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Celia Cyanide
07-08-2010, 08:57 PM
I feel dumb for even asking this. This isn't for writing research, it's for acting. But I have a feeling I could get some good feedback here.

I've been having trouble in my acting class because I can't see romantic subtext in anything. The teacher I'm working with did casting on a feature film a while back. I auditioned for a role in the film, and she recently told me that I didn't get it because I didn't play the romantic subtext in the scene. She told me, "you wouldn't let yourself" play it, but the truth is, I didn't see it or understand it.

I'm pretty clueless about stuff like this. I've always been one of those people who has no idea when someone is flirting, and I've had quite a few people convinced I was hitting on them when I didn't mean to.

Is there some way I can learn to understand this? I wouldn't want to lose out on roles because I just don't "get it," but apparently it's happened at least once.

scarletpeaches
07-08-2010, 08:58 PM
I'm pretty clueless about stuff like this. I've always been one of those people who has no idea when someone is flirting, and I've had quite a few people convinced I was hitting on them when I didn't mean to.Are you me?

Calla Lily
07-08-2010, 09:35 PM
Celia, one classic that has always had romantic subtext for me is The Prisoner of Zenda (Ronald Colman/Madeleine Carroll version) They start out as snarky antagonists, and she knows she's *supposed* to marry him, but she'd rather kiss a tarantula.

Of course, there's always The Empire Strikes Back (the pre-City in the Clouds Han/Leia scenes).

And not to be forgotten, The Princess Bride, which has the advantage of Peter Falk telling us when Buttercup gets a clue. :)

Since I don't watch romance, you'll see a pattern here: I watch action/adventure that happens to have a romantic element. The couple starts out fighting/not liking each other and then someone hits them with the clue stick. Just like I watch these movies for how to plot, perhaps watching them for romantic subtext may help?

suki
07-08-2010, 09:43 PM
Remains of the Day has the subtlest romantic subtext I can think of. Very understated and a lot of people just don't get that movie because the don't see the subtext.

But it's all about subtle cues people pick up from each other. And it may just be that you have a difficult time picking those up, considering your in person difficulties, as well.

Ever read fanfiction? Most shippery fanfiction that pairs characters that are not together romantically in the actual show or movie takes the most innocuous of moments and uses them to show and support the romantic subtext between characters. A character looks at another character a beat too long. Or touches another character's hand or back or they brush against each otehr in passing. Sometimes even how they say a line.

And it's all about subtle moments - looks, touches, inflection...even how the person interprets what is happening under the words.


~suki

Celia Cyanide
07-08-2010, 09:49 PM
Since The couple starts out fighting/not liking each other and then someone hits them with the clue stick.

This is why I have trouble...I was playing the scene as if my character didn't like the guy, because that was the way the scene sounded. If I know nothing else about the characters, how would I know there was a romantic subtext there?

Is there a reason why there are so many movies with a romantic subtext that start out like this? In my experience, grown women are not third graders, and do not fight and yell at boys they like.

How am I supposed to know if two characters like each other, if they act they way I act when I can't stand someone?

Celia Cyanide
07-08-2010, 09:56 PM
Ever read fanfiction? Most shippery fanfiction that pairs characters that are not together romantically in the actual show or movie takes the most innocuous of moments and uses them to show and support the romantic subtext between characters. A character looks at another character a beat too long. Or touches another character's hand or back or they brush against each otehr in passing. Sometimes even how they say a line.

And it's all about subtle moments - looks, touches, inflection...even how the person interprets what is happening under the words.

I have read some, and I think I know what you mean. But how do you know if it is actually there, or if you are reading into it?

Keep in mind, I'm looking at a script, so all I see is the words. If someome told me to play it a certain way I could do it, but apparently, I'm supposed to figure this out without being told.

Calla Lily
07-08-2010, 10:00 PM
Celia, do you have the whole script for these auditions, or just a scene or two? Is there a synop available?

suki
07-08-2010, 10:02 PM
I have read some, and I think I know what you mean. But how do you know if it is actually there, or if you are reading into it?

Keep in mind, I'm looking at a script, so all I see is the words. If someome told me to play it a certain way I could do it, but apparently, I'm supposed to figure this out without being told.

I think this is where you need the advice of other actors - how they figure out how to play a scene, and if they get to ask questions or have a synopsis, etc.

I'd assume some of it is instinct and some of it is research, but I'm not an actor - so, find some other actors and talk about how they decide how to paly a scene.

~suki

dirtsider
07-08-2010, 10:04 PM
I have read some, and I think I know what you mean. But how do you know if it is actually there, or if you are reading into it?

Keep in mind, I'm looking at a script, so all I see is the words. If someome told me to play it a certain way I could do it, but apparently, I'm supposed to figure this out without being told.

Part of it comes from knowing the story via the script. Does the story end with the characters hooking up? That should be one clue. But another part comes from the director on how s/he wants the characters to be played.

One thing you might want to do is ask what the director/person you're auditioning for wants from the scene and/or character.

Captcha
07-08-2010, 11:06 PM
How do you figure out the other emotions that are present in a script?

