Ed Hooks Acting Class Notes

Ed Hooks Acting Class Notes
Taken by Angie Jones, http://www.spicycricket.com

Intro by Angie Jones:

I wanted to provide those who couldn’t attend this workshop some of my notes, BUT! I recommend this class to any animator who has ever been stuck on where to go with a character on a scene. Which is basically all of us at one time or another ? : ) It is definately worth the time, travel and money.

Let me begin with, I do not think I have laughed as hard as I did those two days, in years. : )

On top of that, the mix of Ed Hooks acting stories and input with Jo McGinley’s improv exercises provided excellent tools to quickly pinpoint how you interpret your character. They provided a vocabulary with the laban methods that enable you to make a quick, concise judgment of who the character is and how he/she would act in the circumstances given. In addition, I have taken some acting classes that used the laban techniques and exercises before, and those weren’t even half as entertaining or informative as those Jo had us perform. They have catered the acting techniques and stories to specifcally help animators with issues and they are trying hard to relate the two art forms.

I am providing some of my notes from the class below, but the bottom line is you got to be there and participate in the class to really get the “whole enchilada’s” worth of information and tools. My notes are way sparse compared to what you get if you attend. I highly recommend this class!! I know they are going to offer it again.

I hope this helps somebody I know it has already inspired me to use these tools.


Acting for Animators
A Weekend Workshop by Ed Hooks

1) Always remember where the character is coming from. Fix the moment before your scene. What profession am I? Waiting for a bus?

2) Important quotes from Disney:

“In order to be funny, you have to touch somebody’s heart”
“The mind is the pilot”

3) EMPATHY, is the most important thing about acting. People to study, Charlie Chaplin = empathy; Buster Keaton = sympathy; Harold Lloyd, etc. People relate to emotion.

Chaplin Story to explain the different between sympathy and empathy.

Chaplin gets foot stuck in a bucket. Keaton would try to shake it off erratically to get the quick, cheap laugh. Chaplin would try to keep his dignity and through embarrassment hide the bucket behind him causing empathy for his problem. This is more clever and more funny. The laughter can be stretched too through his trying to hide the fact his foot is tuck in the bucket. After the intitial erratic move by Keaton the laugh is done and it looked practiced int he first place.

4) Suspension of Disbelief:

Samuel Coolridge said, “Suspending disbelief that you are in the theater watching something is what good actors do.”

Peter Brook of the Royal Shakespeare Company said, “A tension line between the actor them self, a tension line between them self and other actors, and a tension line between them self and the audience are what suspend that disbelief. If those three things are not there the suspension of that disbelief is lost”

5) Conflict:

There are 3 kinds of conflict, conflict with self, with situation and with other characters. Those are your obstacles.

6) Definition of Emotion: “Automatic Value Response” he got this from a psychiatrist. When he asked the psychiatrist how many emotions can “go off” at once, the psychiatrist replied “all of them…it’s called shock.”

To get emotions to the surface animators re-motivate an emotion for days over and over. Actors do not do this. It is immediate for them and then gone.

A scene is a negotiation of conflict.

Description from Anthony Hopkins of how he played the butler in Remains of the Day:

“The trick to playing the butler is that all of the space in the room belonged to the master. The butler only has permission to be there.” It is a negotiation of space.


Act to survive, we all do it to live…what is the survival mechanism in this character? Charlie Chaplin’s Autobiography– said “conceptual is common to people regardless to country–universals are important to silent film.”

Empathy is different than Sympathy, this is why Charlie Chaplin was the bigger star.

8) Overacting:

“cheap animation” = overacting, the more subtle stuff like looking busy when you are in a shocking, embarrassing situation instead of going for the overreaction of shock for a “cheap laugh.”


We are wired to read facial expression from far away in order to make a value judgment of the other person.

Just a glance, subtle motion can say soooo much — it makes the scene resonate.

9) Difference between comedy and drama:

Neil Simon Story:
I was in a fight with my wife and she was cooking dinner in the kitchen. She reaches in the ice box for some frozen peas and slams them down on the counter. This is drama, but if she had thrown them at me (N.S.) it would have been comedy–that is how fine the line is. It becomes comedy when it is an “extension” of the moment.

