Aaron Speiser Scene Study Notes From 1/21/13 –> 3/10/13

1) If you have an activity such as putting on a shoe during a scene — it must be a real activity. It can’t just be like, “I’m putting on a shoe while I tell this monologue”. For example, if putting a shoe is used, then you must also know why you are putting on the shoe, and where you are going. Depending on where you are going, you therefore also have to know the urgency of it. Even if you are passionate about what you are talking about, you still need to put on your shoe if you are heading out.

  • Monologues are blocks of words, but it is what is really about what is beneath the words: [what it’s about].
  • For example if I say, “Life is unfair and I wish I was rich” as my objective this doesn’t mean anything to us.
  • You might also say my monologue is about getting this information “off my chest” but this also is not interesting. When do we enjoy watching someone get something off of their chest? That is boring!
  • You must live in a world of objectives – -what do you need, and the actions you take to fill this need.

2) Comedies are flips and fast turns of emotions. You mislead, mislead, mislead, and then take them the opposite direction. You must also give yourself permission to let go because you must be uninhibited.

3) Knowing your character. If you are a high ranking coronel in the military, you are extremely powerful. You don’t need to move for anyone. You don’t need to prove how powerful you are, all that matters is that you know it. The next step once you know your own power is to know who you are dealing with [relationship]. Yelling and screaming are for weak human beings.

4) On beats. There are no beats when we talk in life. Using beats to breakdown a scene is helpful when working to clarify changes in actions.

5) On laughing. Laugh at ourselves when we are dumb. Must give permission.

6) As an actor, no one is crazy. You are always justified.

7) On being physical in scenes. Love taps. If you play a hooker you can do some physical flips as well. Playing your opposites is so important. Action [kiss] –> then slap on the head. Its a love tap. Guys like it!

8) As an actor, your instrument must be unlocked. You must act, react and laugh on stage. This means letting go, not just laughing inorganically. The audience delights in the actors joy. When the actor laughs, typically we laugh.

9) The minute you feel like your doing ‘acting’ stop and do nothing.

10) In real life, we don’t stand across the room and stare at each other. We look when we have to.

11) Surprise yourself. Letting go and having no idea what is going to happen. In film, so what? Be brave and take the risk. This will lead to the best art — its when you don’t know if it is good or not.

12) The only thing you can play is an action. Objectives are states of being. You might be depressed, but you cannot play an emotion.

  • Bad actors will play the emotion “frustrated” for an entire scene and it is so annoying because whatever they do they are playing “frustrated” and it is silly.
  • Another example is playing “pissed off”. You can’t get what you want always pissed off. It’s a state of being. You think someone is going to give you money if you are all pissed off all the time? No. You can only play actions such as to steal, to convince, but you can’t play to be pissed off as your action to get the money.

13) On being drunk. Lose your center of gravity. Shift it to somewhere else.



11.26.12 Class

Words don’t mean much, always look at the reality beneath them.
What do the words coming out of an army general’s mouth mean when he says, “Attack at dawn.”? It is equivalent to him saying kill them before they kill you. Not only kill them, but destroy them before you get your guts all lain out and limbs all over the battlefield. “Attack at dawn” is a loaded phrase.

Scene 1) Key Exchange

Learning your character. A ladies man. What are ladies men like? Confident and arrogant. Ladies men make women laugh a lot and have a sense of humor. However to do this, your instrument must be free. You want to laugh, cry, whatever, but you cannot simply just say words. Immediately, you should recognize good and bad acting.


What is our behavior when we are telling a story? We are essentially translating images in our head to words. This means for storytelling in acting, you need specific images as well in order to translate them into words.

When a man is really emotional, it is holding back the tears that shows the pain. You don’t want to cry, so your struggle with this pain. It is the fight to hold back tears that moves an audience. They will cry for you.

Reading the script, you must catch all the red flags.

When breaking down your character, make a list of similarities to yourself and differences. Make sure to have both.




Aaron Speiser: Scene I Class 11.15.2012


Even if you are having a good day, something like a minor car accident can ruin the rest of your day. Think about this in your scenes. The first scene starts off with a man and woman entering her home at 4AM. If a woman invites you over at 4AM, this can only mean one thing. However, as she walked in, she missed a phone call and she knew that it was from her ex-boyfriend whom she has desperately thinking of. Only she knows this, however, it definitely impacts her behavior.