You say that when you get a script, it's just words on a page until someone tells you how to play it. If that's true, it's not just romantic subtext you have trouble with, it's subtext in general.

So, if that's the case, I think you'd need to work harder at putting yourself in the place of the characters. I know it's an acting cliche, but 'what's your character's motivation?' Why does she do the things she does, say the things she says? I think once you know the 'why', you'll have it easier with the 'how'.

But it occurs to me that this is probably a bit more basic than you need to get, since you're an experienced actress and I've got no dramatic experience whatsoever (apart from the occasional dramatic flounce). So I think probably you DO see the other subtexts without being told, and are just not attuned to the romantic possibilities. Could you not just work yourself into that with conscious effort? Do whatever you would normally do to prepare the piece, and then ALSO ask yourself - how would this be different if these two characters were actually attracted to each other. And see how it works that way.

Hallen
07-09-2010, 12:30 AM
This is why I have trouble...I was playing the scene as if my character didn't like the guy, because that was the way the scene sounded. If I know nothing else about the characters, how would I know there was a romantic subtext there?

Is there a reason why there are so many movies with a romantic subtext that start out like this? In my experience, grown women are not third graders, and do not fight and yell at boys they like.

How am I supposed to know if two characters like each other, if they act they way I act when I can't stand someone?

I can't help much because I'm fairly oblivious myself. However, I think it comes up a lot because people like to see it on TV and in Movies. It adds to the tension and it makes people feel like although that girl that seemingly hates me secretly lusts for me too. OK, so that's shallow and stupid, but there it is.

If a gal knows a guy is bad for her, yet still finds him attractive, is going to work hard at keeping him at arms length. Exasperation and frustration make it seem like there is animosity there and it's really just sexual tension. OK, so again, that isn't very realistic, but it plays well in the movies. And the opposite is also true. A guy may find a woman physically attractive, but her demeanor, intelligence, habits, whatever, really bother him. Yet he's still drawn to her. It makes for a cute story.

How you recognize it in a script? Hell, I don't know. It's mostly shown through body language, getting flustered, wanting to be close but then realizing that it's dangerous, etc. I don't know how you would pick it out of a script.

mscelina
07-09-2010, 12:39 AM
One of the best lessons I ever learned in my acting career was playing the opposite. When you get a side, sit down for a minute and take a look at it. You're supposed to easily identify the external motivation of the character--she doesn't like the guy. But wehre you get into the meat of a character is by identifying the opposite. That's what subtext is.

So the words indicate she doesn't like him. But, what can you bring behind the words. The romantic subtext is playing the opposite. Her words are saying one thing; her body language and expression is saying another.

Say for example you have a line like, "You know, whenever you talk like that you really piss me off." The first instinct is to play the line as written. But what layers a character and gives a script depth is to play the opposite. Think of it--"You know, whenever you talk like that you really piss me off." But, while you're delivering the line, you're leaning toward him, you're looking at him from under your lashes, the delivery of one word isn't cold or angry, it's caressing. The line read on the word "you" can change the entire interpretation of the line.

So what I always did when heading into an audition, especially a cold read, was to play the opposite of the cues you get in the script. First off you're taking a risk, which directors and casting directors love. Second, you're going to stand out from the other people reading for the same part. And third, you're automatically layering the character and giving it depth which not many actors can do off a cold read. Sometimes, the best reading of the line "Fuck you" is with a smile on your face and a sweet smile. It lets you take the script beyond the sterile audition line and into a new realm entirely.

SWest
07-09-2010, 12:49 AM
When you go out "people watching", this thread might give you ideas of what to tune in to:

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=175472

And this one:

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=175957

Celia Cyanide
07-09-2010, 12:49 AM
Celia, do you have the whole script for these auditions, or just a scene or two? Is there a synop available?

Any time I have had this problem in class, it has just been with one scene. No synopsis, and in some cases, the teacher doesn't even have the rest of the script, or know the story.

In the case of the role I lost out on, the character was only in that one scene with the character and never saw him again.

Celia Cyanide
07-09-2010, 12:57 AM
Part of it comes from knowing the story via the script. Does the story end with the characters hooking up? That should be one clue. But another part comes from the director on how s/he wants the characters to be played.

One thing you might want to do is ask what the director/person you're auditioning for wants from the scene and/or character.

When I auditioned for the role, they never once told me to play it that way. I just listened to what they told me to do, but they wanted me to figure it out by myself.

I think another problem I have is that in romantic stuff, I don't know how I'm supposed to act. :(

Celia Cyanide
07-09-2010, 12:58 AM
So I think probably you DO see the other subtexts without being told, and are just not attuned to the romantic possibilities.

Yes, that is very true.

Calla Lily
07-09-2010, 01:08 AM
{{{hugs}}}

Maybe soemthing like this may help you down the road: One of my successful college auditions was for "The Girl" in Hot L Baltimore. They gave me the scene where (IIRC) she's trying to wheedle some info from another character. (Sorry, it's been 26 years.) At first I didn't know what to do with this laundry list of guesses (her dialogue). Then on the spur of the moment, I decided to play it as many different ways as possible: little-girl; angry; teasing; pouting; seductive. No one else had done it that way for that audition, and I saw the director lose his bored look, sit up, and smile.