Comedy is much harder to do than drama because it is drama PLUS!

10) Working with short takes…convert the motivation from want to NEED

11) Motivation:

Why are they doing that? The externals are what animators are concerned with BUT they are a result of the internal The purpose of the movement is destination. Keep the motivation in mind always. The audience is looking for the extraordinary moment not the ordinary moment. When something really good or bad happens to you the mind gets bathed in adrenaline and we remember that moment — use it, these are the important moments.

Balla in Ants – her important moment was “The day I realized he is not such a fool.”

The big problem for animators and acting is that they have to focus on the externals of a character like facial and body movement while actors know those things are a RESULT of what is going on internally; therefore, actors begin with the internals and do not work with the externals…those are the result!

12) Scorsese uses story boards but the actor doesn’t see those, they use the script for motivation. If you are stuck ask for the script and read many pages before that scene to get your character’s motivation.

13) There is a BIG difference between stereotype and archetype.

14) Hannibal Lector story from Silence of the Lambs

Anthony Hopkins in in the prison and Jodi Foster is describing the death of her father. Hannibal listens and he shows he is stimulated by the images of gore and blood, but at the same time he identifies with her loss of a father making him seem just a little human too. This gives his evil character more depth and makes him less one dimensional.

A good villain is a normal person with a fatal flaw…great villain Cruella De Ville — she just wanted a coat made of puppy skins. The complexity is through where she is a a person — age status.

15) Anticipation is bad acting. Expectancy will kill your scene. Don’t tell them what is funny with over acting, keep it honest. The temptation is to act MORE – but you do not have to.

Great places for human undertone and empathy:

Charlie Chaplin movies Gold Rush, City Lights and Modern Times.

16) Ed said his one regret regarding Ants is that he couldn’t get a handicapped or limping character into any scene. He wanted it there as a fact of life…no comment on it…just a part of life.

17) Character Bios:

  • Age
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Gender
  • Childhood
  • Ethnic Background
  • Profession
  • Dreams
  • Morals
  • Health
  • Environment
  • Education
  • Sex Life
  • Intelligence
  • Idiocyncracies
  • Need/Purpose
  • Body Structure

    The audience doesn’t have to know the character’s long term purpose or objective, but! that long term purpose effects the character’s short term actions.

    If you look into another character’s eyes for more than 10 seconds you better be ready to fight or make love.


    “The more obvious you are the more original you appear” Keith Johnstone (king of improv)

    1st offer leads the scene and the diatribe between actors has to unfold the story quickly. You can reincorporate previous events to bring about familiarity.

    Good exercise:

    What do you do as your morning ritual? Everybody is different.

    Improv improves the plasticity of the brain. Treat your imagination with such respect because if you do not you will get writer’s block. Nurture it and do not beat yourself up over how you 1st came up with a way to act a scene out.

    Goal = To make the other actor look good. This takes away the pressure from yourself.

    Jack Lemon story from the movie Missing:

    Jack said he worked this character through the hat he always wore. Since he is desperately trying to find his son and no one will help he acts like his hat is what is keep a lid on his emotions and holding everything together. When he finally takes his hat off he falls apart.


    There is sooo much here on this and it really is so visual and you need to just do it…I won’t go into detail or try to give notes since I really didn’t take any. I will only say that this is where you get a vocabulary to apply to hammering down a character in a very short time which is what improv people have to do all of the time. It is extremely valuable and I encourage you to try to get into the class to experience it.

    Power Centers and Status:

    This has nothing really to do with money or power and more to do with how you see yourself in the world and where you place YOURSELF in an environment.

    High Status = Very Still, make eye contact, comfortable.
    Low Status = Looking down a lot, touching face, uncomfortable.

    Body language encompasses your power center and politicians really understand that. When a politician speaks you don’t hear what they say you watch their body language.

    Watch any scene with the sound turned off and you will immediately see the good acting and the bad acting

1 thought on “Ed Hooks Acting Class Notes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.