S2) Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

**NOTE: What do Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Forrest Witaker, Clint Eastwood, and other leading men have in common? Well, a lot of leading men features, but one that you wouldn’t immediately think of is a strong voice that is connected to their body. This is why voice classes are important. A deep, connected, powerful voice that has vibrato allows the audience to feel. It is sexier, manlier. Let your voice into your body, not into your head.

It also helps that August Wilson was a genius and wrote plays when read sounded like songs. They have different rhythms among the characters — the hothead versus the educated.

S3) Disturbia

In the scene, it is between the guy who was played by shia labeouf and the girl in the bedroom. He is talking about how some dude saw him blah blah. Main point is that at one point during the scene he like grabbed her and like threw her around to make her listen. How often do we do that in real life? The only time we physically throw people around is in acting, not real life.

We asked the guy what is their relationship. He said, a friend that I like. That is not good enough! Like is the worst word. In acting, don’t settle for this. I want the butcher at Ralph’s to like me so he cuts my meat well.

Then he said, a friend that I love. Still not specific. I love my mom. I love my best college buddies. We can love a lot of different things.’

‘Pushing’ in acting is when you are so tense you don’t even know whats going on. In the scene, the guy was tapping her lip gloss while she was putting it on. He didn’t even realize it. Pretty much he was just blacked out.

**Technical Note**: Generally you want to be a little underweight. The camera makes you bigger. Many actors cut about 10 pounds before getting on set.

Tap into fantasies. If you are a bad guy , they gotta love hating you…

We don’t always make eye contact with the other actors. You can listen without looking (however this can sometimes indicate that you aren’t paying attention.) Don’t look unless you have a reason.

Monologue 1): “We were just hanging out” says the actor in the scene. We are never just ‘hanging out’. When we watch the game with out friends we aren’t just ‘hanging out’. It is about loneliness. Seeking advice. Talking about our lives. Talking about our problems. Never just ‘hanging out’ without motive.

Life is simple. Don’t make it more complicated than it is. Even if you are gay and add layers. It is irrelevant in the scene. It’s something you know about yourself but you hide it. We shouldn’t know about it. Never over-complicate. 

Humans are like moths in a way. We always go through the flame even if we know we shouldn’t

Monologue 2): From a play by August Wilson.

I loved watching Aaron’s critque on this monologue because it is something I have trouble with. In scenes, monologue, acting in general, we often make it more dramatic than we need to because we think that this is ‘acting’. The way you talk in the scene — obvious acting. DON’T ACT. LIVE. Don’t give it any preconceived emotion, make it natural, let it happen. You cannot decide it is emotional and push your instrument. Let it evolve. Slow down. If you are putting any more than 0 effort you are acting. Do your character preparation, then get up, talk and listen. If we see anything more than nothing it is acting. Nothing = living.

Moment before in Monologues. Sometimes it is out of context because as the audience we can’t look at the moment before. We don’t know what the conversation is. No assumption just stay neutral for many monologues in the beginning. Start neutral.


August Wilson Monologue being critiqued by Aaron.


Aaron Speiser: Master Class

Scene #1) Between a woman and her son’s Nanny.

Use whatever props you have. If you have a needle, then use it as a threat. Don’t just hold it idle in your hand.

Remember, in film/TV, you are free to have bad takes. Just let go sometimes and discover. Worst case scenario is you shoot another take. If there is a gun pointed at you, there is no where to go.

It is about being submissive. Moving away they will only hurt you more. You don’t have any power.

Scene #2) Three girls, one is having an affair with her sister’s (an actor) husband. Their other sister is  coke addict. For the woman who is screwing her sister’s husband, she must add the layer of knowing she is having an affair w/ her husband.

Feelings are not controllable, we can only control how they come out. For example, my girlfriend just cheated on me and I am confronting her. I can mask my pain, jealousy but they are existent. I can try to play it off like I’m not hurt. Laugh about it. Opposites. Regardless, your feelings will be there.

The hard thing is to really believe any extreme thing. We manipulate people with good heats. What happens when you lie? You can’t make eye contact and look away.