So, perhaps the next time you get a side like this--blind--go flirty or seductive with it. It may be the difference that makes the director stop being bored.

kuwisdelu
07-09-2010, 01:23 AM
In my experience, grown women are not third graders, and do not fight and yell at boys they like.

Some of us boys like it when they do....

It's cute :D

I still pull girls' pigtails if I like them....

kuwisdelu
07-09-2010, 01:25 AM
Any time I have had this problem in class, it has just been with one scene. No synopsis, and in some cases, the teacher doesn't even have the rest of the script, or know the story.

In the case of the role I lost out on, the character was only in that one scene with the character and never saw him again.

It's possible the teacher was just wrong.

Shakesbear
07-09-2010, 01:28 AM
Your teacher says there is a romantic subtext which means she sees it and responds to it but she could be reading somethong into the text which she can see but is closed to others. I read Shakespeare a lot - one of my favourite plays is Twelfth Night. I've lost count of the number of productions I've seen - but one recent one had two characters who I would never have linked romantically with such a link. It worked but it is the only production to have that twist. The director/actors in that production intuited something new and acted on it.

How do you prepare to play a role?

"And then of course we probed the detail of the relationships. This filling in of the 'back story' for each of the characters is one of the most necessary and interesting elements in preparing a characterisation, particularly for the screen." page xi, Much Ado About Nothing by W.Shakespeare, Screenplay, Introduction and Notes on the Making of the Film by Kenneth Branagh.

Celia Cyanide
07-09-2010, 01:29 AM
So what I always did when heading into an audition, especially a cold read, was to play the opposite of the cues you get in the script.

I think this is an interesting idea.

I have a question for you writers...why would you write dialog that sounds adversarial when you what the characters to be attracted to each other?

Thanks for your responses, this is hard for me.

dirtsider
07-09-2010, 01:30 AM
In the case of the role I lost out on, the character was only in that one scene with the character and never saw him again.

And the teacher saw "romantic" in that scene? I don't know if I would. Go figure.

Celia Cyanide
07-09-2010, 01:38 AM
It's possible the teacher was just wrong.

When she is the casting director, she's not wrong.

One thing she is right about...most lead roles are probably like this. And if I can't do it, that's probably why I don't get many lead roles.

Celia Cyanide
07-09-2010, 02:02 AM
So, perhaps the next time you get a side like this--blind--go flirty or seductive with it.

I would if I knew how! :)

kuwisdelu
07-09-2010, 02:10 AM
When she is the casting director, she's not wrong.

Only insofar as she gets the say in who gets the role. Doesn't necessarily mean it's the correct interpretation or that there aren't others just as valid. ;)

mscelina
07-09-2010, 02:14 AM
I think this is an interesting idea.

I have a question for you writers...why would you write dialog that sounds adversarial when you what the characters to be attracted to each other?

Thanks for your responses, this is hard for me.

Because the attraction is subtler--a subtext--and it's not visualized through words.

It's like this--if you're attracted to someone, do you blurt it right out? (Tried that once--disaster) Or are you initially leery of telling them you find them attractive. I think most people are. So instead of saying, "I find you attractive" people use signals to get the message across. Leaning toward them when you're talking is one. Women (and some men) play with their hair. There are definite physical cues we use to display interest and sometimes, people disguise an attraction they're uncertain about behind overt dislike, especially young people. Why? It's the fear of rejection, a kind of 'you're just going to reject me so I'll reject you first!' reflex. So while the words may signal dislike, in actuality the physical cues indicate something else, and that's the subtext the director wanted you to get. See what I mean?

Celia Cyanide
07-09-2010, 03:46 AM
It's like this--if you're attracted to someone, do you blurt it right out?

No, I don't really do much of anything. I don't bother thinking about it at all.


people disguise an attraction they're uncertain about behind overt dislike, especially young people. Why? It's the fear of rejection, a kind of 'you're just going to reject me so I'll reject you first!' reflex.

My God! You mean people actually DO THAT? ADULTS???? I thought it was made up! I'm not being fecetious, I just have never seen that before. At least not that I know of.


So while the words may signal dislike, in actuality the physical cues indicate something else, and that's the subtext the director wanted you to get. See what I mean?

I think so. I don't know how I would know that by just reading the script. It seems like I'm supposed to assume it is there, unless I know otherwise.

God, it seems I have more problems with this than I thought.

kuwisdelu
07-09-2010, 04:14 AM
My God! You mean people actually DO THAT? ADULTS???? I thought it was made up! I'm not being fecetious, I just have never seen that before. At least not that I know of.

Yes. Even adults are afraid of rejection.

Celia Cyanide
07-09-2010, 04:36 AM
Yes. Even adults are afraid of rejection.

Instead of being mean to someone because they're afraid of rejection, perhaps they could....Oh, I don't know...just not talk to that person?

MAP
07-09-2010, 08:56 AM
I think this is an interesting idea.

I have a question for you writers...why would you write dialog that sounds adversarial when you what the characters to be attracted to each other?

