keyes own language, making it easy to get exactly what you want out of people. This keeps a clear line of communication between the director and actor. Having an understanding of the tension levels lets you play with this drama in the scene, because you know how someone of a sully disposition would act or reveal information, so if you put them with a melodrama person the contrasting energy would be interesting to watch. (Mathew Keyes)

Out of the exercises that we did with Alexis Latham, the one that helped me most create tension and drama in a scene is the one where he gave us a scene to direct, and we had to figure out how to position the characters, and direct them using different levels of tension, to see how the scene played out. We could put them on a scale of 1-20 of how confident their character was, and so we would assign them taylor brightdifferent numbers; 1 being the least confident and 20 being the most. We would then watch how the scene played out with the actors using these different levels of tension/confidence, and change it until the characters seemed like they were interacting correctly. This helped the director-to actor relationship because it allowed us to actually make decisions in how the role was played. (Taylor Bright)

Comments on the improvisation with various characters exercise

The exercise which helped me the most in developing a working relationship with an actor was the improvisation exercise which my LMU classmates and I did at the beginning of the semester. This was the exercise where we were given characterizations such as “Californian” or “nervous” and then had to play out a scenario. As a director, giving an actor just a few character directions and then seeing where they eden roussotake that is freeing to the actor, helpful to the director and develops trust between the actor and director. The exercise which helped me the most in creating tension and drama was the exercise in which we explored power dynamics. By establishing who had more or less power in the scene, tension developed through the struggle to gain or retain power, and conflict came from weaker characters’ desire to not be controlled by the more powerful. (Eden Rousso)

Each actor was assigned a specific state of being that must be carried throughout the scene. peter mitchellAllowing the actor to focus on a specific level and type of energy to project can greatly vary the outcome of a scene. The exercise indicates how these changes in energy can influence the level of dramatic tension in a given scene. From a director’s perspective, it also provides a straightforward way of communicating how an actor should approach a scene without being didactic. (Peter Mitchell)

Three or four people were chosen and told to create characters and improvise a scene based on only a few guidelines. It was a quick-on-your-feet type of activity. You had to analyze what your scene partner said or did, anticipate where they wanted the scene to go, and somehow compromise on which direction you both would actually take the scene, without ever saying a word of this out loud. Simultaneously, you had to think of witty, or funny, or fitting things to say that would entertain the audience, make sense, and move the scene forward, all while staying true to your designated character and the designated scene. It was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do, but the end results were very rewarding. Surprisingly, the scenes were good. The characters were amusing, distinct, and became realistic, relatable people. If you think about it, writing interactions between characters on paper is quite similar. In your head, you’re playing out the scene as you write it down. You envision the banter, the pauses, the faces that your characters make. You want them to play off each other, just like you play off your scene partners in class. You want to amuse the audience, just like you desperately want to amuse the audience when you hannah mcperform in class. Everything carries over to pen and paper, but having done the exercise, creating a scene for a script is a little easier. Performing in class is insanely nerve-wracking and difficult, it almost makes screenwriting feel easy. Almost! (Hanna McMechan)