Who Is Paul Schackman?

“I don’t care how you think X, Y or Z would do it, I don’t care how you think it’s supposed to be done, or what’s the right way to do it.  You take responsibility for that line. That was a concept that suddenly made it tangibly an art form.  ‘Oh! It’s about me.’  And I have never wavered from that.  It’s about taking it personally.” – Kevin Kline

Born in Tacoma, WA and raised in Southern California, Paul is a graduate of The University of California, San Diego where he began studying acting.  A veteran of Los Angeles stages, he has starred in and directed numerous productions, including the critically acclaimed Pauly and Paddy Show, an evening of original solo pieces that he co wrote, directed and starred in.  In 2006 he was nominated for an LA Weekly Theatre Award for his role as the Doctor in Will Smiths’ production of Medal Of Honor Rag.   This acclaimed production had Paul starring opposite Heavy D, with Delroy Lindo taking the helm as director.  From his first role on the original Beverly Hills 90210, Paul has gone on to appear in numerous feature films and television programs over the years playing an eclectic range of characters.  For more information and a full list of credits go to www.paulschackman.com or check out Paul at IMDB here.

Paul Schackman on Acting

“I have studied many methods of acting over the years and I’m continually surprised by how dogmatic and restrictive they often are.  As artists, we should be totally free.   As an actor I am committed to one thing – telling the truth.  This often seems like a daunting task when our heads are filled with ideas about what we are supposed to be doing.  If we have spent hours rehearsing, then it makes sense that the audition or performance should be exactly how we have worked it out.  Thus, we fall into a trap.  This trap blinds us to our feelings, our imagination, and our instinct.   On stage, it is easy to spot the well rehearsed but uninspired.  I used to think it was bad acting, but I have come to believe it is just misguided training.

As an actor, we are required to play a role onstage for weeks or perform the same scene on set for often dozens of takes.  Knowing the lines, the blocking and emotional arcs throughout each scene or take are not enough.  Unfortunately, that is where most actors stop working.  Most actors will do the job well enough but ultimately are forgettable.  Those that do a scene over and over again, always finding something new are the ones we can’t take our eyes off.  They are artists.   We watch them and know they are being truthful.  That should always be our goal; otherwise, really, what’s the point?”

Make It Matter And Tell The Truth

“An ounce of behavior is worth a pound of words.” –  Sanford Meisner

I love the quote above from Meisner.  I do not teach Meisner, but I admire the wisdom of his philosophy.  I am a firm believer that the words are secondary to the actor.  When I say this I’m often confronted by people who argue that the actor’s job is to serve the story that the writer has given us.  The writer’s words should suggest our character and our behavior, and our work should start from there.  I disagree.  In fact, I think that approach to the craft of acting is the reason why so many actors succumb to mediocrity.  I guarantee that if you make wrong emotional and character choices, the story you are acting in will still end the same way – every time.  The words will never change.  The words are the story.  The words are the character.  Once you accept that, you never have to think of it again.

Let me use an extreme example to prove my point.  If you are cast as a serial killer with minimal dialogue, how would you approach it?  Most would try to connect with the brooding intensity that most of the famous on camera psychopaths have had.  The story line may even suggest a traumatic childhood to justify this approach.  If this is a feature film there will most likely be the perfect music as a backdrop to heighten the creepiness.   But, what if you made a “wrong” choice.  Ideally you weren’t even conscious that you were making it.  For example, lets say you are experiencing great joy in the moments where your character actually had to speak.  Maybe you were even beaming like a fresh Lotto winner.  This might seem odd. It would be wrong wouldn’t it?  Absolutely not.  If you played that joy truthfully throughout the scene, I believe it would have the potential to be even more disturbing to witness than the stereotype already mentioned.  A smart director will guide you down the path of your choosing, not his or hers.

The key to charismatic, honest acting is to tell the truth.  Tell the truth as you listen and as you speak.  The words should convey your emotions and behavior as well as the writers story.  Just by being there and saying the lines you serve the writer.  So, serve yourself and learn to express yourself honestly.

This workshop focuses on doing just that.  Stop thinking about it.  An actor that can live within his imagination and use his instinct can play any role. Any Role. Once you decide you can’t do a role, then you are right.  The moment you work from trust, instinct and imagination the thought “I cant” will never even occur to you.

I should say even the best actors find certain roles intimidating.  We are all afflicted with self doubt from time to time.  Nothing will serve you more than to go after the roles that frighten you.