Filipino actors call for safe space on the set
Last Aug. 3, actress Angeli Bayani, a recent graduate of Meisner Institute, an acting school founded by Sanford Meisner shared her learnings on how to be a “feather in the wind” with actors and directors in an online meetup. She was accompanied by Scott Trost, executive director of Meisner Institute.
“Simple, direct, and effective” is the Meisner technique that focuses on the actors’ intuition and creative process. “What I found extremely valuable was, it was safe. I felt safe,” says the 2014 Gawad Urian Award for Best Actress.
There was no judgment or fear to make any mistake for Angeli. “When you feel safe, you feel free. You’re more creative, you’re more imaginative,” she confesses.
Art Acuna, who is based in New York City but started working on TV and film productions here, also practices the “instinctive” approach. “Meisner teaches you to use your imagination,” he says. “It’s your strongest tool, just play with it.” Different directors have different strokes but for Art there must be a collaborative energy on the set.
“Trusting my intuition at the same time, I know the director’s eye is out there looking at it,” muses the 2001 Cinemanila Best Actor for Lav Diaz’ Batang West Side (2001). “It might not be right how much I feel it is right, so I also experiment.”
A director inspires an actor, and should not be a dictator on the set. Pinky Amador shares the ideal director-actor relationship. “The hallmark of a good director or teacher or acting coach is somebody who creates immediately a safe space for you to create,” she explains. Safe space makes artistic juices flow freely. “Once that safe space is there and it is recognized by everybody in it, then you are all working toward that one vision—the director’s,” declares Pinky who was in the original London cast of the Cameron Mackintosh musical hit, Miss Saigon.
‘Simple, direct, and effective’ is the Meisner technique that focuses on the actors’ intuition and creative process.
She also reminisces about the directors she had worked with. “I had directors act out for me,” utters the Repertory Philippines actress. “On the other hand when you have Mario O’Hara acting out the scene for you, or Maryo J. delos Reyes who are both directors but also incredible actors, you sit there and watch and enjoy! Thankfully, there are precious, in a good way!”
“We marinate in our miseries,” affirms director Jose Javier Reyes. An actor needs not to have pain in order to act. “What you need is empathy and empathy requires intelligence,” “Kung wala kang talent at nuknukan ka ng kabobohan, kahit ilang workshop ang kunin mo, walang mangyayari sa yo (If you have no talent and are dumb, even if you attend many workshops, nothing is going to happen to you in this career),” snaps the upcoming Bantay Bahay director.
Hollywood director Elia Kazan was part of the group theater that Sandy Meisner came from. According to Scott, he was not considered a very good actor. “He was the guy who would do things for everybody else.” Elia realized that his real calling was directing. “I call him an actor whisperer,” reveals Scott.
“He understood each actor, what they needed that day to get the best performance,” says the acting teacher who trained with Anthony Hopkins at the National Theatre in London.
Elia cast James Dean in his first film, East of Eden (1955) without seeing the “rebel” act or read the script. “James Dean asked Elia Kazan if he wanted to ride on James Dean’s motorcycle,” says Scott. “So they went for a ride on the motorcycle together and it was what convinced Elia Kazan that James Dean was perfect as the lead for this film.” Intuition cast the actor for the perfect role.
The Meisner Institute is an international community that trains actors, directors, and acting teachers using the principles initiated by Sanford Meisner and sharing best practices to research, to experiment, and to innovate acting techniques. Email [email protected] for inquiries.