Actors when they have no inner life just become stone. You can’t have dead moments, keep talking. Know who is driving the scene. When there are dead moments, the importance and energy of the scene die.

Scene #3) American Pie

You can spit out food on set. Ad-li a bit before the scene to help get you into it.

When you are in your head, it means your objective isn’t strong enough.

Scene #4) Love & Other Drugs

They performed it at a very quiet level. This is the appropriate level for film and television. You have no obligation for people to hear it, since this isn’t theatre. The main character is a pharmacy salesman, this means he probably speaks very concisely. More educated people speak clearly since they do more public speaking.

Scene #5) Cover depression with your sense of humor. The guy is a baseball coach who called a girl’s son “Mary Jane” = gay. He is destroying your kid. Mom, what are you here for? To persuade him to be good to your son!

Alcoholic –> They say they can handle their alcohol. What are they referring to? An alcoholic drinks everyday, so she wouldn’t know your necessarily drunk. If the alcoholic says, “I can hold my liquor”: This means that they don’t puke or blackout but everyone else sees a fucking wierdo. He becomes mean and there is no sensor on what he says. You’re a happy drunk and leads to joking and joking –> laughing at your own jokes. We hate people who think they are funny, but aren’t actually in reality. Then they ask you why you aren’t laughing and you are like, what the fuck? Cause your shit isn’t funny idiot.

Scene #6) You have an objective. With this objective you play the action (what we do in life). Start with a tableau. This is a frozen scene which gives the audience an initial impression that we can all understand. See photo.

A scene from Boy’s Life with the beginning tableau. What do we already understand from this? We all know this look. The guy looks guilty as hell. He messed up.

What creates comedy? The pain of others. Look at Ben Stiller in Something about Mary, or in fact every movie he plays. He pretty much plays a retard in every single movie. His balls get stuck in his  zipper and is in pain, but people just keep coming and laughing at him instead of helping. It is so funny.

Technical Advice:

You can interrupt in the two shot or master shot. However, you cannot in the close up because we need it to be clean.

Scene #7) Anger comes from the pain. Just a form of pain. Play your opposites. Feeling rage — connect your voice to your body.

Technique: Script Breakdown

Instructor: Anthony Gilardi

Know your world. If you kill what do you do after? This shows a lot about your character.

Any fact in the script said by your character is a red flag that you must get to the bottom of. Take in consideration of finding the motives in order to determine if the fact is truthful or not.

The Apex of a character arc is when you begin your principal change.

Master Class with Aaron Speiser

From Margaret Thatcher to Meryl Streep. You must find out what you are the best at. Once you  exceed at that, then you are free to do other shit.

Scene #1: Two sisters. One has a coke addiction. She’s asking her sister, an accomplished actor if she can borrow more money.

Knowing your character, know your dress. If you’re asking for money then are you going to wear your fancy $15,000 pearl necklace? Obviously not so don’t dress like that. You don’t go to the bank wearing jewels and asking to borrow money.

Make the dialogue seem like you are talking. It just has to be chit chat until it comes to the conflict. Too many pauses without good reason. Make it natural, for example if your objective is to borrow money then the dialogue for all that matters could be “blah blah blah blah blah blah can I borrow some money blah blah blah blah blah blah”.

It shouldn’t feel like you are acting, just do your work and throw it away.

Scene #2: Guy and girl on a date.

The guy is pouring liquor for the girl to get her drunk. Don’t think the girl doesn’t know that you are trying to get her a little tipsy. Women in most scenes are generally smarter than men.

Some people are talkers non-stop. Do you know any of these people? They just allow their stream of consciousness to be verbalized. I actually, Dominic, can relate to this. My close friend Matt Livingston always used to tell me I have dihareea mouth because I just spew words non-stop. Allow my consciousness to flow out and be verbalized.

Some people when they talk, they end up gassing themselves up and get even more and more mad.

Breaking down objective and actions:

Objective = A state of being = Needing to fart. Got bad gas. I don’t wanna pass the gas.

Action = What you do to get what you need = Blaming others for your sewer farts.

Life is always a problem, what you literally do is the action. An actor paints with his or her actions.  Choose strong actions and objectives. In the scene, the actor says she is irritated.

In the world of acting:

Irritated = Unemployed.