Thanks for your responses, this is hard for me.


I like the cliche, trope, or whatever you call it when two people start out hating each other and end up caring about each other.

This isn't just in romance but in all kinds of relationships: friendships, siblings, etc.

I think there are themes tied to this that resonate with me. The idea that two people with contrasting point of views can learn to accept and love each other. That if you could see into the heart of anyone no matter how different that person is from you, you could learn to love them. I don't know, I guess it gives me hope.

But specifically addressing the two people who are fighting but attracted to each other, I think it is more that they are fighting the attraction and not actually each other. There is usually some reason why the two should not be together, but they really want to be together. So they antagonize each other in an attempt to deny what they really feel.

kuwisdelu
07-09-2010, 10:09 AM
Instead of being mean to someone because they're afraid of rejection, perhaps they could....Oh, I don't know...just not talk to that person?

That's not as fun.

mgoblue101415
07-09-2010, 01:08 PM
Moonlighting, Who's the Boss, Castle... Some of the best sexual undertones ever.

Moonlighting is one of the best examples of the hate/love thing. Someone like Maddie would never be with someone like David, or at least that's what she believes. She's responsible, mature, successful while David is smart ass, goofball who acts like a 18yr old. But that's part of the attraction. He does things that she wishes she could but never has. She is attracted to him, she wants him, but hates him because she doesn't want to be attracted to him.

So that's how you can have the man and woman bicker and fight and argue and yet end up in bed before the end of the movie, show, book.

Celia Cyanide
07-09-2010, 03:41 PM
That's not as fun.

Oh, Gosh....I'll NEVER get it!

Makes me not want to talk to anyone, ever....

scarletpeaches
07-09-2010, 03:42 PM
You're definitely turning into me.

Calla Lily
07-09-2010, 04:29 PM
I was lousy at flirting in real life, but I managed it on stage. Go fig.

Summonere
07-09-2010, 07:58 PM
Any time I have had this problem in class, it has just been with one scene. No synopsis, and in some cases, the teacher doesn't even have the rest of the script, or know the story.

In the case of the role I lost out on, the character was only in that one scene with the character and never saw him again.


If the teacher condemns you for not arriving at her interpretation of the character, without first having given you guidance (enough script to know, or enough of her own direction), methinks your teacher isn't a very good one.

If the teacher is looking for you to take an unexpected and interesting turn, then maybe she is.

But she has to be able to explain to you the whatfors and the whys. If she can't or won't, I don't really believe she's teaching effectively.

Homework assignment: watch some movies displaying exactly the kind of dynamic you need to capture. Watch the actresses to see what they're doing and why. Watch some well known and good examples. Just as important, watch some atrocious examples. I recommend any SyFy movie. You will notice a stark contrast between the wooden acting and palpably false/absent emotiveness of the latter versus the seamless and realistic looking former.

To paraphrase one of my once-upon-a-time instructors: It's easier to spot bad acting, and learn what not to do, than to spot good acting, and to learn how to do it.

Celia Cyanide
07-09-2010, 08:28 PM
If the teacher is looking for you to take an unexpected and interesting turn, then maybe she is.

I think that is what she is trying to do. What I don't understand is how a romantic subtext is supposed to be "an unexpected and interesting turn," when it seems to happen in every freaking movie. It's boring and predictable.


But she has to be able to explain to you the whatfors and the whys. If she can't or won't, I don't really believe she's teaching effectively.

I think she wants me to be able to figure it out for myself. When you audition for a role you have to be able to make choices on your own.

I had some people audition for me and the kept playing it like there was a romantic subtext there, but there wasn't. I assumed they were idiots.


Homework assignment: watch some movies displaying exactly the kind of dynamic you need to capture. Watch the actresses to see what they're doing and why. Watch some well known and good examples. Just as important, watch some atrocious examples.

Thank you.

Any title recommendations?

SWest
07-09-2010, 08:45 PM
Any title recommendations?

I personally find Catherine-Zeta Jones' movies overdone subtext-wise (I have to be in the mood for High Drama :rolleyes:)...she often plays parts that are romance-adversarial:

No Reservations (2007)

Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

The Mask of Zorro (1998)

Summonere
07-09-2010, 11:25 PM
I think she wants me to be able to figure it out for myself. When you audition for a role you have to be able to make choices on your own.


Yes, but in a teaching context, if the student ain't gettin it, the teacher must be able to explain / demonstrate so that the student does get it. It is the teacher's responsibility to clarify, not obfuscate.

That said, teaching is often leading the student to the realization, but leaving it up to the student to make connections for himself. Such connection-makings are lightbulb moments. But when it doesn't happen, the teacher must teach.

So's my theory.

By the way, isn't the troublesome dynamic a staple of romantic comedies? E.G. Shakespeare in Love, Romancing the Stone, Moonstruck, Overboard. Older still, Father Goose, The African Queen, The Big Sleep, My Man Godfrey.

And isn't it a staple dynamic used in many other kinds of films, too? e.g. Casablanca, in which we see an interesting twist on the chronology...

