Workshop with Robert Bennett
The third semester students had the honour to have a two-day acting workshop with Robert Bennett for our contract works (TedX Basel, Museum Baden, Swiss Television, Cartoon Network).
Robert Bennet is from Mississippi, Alabama (US), which is rather funny since he looks and sounds very British. Maybe his stay in France at the École de Mime Corporeal Dramatique de Paris in 1984 to study mime has something to do with that.
He has created workshops in Corporeal Acting for Animation to help schools and production studios with the acting of their characters. Apart from that, he usually performs in performing spaces or art galleries.
Robert also does workshops in other schools like The Animation Workshop and Les Gobelins. He also holds this workshop at different companies such as Disney in France or Warner Brothers Feature Animation in the US. On those trips he’s met people like Richard Williams (The Animator’s Survival Kit), James Baxter and Glen Keane (both from Disney).
In the workshop we did a lot of different excercises. Most of them had to do with expressing ourselves.
One of the exercises was trying to get your partner to do a certain move or pose. But you could only say the word ‘ding’ when he was close. It certainly was a fun experience for us.
After the lunch break we even had a little yoga session to get our brains going again. We also did the classic trust experiment. Letting yourself fall backwards and hoping your partner will catch you.
Facts About Him
When we asked him what he felt the most important characteristic of a good director was, Robert told us that it was the capacity to listen.
His favourite movies and directors:
- Sexy Beast (Jonathan Glacier)
- American Beauty (Sam Mendes)
His teacher was Étienne Decroux but the person inspiring him to be interested in everything was David Bowie.
Facts about Acting
The acting happens from the torso. Our arms and legs are just attachments (for animators: overlapping action).
His master Étienne Decroux says that there are “five levels of consciousness”.
We did an exercise for that. All we needed was a chair.
- Sit in the chair, closed eyes, totally relaxed
- Open your eyes slowly, blink a lot
- Open your eyes completely
- Straighten up
- Stand up
- Walk towards the class and say your name loud with a smile.
Platon: «Where we look says what we think»
You cannot separate your emotions from your body language.
Charles Darwin already wrote about micro mimic.
Paul Ekman also explored micro mimic. Together with W.V. Friesen he created the Facial Acting Coding System (FACS). He also wrote a book about how to lie. He also helped as a scientific adviser for the series «Lie to Me». And he also worked with Pixar for «Inside Out».
– Leoni Dietrich –
Pictures: Jane Mumford, Leoni Dietrich