Crazy, out of your fucking mind = Employed.

It is fun for the audience to see someone out of control. Good writers look at opposites. Typically if one character is in control, the other one is out of control. It creates conflict right off the bat.

Scene #3

Pauses must have reason. Lines don’t matter, it is about the behavior. Let it happen naturally.


Scene #4

Don’t take notes too literally. It’s about looking at the script and then integrating the notes. You cannot take it out of context.










Master Class with Aaron Speiser

On seeing beneath the lines of the script: Just because the other actors POV is “We were arguing” that doesn’t mean that the other actress is arguing.
When a character says, ‘Why are you arguing? I’m agreeing with you!” Just because the other character says you were crazy, does that mean you were necessarily crazy.

Always look beneath the words.

Words swim on the ocean of murky truth. Once you know that, auditions will get better. Look beneath the words in life.

Scene #1

Even serial kills kill for a reason. Why would you include an accomplice to kill someone? There has to be a reason. Perhaps you need an alibi? In real life, you will see the importance of having an alibi. If you don’t have one, cops will be on your ass first in a homicide crime.

Starting a script with a murder gives you the ultimate freedom to create the backstory.

Motiveless killing is not human. Killing for fun is not motiveless à if you do this, then it is a turn-on and you like it. You have to look at what it is you are going to get out of it.

Mostly everything is covered in Mr. Shakespeare’s scripts. READ MORE. Believing in imaginary stimulus = acting.

If you play someone influenced very easily then look for someone in your life like that. However, make sure to not miscast yourself. Forget false humility.

Your problems must be connected to the script. Make the most dramatic choices that work for you. If something is easy, then that means there is not enough at stake. He must say the right things in the right way à he cannot lose the girl, (what happens if he does)? Raise the stakes.

Scene #2

Two girls at a bar expecting the ‘guy love interest’ on a date. Why does the friend come along? IF you are her, you must ask yourself, what is my objective? What do I want out of this situation? Don’t we always want something?

The obvious reason for a girl to come to the bar is to meet the love interest, Bernie. However, her friend’s true reason is to meet someone at the bar. Otherwise she wouldn’t just go as a third wheel.

If you are telling the story, you must be the engine. You must keep the story going.  Keep the energy up.

When should you move?? Only if you have a strong reason. Movies have a smaller frame so you must be aware of this.

The moment you think about moving, you’ve lost it! Every time you do a gesture and you think about it, that means you’re fucked up already! Focus on your relationship to others, the emotional relationship.

Standing still. Look at actors such as Denzel Washington. He doesn’t have to do much does he? He’s a loaded gun, just stands still and what do you need to do? Nothing.

Aaron Speiser Master Class 10.25.12

**Practice more. Focus. Work harder. Set deadlines, and work for the long haul. It is a marathon in this industry.

Scene #1: Angel Eyes.
A woman. She is a police officer. The guy. His family is dead. It was his fault. They save each other and in essence are ‘Angels’ to each other.

Dior: “He is lost” — a judgement of the character.
Nafessa, the woman police officer. She is just waking up in the middle of night. She is wearing pajamas and a t-shirt. The audience point of view: Are we paying to see you like this? Lets get real. J.Lo played this scene and wore a thong. We are paying to see the sex appeal. Whenever you can in any scene, use your sex appeal. Men, don’t wear a shirt. Ladies, dress sexy.

Note for myself: Work out harder. Will Smith in ‘I Am Legend’ did a shirtless pull up scene in the trailer. Producers know that one scene brings in about $5 million extra revenue. Diet properly.

Nafessa: She needs to have a stronger voice, because as a female cop you need to assert your power. She’s a tough lady.
Dior: Stand absolutely still. You are at the mercy of this lady. We are in her bedroom, and you have no power or control of the situation. You are essentially begging. He wants to befriend the lady, but when he opens the bedroom door he is reminded of his wife.