Those are good examples, by the way, of the dynamic in question. Here's a terrible one: Did You Hear About the Morgans?

Celia Cyanide
07-10-2010, 12:46 AM
Yes, but in a teaching context, if the student ain't gettin it, the teacher must be able to explain / demonstrate so that the student does get it. It is the teacher's responsibility to clarify, not obfuscate.

Well, what she kept saying was, the character didn't get up and walk away, so she must be interested, at least a little bit. She tried to explain it to me, but I just think it's a bunch of crap.


By the way, isn't the troublesome dynamic a staple of romantic comedies?

Yes, that's kind of why I hate them so much, because women act like children. Either that, or the men just bug the women until they like them, which is silly.

Summonere
07-10-2010, 01:12 AM
Yes, that's kind of why I hate them so much, because women act like children. Either that, or the men just bug the women until they like them, which is silly.

Ha. That must be why I'm not keen on them, either. Too many are badly enough done as to be repellent, but as I recall, some of those I mentioned are quite good.

Captcha
07-10-2010, 05:38 PM
I feel like you're not really looking for help on recognizing romantic subtext - it seems like you're more arguing that romantic subtext is overused, not interesting, etc.

I guess maybe that leads to the question of who is responsible for the end product of a dramatic work - the author, the director, or the actor? If your author and director want you to play with a romantic subtext, are you willing/able to put aside your own distaste and do it?

If not, this thread isn't asking the right question, is it? Like, it's not a question of you not being ABLE to see the subtext, it's a question of you not seeing the appeal of the subtext, which is really another discussion altogether.

And if you ARE willing to set your distaste aside, then it doesn't really matter whether you think the subtext is silly, so some of your responses don't really seem on topic.

I'm not trying to be harsh about this - I recognize acting as an art, as well as a craft, and I think you'll probably do your best work if you find roles that appeal to your personal tastes and inclinations.

Or maybe you just don't like the romantic-COMEDY aspect of things. How about something like "Streetcar Named Desire", where there's really nothing at all comedic about the threads of attraction/revulsion? Or "Brokeback Mountain", where the desire (sometimes) remains unexpressed for some pretty real, pretty tragic reasons? "Last Tango in Paris", where the characters dance around each other at the start, and the attraction isn't so much unstated as inexplicable? (at least, to me) I'm sure there are more recent examples, as well...

Celia Cyanide
07-10-2010, 07:25 PM
I feel like you're not really looking for help on recognizing romantic subtext - it seems like you're more arguing that romantic subtext is overused, not interesting, etc.

Can't it be both?

I don't understand how to recognize romantic subtext.

I also think romantic subtext is stupid. There are a million things going on in a script, and I'm expected to play the least interesting one of all. That may be why I have trouble with it. But I wish I could understand.


I guess maybe that leads to the question of who is responsible for the end product of a dramatic work - the author, the director, or the actor? If your author and director want you to play with a romantic subtext, are you willing/able to put aside your own distaste and do it?

I think I might be, if I knew it was there. I think my problem is twofold 1) I cannot recognize it. and I guess it's supposed to be obvious, and I'm supposed to be able to identify it without being told. 2) I don't know how to do it.


Or maybe you just don't like the romantic-COMEDY aspect of things. How about something like "Streetcar Named Desire", where there's really nothing at all comedic about the threads of attraction/revulsion?

I have seen that film, yes. How is it romantic?

Captcha
07-10-2010, 07:37 PM
Re. Streetcar - yeah, you're right, I wouldn't call it Romantic. I was thinking more of the sexual undertones, the attraction/revulsion/power dynamics. The title of the post deals with 'attraction', and I wonder if maybe that's part of the issue here. I think there can be attraction on many levels, many of which are NOT actually romantic.

As I've said, I'm not an actor, but I think there are lots of times when there are differences of opinion about the subtext of a play. I was just talking about Lady Macbeth someone the other day. I've seen the play three times, and all three times she was played differently - in one she was an overpowering harridan, once she was a sweet, helpless creature who was more confused than empowered, and in one she was a total sexpot, seducing Macbeth into following her wishes. Same text, very different interpretations. So maybe your frustration with 'not being able to see it' is because you're looking into the play, instead of looking into yourself?

And, for what it's worth, the sexy Lady Macbeth was, to me, by far the most interesting of the three interpretations. Sex is power, and power is compelling, so I'm not really buying your 'romantic subtext is stupid' argument, if you're applying it to all depictions of 'attraction', as the thread title suggests.

kuwisdelu
07-10-2010, 07:55 PM
Yes, that's kind of why I hate them so much, because women act like children. Either that, or the men just bug the women until they like them, which is silly.

Well some of us miss grade school, okay!

Things were so much simpler back then.....

Celia Cyanide
07-10-2010, 09:07 PM
Sex is power, and power is compelling, so I'm not really buying your 'romantic subtext is stupid' argument, if you're applying it to all depictions of 'attraction', as the thread title suggests.

I'm not sure what you mean. I don't like depictions of attraction in most cases. I think it's annoying.

aadams73
07-10-2010, 09:12 PM
Well some of us miss grade school, okay!

