Acting Classes: The Disney Channel Part 2

What do you do when you realize that your child’s dreams and passions are emotionally involved with wanting to act on television networks like The Disney Channel or Nickelodeon?

This is step two in a six-part series in which I will provide simple steps you can take right now wherever you live to actively start your child on the path to achieving this goal.

In the first article “Step One – Speaking Skills,” I gave suggestions for working with your budding actor to improve their diction prior to enrolling in an excellent on-camera like here at Gary Spatz’s Acting School. I also stressed that acting is a craft that can take years to master, and is as valid a pursuit as sports, arts, and academics.

Having a very clear vision about taking your budding actor’s goals of working on television networks like The Disney Channel, Disney XD or Nickelodeon as seriously as if your child was committed to one day playing professional baseball or becoming a groundbreaking scientist is crucial to their confidence and ultimate success in any field.

When auditioning for such networks as The Disney Channel, Disney XD, or Nickelodeon, casting directors look for actors who truly understand the comedy. One way to really shine in comedy is to know how to interpret and act out the emotional requirements and comic beats in the sides.
So what can I work on next?

Step Two – Emotional Words

Emotional Words: the use of words, especially with regards to triggering feelings, emotions, and thoughts.
Regardless of your child’s grade or where you live, actively learning the meanings of emotional words will both empower your budding actor as well as improve their acting.

In Gary Spatz’s The Playground acting classes, another foundational skill we emphasize is learning and understanding emotional words that will be used in scripts. Using and interpreting these types of words are part of what actors call script analysis. You may be unfamiliar with script analysis, so here is a brief and easy explanation: Script analysis is also known by the simpler term: Breaking down a script. That means

the actor will be asking and answering questions regarding the script in an effort to clearly understand what is happening in the scene and why the characters are talking. (Bonus: This technique enhances everything your student’s reading and english teachers are teaching at every grade level!)

Let’s use the following information for an example: In a comedy scene, the relationship is two brothers, Max and Ben. They have both just been grounded for fighting with each other and sent to their shared bedroom. Max frequently gets into trouble, yet still feels frustrated to be grounded again, and Ben is furious because this never happens to him, and he was supposed to go out with friends to see a movie tonight. During the scene they consider never talking to each other again.

In this case, “frustrated” and “furious” are our emotional words described by the writer. An actor must know these emotional words’ exact meaning. It was important enough for the writer to describe them, so it must be important enough for the actor to look them up. Max is frustrated.

Ask yourself, what does “frustrated” mean? Did you answer: mad, angry, or annoyed? Or did you look it up and find that it actually means: discouraged; feeling exasperated, distressed, or unsatisfied. You cannot assume you know what the word truly means or “sort of” know what the word “kind of” means. It’s important to know exactly what the word means. Using “discouraged” opens up a whole different emotional expression. “Mad” can be acted out aggressively while “discouraged” represents a different energy and thought process throughout the scene.

Once you understand the specific emotional words described in the scene by the writer, then the real fun starts. Now the actor gets to artistically and specifically choose their own interpretation of additional emotions to layer on during the scene. Perhaps Max is frustrated. However, as the scene continues, the actor may specifically choose to also feel “guilty” that his brother can’t go out with his friends.

Guilty means: responsible for wrongdoing: responsible for a crime, wrong action, or error and deserving punishment, blame, or criticism. This will generate thoughts and emotions throughout the scene that make Max feel these emotions.

Perhaps the actor playing Max chooses that he wanted to make sure his brother couldn’t go out and started the fight specifically to cause this. Now the emotional words the actor specifically chooses could be “justified” and “content” that his brother can’t go out. Do you know what justified means? Content? Not knowing the true definition hinders knowing how to act them out accurately.

I expect all my students, regardless of age (six years old as well as older teenagers) to have a working and growing knowledge of emotional words that they challenged themselves to work on during their acting classes and ultimately be able to utilize on set while working as a professional actor.

It is important to start compiling a working vocabulary of emotional words right now. Keep them in a notebook, journal or anything. Look up definitions. Use these new emotional words in acting classes or english class or just with each other. You will be starting on the path to becoming a strong and articulate actor. That is what both the networks like The Disney Channel and Nickelodeon and their casting directors look for. Acting can be fun! Even one emotional word at a time!

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