I saw some clips of the Purple Onion and it looks SUPER awesome. I can't wait for you guys to see the film! This was my first feature film, where I play the lead. Johnny Lee. I read some books on acting to help me out. I'll save you the time and tell you the two books that most influence me: Film Technique and Film Acting by V.I Pudovkin and The Definitive Book Of Body Language by Allan and Barbara Pease. You don't have to follow these tips strictly. Use your own judgement and see what works for you.
Film Technique and Film Acting
V.I Pudovkin is a famous Russian Director, who Influence Stanley Kubrick (found that out on wikipedia). He made several amazing films I never saw; these films include Mother, The End of St. Petersburg, Storm Over Asia, and Suvorow.
I'll be honest, the book can sound pretty pretentious just read this quote
The old paradox of Diderot, which pointed out the possibility of the actor during a show being able to make the specter cry by the excellent playing of his role and simultaneously, his colleague laugh as he stands in the wings, by a comic grimace, and which thus apparently established the possibility of mechanical split in the actor's behavior into behavior of a living person and behavior in the play -none the less in no way contradicts the necessity, at some stage or other of the actor's working on his role, for a whole and organic unity of these two behaviors.
I'm still not sure what he means to say with this ONE SENTENCE. If anyone can help - me please do.
PUDOVKIN EXPLAINS TYPE
In the chapter, The Basic Contradiction, Pudovkin explains TYPE. He says that the film actor must present herself as a real person, while playing the role of the character. The art comes with finding a balance of the two. He argues that everyone has a set of personalities that is uniquely their own. No one can replicate your up-bring exactly. Even if someone managed to do that, your personal philosophy will lead you to make different decisions. Therefore, if you, the actor, are inherently a nice person, and you play a rapist, you'll just be a nice guy playing an rapist, which will take the audience out of the story.
Hence the creation of the image must be effected not by mere mechanical portrayal of qualities alien to him, but by the subjugation and adaptation of qualities innate in him (pg 241)
Play to your own strengths - use what you know in your own life and it will come off natural. Understanding TYPE help me avoid the pitfall of trying to be an alpha male, the one typically associated with the Action Adventure genres. I was free to do what is natural to me and it didn't feel like acting anymore.
The Definitive Book Of Body Language
This book taught me everything from, increasing your chances at a successful business transaction, to giving the "Power Hand Shake."
This one page save me a ton of time. Like most people, I suck at reading lines. I was trying to use the least amount of dialog, while still create an interesting character. Because film is a "visual medium" using facial expressions and gestures are powerful talking.
If I wanted my character to convey an emotion, I would use these pictures as a reference to help my acting. So, if Johnny was recalling a feeling I would look to figure C..
Now the danger here, is relying too heavily on books to tell you how to react. It turns the process of acting into a machine, which will create a stale performance.
I only use these books as a REFERENCE. I do not recommend actors to follow this perfectly because everyone reacts to things differently. So if the actor feels unnatural making these gestures - DON'T DO THEM.