Things were so much simpler back then.....

See, I think it's simpler when two adults can just say, "Hey, I like you." Unfortunately it doesn't make for good drama in a book or onscreen, but it makes life sweeter.

Celia Cyanide
07-10-2010, 11:14 PM
See, I think it's simpler when two adults can just say, "Hey, I like you." Unfortunately it doesn't make for good drama in a book or onscreen, but it makes life sweeter.

I think it would make for better drama onscreen, because then they could get on with the more interesting part of the story! :)

Jam
07-10-2010, 11:36 PM
IMO, Ms. Cyanide (great name, btw) the lead up into the "good part" IS the good part.

where one doesn't know how other person feels about one.

tracy and hepburn.

Celia Cyanide
07-10-2010, 11:39 PM
Yes, and I suppose that is my problem...IMO, the "good part" is anything else that is going on in the story besides the romance.

Tsu Dho Nimh
07-12-2010, 05:37 AM
Maybe just ask the people running the audition: "Is there a romantic subtext I should be bringing out? Are they supposed to be attracted but resisting it, or does she just plain dislike him?"

One of the classic "I'm really attracted" signals is repeatedly sneaking looks at the object of affection. (The lips say no but the eyes say yes)

RobinGBrown
07-12-2010, 09:39 AM
Go and rent/buy about a dozen romantic comedies, watch them end to end, three times each. Then sit down and try to write a romantic scene.

Here's a sample: Failure to Launch, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Hitch, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, the list goes on and on and on...

Here's another place to do some research: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RuleOfRomantic

Wiskel
07-12-2010, 02:30 PM
Any time I have had this problem in class, it has just been with one scene. No synopsis, and in some cases, the teacher doesn't even have the rest of the script, or know the story.

In the case of the role I lost out on, the character was only in that one scene with the character and never saw him again.

From the point of view of the writer, the process is

write
edit
edit
sulk
edit a bit more
some more editing
Have a real editor edit what's left.

Honestly, we think about every scene. Every one has to be there to demonstate something or move the story on. If I had my main character talk to someone for one scene then anyone editing the scene would want to know why I'd introduced "man in bus queue" and if i couldn't explain it he'd be cut.

Perhaps a starting point for reading a single scene cold is to ask why it wasn't cut from the script. If there isn't an event then there must be an important interaction....and it will usually be for the protagonist's benefit.

If a man ends up talking to a woman after he's just told his girlfriend he loves her, then the scene is probably saying something about his relationship with his girlfriend.

Perhaps try replacing the woman in the scene you read with a man and read it through.Then do it again with two women.

If the scene wouldn't work as a conversation between two people of the same sex then the fact that one character is male and one female becomes important....then you just have to figure out why. Chances are, if you need one man and one woman, then there's a romantic subtext of some sort in there, even if it's not between those two characters. It might be a scene meant to make the main character examine their relationship with someone off screen.

If you can figure out why a scene survived the editing process then you probably understand it.

Craig

gildedbutterfly
07-12-2010, 05:40 PM
Not sure if this helps, but there's a film scene I always think of when I think "romantic subtext."

It comes relatively late in the film SAVING GRACE with Brenda Blethyn. The scene involves Tcheky Karyo showing up at Brenda Blethyn's home and half threatening her, half offering her protection. But he does it with a seductive tone of voice as he's backing her up against a wall like he's going to ravish her. The story I heard was that the director/producer left the two actors alone to read through the scene, and then walked in on them playing it like that and was like, "oh, yeah. That works."

If you haven't seen it, try watching it and seeing how he does it. It's a simple thing that makes the whole scene richer.

Celia Cyanide
07-15-2010, 05:50 PM
Go and rent/buy about a dozen romantic comedies, watch them end to end, three times each. Then sit down and try to write a romantic scene.

That is not a bad idea. Maybe I could write one about Joker and Harley? Do you think that would work? I'm honestly wondering because I don't know.

RobinGBrown
07-16-2010, 10:41 AM
Maybe I could write one about Joker and Harley? Do you think that would work?

No. That would be fanfic. Don't go there.

it also tells me a lot about your 'problem'. You're young, you read comics, spend too much time on the internet (see post count in the thousands), and are inexperienced in the ways of men and women.

Actors, like writers, need to draw on their experiences to fuel their craft. If you haven't got any expereince then faking some is really hard. I'm not saying it can't be done but there is a reason why most succesful writers are well out of their teenage years.

You need to get out of the house and do something. It doesn't matter what. Try speed dating - you're not obliged to follow it up but you need the practice. Take a night class in something off the wall. Join a social club. Make some friends. Make some stupid decisions that will teach you about life the hard way.

I probably sound like your mother now, that's the trouble with getting older.


p.s. There's a social game that people play on the internet (and IRL too) - you can call it something like 'pity me'. The OP complains that they have a problem, then counters every suggestion with comments like 'I couldn't do that' or 'that wouldn't work'. The aim of the game is for the OP to feel important.