Monologue #2: She wants to destroy this man. Start with your obstacles, and ask yourself what your conflicts are.
Where do you draw the line of your life and the life of your character?
As a guy in a relationship or girl, sometimes your significant other leaves you and just completely destroys you. Destroys your ego, tries to ruin your life and ruin your career. WHY? Many times it is due to PAYBACK. The girlfriend has been destroyed before in her relationships by someone else and now feels it is payback by destroying someone else who has possibly done nothing to deserve it.
What do I mean by destroy someone?
Example: In relationships, men and women know the most minute details and secrets of the other person. These are vulnerabilities that we don’t normally share with other people until you get to a close enough level. When you know these vulnerabilities you can really destroy a person by exposing them. It is important to get away from these kind of people because these people are troubled individuals. She needs therapy.
In the monologue essentially she comes back to destroy her ex-fiance. She says she is coming back to ‘drop off the ring’ but we need to look past the lines. If she wanted to just do that, she would have walked in, put the ring down and walked out. No. She stayed and said stuff to him. She tried to destroy him. She stabbed him, stab stab stab, and said OH, but here’s a band-aid, I didn’t really mean it. There is no nice way to say some things. Your objective is to destroy, destroy, and destroy.

As an actor, the audience pays us to see our pain.

Technique: Substitution w/ Anthony Gilardi

Practice telling an old story while remembering how that feels. Stories that contain happiness and pain are the ones that you remember, not just the minute details.

Golden Question: The Bruised Ego versus the Broken Heart
Whenever we are dealing with a situation involving relationships whether between lovers or friends, we always need to ask the question whether or not we have a bruised ego or a broken heart. Which one do you think takes longer to heal? A broken heart can be overcome easily. A bruised ego lasts a long time because it sinks into your soul and affects everything else you do.

Scenario: Your girlfriend leaves you for someone else. You say you are sad and have a broken heart, but lets get to the bottom of this. Is it truly a broken heart? Or do you have a bruised ego because your girlfriend left you for someone better than you. This begins to affect your self-confidence now and everything else you do.

Don’t make emotional choices — sadness is something you can immediately see, you don’t need to play ‘sad’. We can tell when our friends are sad or in a bad mood. Don’t just be sad, let whatever action your playing affect you and you will keep the human dimension while giving the essence of how you feel. Think of it like this, sad is just a vocabulary word that we have created. It doesn’t mean anything to me because sad is something that has so many different specific behaviors that I don’t believe it can be described that easily. However, I know the feeling that I get when someone else’s behavior affects me and I can’t even give it such a specific description such as he is just ‘sad’. We all know there is much more to it. It is indescribable.

We substitute the essence of the feeling that it gives me. In a scene, you must not know how you feel until your body does. Your mind can’t know first. All in all, don’t judge the scene.
We are constantly suppressing real emotion. We can feel or do whatever we want in this industry because it is our art. Residual fear, every emotional fear is an illusion. In fact, embarrass yourself every single day.

The opposite of beauty is not ugliness. They are complements of each other and are non-existent without the other.

Last Night’s Technique Class: Substitution

Holy crap! Last night we worked on substitution which is essentially drawing upon past experiences in your own personal life to create authentic emotion from within. Remember, we don’t play emotions. It has to come from something within you. Not external.

One thing that really, and I mean REALLY stood out to me was the final exercise. Susan, our instructor dimmed the lights and set three boxes next to each other with a blanket on top. She said, this is the funeral of someone you love.

It was crazy. I made my own substitution…which I’m not going to share, because as an artist, it is yours and once you reveal it, sometimes it can take away the magic. The second I stepped up to the box, I felt a rush of emotion so strong that tear started to flow down my face almost immediately. I wasn’t acting. I didn’t want to cry, and I tried to hold back the tears. I tried to speak — my voice was so high, I couldn’t complete a sentence. It was real emotion from within — and that is the power of a substitution. The moment was so real, I had to leave the classroom to reset my reality. It was incredible.

This got me thinking. What if I had such strong substitutions for so many circumstances that I could draw upon and create life instantaneously. Shame, humiliation, anger, lust, frustration, sadness. Aaron Speiser was once on set for a major feature film and was helping to coach the actors. They were passing around a piece of paper that probably didn’t mean anything to them. Then, Aaron said, substitute the paper with your child, and everyone is telling you that it doesn’t belong to you.

Wow. Don’t let your substitutions be so literal. You can make a piece of paper into your child. That sparks true life and human behavior.

This is the power of substitutions. And here is a short clip of one of my favorite quotes of all time by Bruce Lee.