Celia Cyanide
07-16-2010, 06:33 PM
You need to get out of the house and do something. It doesn't matter what. Try speed dating - you're not obliged to follow it up but you need the practice. Take a night class in something off the wall. Join a social club. Make some friends. Make some stupid decisions that will teach you about life the hard way.

I really appreciate your time and effort, but I am married, and I am not as young or inexperienced as I look.

I just happen to hate the idea of romantic scenes, and think they are boring and stupid, and always have. And now that I'm faced with having to do them in class, it is hard for me, because it's something I have always struggled with. I've had a problem with them, not just doing them, but because they exist.

The reason I suggested Joker and Harley was because that would be one example of a romantic scene that I could respect, whereas, most of them I do not.

Why would it not help? Simply because it would be fanfic? Again, I'm asking because I really want to know.

Summonere
07-16-2010, 08:06 PM
I don't think it matters at all what characters you practice writing romantic subtext scenes with if doing so helps you generate a feel for the dynamic taking place.

I think watching the very kinds of scenes you're being asked to duplicate should help a lot. Apparently I provided no intriguing samples earlier, so I'll try offering this, for what it may or may not be worth:



Celia Cyanide
What I don't understand is how a romantic subtext is supposed to be "an unexpected and interesting turn," when it seems to happen in every freaking movie. It's boring and predictable.


“Boring and predictable” is the bane of mere formula. “Unexpected and interesting” is what separates the most curious iterations of formula from the most banal. In other words, formula is not a bad thing except when done badly. Formula can be used to create expectation: e.g., “here's the part where our emotional expectations are realized.” Going against the formulaic grain can be used to create interest: e.g., “Here's the part where our emotional expectations are surprised with something else.”

True Romance is a bit of Boy Meets Girl formula crossed with a Crime Thriller story. So when Clarence returns from murdering Alabama's pimp, Drexl, and he's beat up and she's crying and we expect all manner of sobbing worry and condemnation from her, she instead says of the murder: “That's so romantic.”

Aha. The formulaic expectation is that Alabama should rail against Clarance (this is where boy loses girl), but the “romantic subtext” causes a surprising twist when she says something that defies our expectations: “That's so romantic.”

I have no idea if this is useful or not, so take it for what it's worth, watch some movies, try those “subtexty” scenes on for size.

Celia Cyanide
07-16-2010, 08:14 PM
I think watching the very kinds of scenes you're being asked to duplicate should help a lot. Apparently I provided no intriguing samples earlier,

Oh, no, no, you did! Sorry. It's not my thing, but I have been paying attention to the examples everyone has given.

Thank you for your help. To you, and everyone else.

Sevilla
07-17-2010, 07:01 PM
I have a question for you writers...why would you write dialog that sounds adversarial when you what the characters to be attracted to each other?

What do fighting and good sex have in common? Heat. Passion.

If you really can't stand someone, you're not going to go out of your way to fight and be snarky with them, you're going to avoid their presence and engage in any type of discourse as little as possible.

But if you find yourself attracted to someone (even if you're not willing to admit it to yourself), your body gets excited in their presence. I'm not talking um...visible, embarrassing signs of physical excitement, just increased heart rate, awareness, things that feel good to you.

And if you don't want to want this person, your brain tries to get you to push away while your body tries to draw you closer. So you lash out, because if you can't make yourself pull away, maybe you can get the other person to do so.

And if that other person feels the same way, well, you've got a whirlwind that's only going to build until someone's control shatters.

WriteKnight
07-18-2010, 01:05 AM
Celia - there are several issues here.

The first is the mechanics of playing subtext. ANY subtext. Subtext is physcial. That's why it's SUB-text. The text is what is on the page. Sub text is how you 'play' it. Sure, tone and pitch and pacing - but blocking and movement as well. But as an actress, you understand that. Plenty of acting classes will use the assignment 'Twist this text' - "Where are you going?" for instance. Play it angry. Play it confused. Play it lustfull. It's a simple excercise all classes indulge in. It illustrates the MECHANICS of sub text. The text is straightforward - what can you do in delivery to alter it.

SECOND POINT - The difficulties of reading a director's or writer's intent. As an actress simply handed a side - it can be difficult to discern the subtext the DIRECTOR wants, if the director doesn't ask for it. You have been given, what two pages perhaps? But WHERE in the story arc is the scene? What is the relationship SUPPOSED to be between the two characters? Are they lovers? IS it parent and child? Antagonists? You DESERVE to be enlightened IF the script doesn't provide it.

THIRD - The writer's dilemma. God forbid we should ever write a line that is "TOO ON THE NOSE" - so we are trying to write subtext without using the dreaded 'wrylies' in the character slug. It's not the writer's job to 'direct' the actor on how to deliver it. It's up to the director and actor to decide that. Of course, as we write, it should become clear over time, just how the dynamic of a relationship is unfolding. It CAN come as a surprise for instance. Introduce two characters in a formal office setting. All cold and business and when the boss leaves the room - they start swapping spit. BUT YOU WON'T KNOW UNTIL YOU READ THAT MOMENT IN THE SCRIPT.

Frankly, it sounds like the casting director was playing 'hide the football' with you. If I'm handed a side in the middle of a script - the likelihood is to read it as written. ABSENT any knowledge of the character's back-stories or the eventual plot developments.

If you are not given ANY context for the scene - then you're free to pick any subtext - you can't be 'wrong'. You might not deliver what the director had in mind - but that's the directors' fault. See... they have the title DIRECTOR after their name. It kind of comes with the job.

Keyan
07-18-2010, 02:27 AM
One of the best lessons I ever learned in my acting career was playing the opposite. When you get a side, sit down for a minute and take a look at it. You're supposed to easily identify the external motivation of the character--she doesn't like the guy. But wehre you get into the meat of a character is by identifying the opposite. That's what subtext is.

So the words indicate she doesn't like him. But, what can you bring behind the words. The romantic subtext is playing the opposite. Her words are saying one thing; her body language and expression is saying another.

Say for example you have a line like, "You know, whenever you talk like that you really piss me off." The first instinct is to play the line as written. But what layers a character and gives a script depth is to play the opposite. Think of it--"You know, whenever you talk like that you really piss me off." But, while you're delivering the line, you're leaning toward him, you're looking at him from under your lashes, the delivery of one word isn't cold or angry, it's caressing. The line read on the word "you" can change the entire interpretation of the line.

So what I always did when heading into an audition, especially a cold read, was to play the opposite of the cues you get in the script. First off you're taking a risk, which directors and casting directors love. Second, you're going to stand out from the other people reading for the same part. And third, you're automatically layering the character and giving it depth which not many actors can do off a cold read. Sometimes, the best reading of the line "Fuck you" is with a smile on your face and a sweet smile. It lets you take the script beyond the sterile audition line and into a new realm entirely.

Wow, nice!

I've heard similar advice given in deepening characters in fiction. It's hard to do, for me; I think I *know* what my character wants. But what if he also wants the opposite?

Paul
07-18-2010, 02:36 AM
This is why I have trouble...I was playing the scene as if my character didn't like the guy, because that was the way the scene sounded. If I know nothing else about the characters, how would I know there was a romantic subtext there?

Is there a reason why there are so many movies with a romantic subtext that start out like this? In my experience, grown women are not third graders, and do not fight and yell at boys they like.

How am I supposed to know if two characters like each other, if they act they way I act when I can't stand someone?

Hmmmm. em, i'm guessing you're not a big fan of Shakespeare?
Plays are ALL about the subtext.
I'm also guessing you weren't a very shy person?

Anyway, to get it right, you need to imagine the concept of rejection and fear of rejection, both specifically and universally. Understand that, and you'll understand subtext. Otherwise....

Celia Cyanide
07-18-2010, 03:00 AM
Hmmmm. em, i'm guessing you're not a big fan of Shakespeare?
Plays are ALL about the subtext.
I'm also guessing you weren't a very shy person?

Anyway, to get it right, you need to imagine the concept of rejection and fear of rejection, both specifically and universally. Understand that, and you'll understand subtext. Otherwise....

No I don't like Shakespeare, and I am very shy. Why would you guess I am not shy?

Paul
07-18-2010, 03:13 AM
No I don't like Shakespeare, and I am very shy. Why would you guess I am not shy?

bec shyness is one door into the 'God I hate you' (but i really like you) world

shyness is in essence a fear of rejection.

The hate you (love you!) thing is a mechanism to avoid direct rejection (I didn't even like him anyway, so no big loss) usually developed as a way to subdue shyness.

so if you are still shy, you prob went the other route - kept your shyness.

In short I thought you were not shy as you're unaware of this text/sub-text conflict used as a defence mech by shy people (and fearful people) That is, not being shy, you would never have to avail of it.

however the opp would of course also be true - you kept your shyness, and so never availed of this mechanism.

tbh, it's a universal situation. Fear of rejection (specifically and universally) is the great battle. Overcoming that is the life-long journey. Acting should be pretty good for you so.

Celia Cyanide
07-18-2010, 04:43 AM
Shy + no social skills FTW!

Paul
07-18-2010, 04:57 AM
Shy + no social skills FTW!

FTW = For The World?

As I say, acting's a great way to change that. keep it up

Celia Cyanide
07-18-2010, 06:05 AM
FTW=For The Win!

Celia Cyanide
08-03-2010, 10:55 PM
Anybody else have any ideas of some romantic movies for people who hate romantic movies?

Bing Z
08-04-2010, 01:36 AM
Anybody else have any ideas of some romantic movies for people who hate romantic movies?

When Harry met Sally, 1989, starring Billy Crystal & Meg Ryan, directed by Rob Reiner. Succinct, funny, and very realistic (no prince and no princess; no white horse, he doesn't even have a car, I think.)

autumnleaf
08-04-2010, 05:44 PM
Moonstruck. Cher and Nicholas Cage have surprising chemistry. I also love the subplot about the elderly couple.

For a subversion, see Inglorious Basterds. Zoller thinks he's starring in a romantic comedy: he tries to "woo" Shosanna, ignores her rebuffs, and thinks he will eventually melt her icy exterior. It doesn't work. He's in the wrong kind of film and the rom-com cliches are skewered brilliantly.