Sanity In Acting

Auditioned for Batman, landed The Joker. How’s that for an identity crisis. I had the hair at least, if not the chops…


Galina Boulgakova is one of Colorado Film School’s most beloved treasures. Educated at The Moscow Art Theater School, the woman exudes passion in every rolling syllable, every gesture, every graceful sway of her arms. She learned from the best. You can feel it.

Galina Boulgakova is a renowned Method Acting Instructor at Colorado Film School

Her book, Sanity in Acting (2014) is a blueprint for how to, in Galina’s words, “manifest parts of another person’s psyche through our own.” And, most importantly, how to disengage when the job is finished. (The part we never got to because of COVID).

You’ve probably heard the term, “Method Acting.” This is shorthand for “The Stanislavski method.” Developed over one hundred years ago, it is all about empathy. Understanding the psychology of a character. His or her wants and needs, and belief system. When you water these psychological roots, the whole tree springs up naturally. Not pretending, becoming.

The Moscow Art Theater brought Stanislavski’s method to New York in 1923. And in just a few decades Marlon Brando was using it On The Waterfront. Other western actors were too. It is now the basis for all modern acting.

Marlon Brando was one of the earliest, and most famous Hollywood method actors.

Galina emphasizes the cool down phase. How to “disconnect from the character when the job is finished.” Method acting is very dangerous because it works. When we act we really do become somebody else. We think the character’s thoughts, feel their emotions, and behave accordingly. And this all bleeds into our personal life. That is, unless we disconnect through conscious choice and Cognitive Behavioral intervention.

I had the privilege of learning from Galina in 2020. Before COVID rudely interrupted us: Her teaching, and my Joker monologue. Yes, for acting class two of my peers and I were rehearsing the interrogation scene from The Dark Knight (2008). Of course, none of us were acting majors. And of course Galina didn’t pick The Dark Knight. Nor I. It was a classmate who had the bravado, the audacity, the nerve! To even attempt the legendary ensemble of Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, and Gary Oldman. And then to drag me and another friend into the foolish charade with him.

I went pale as a ghost when he named me “Joker” in front of the class. It was exactly the scene from Harry Potter 3 when Professor Trelawney peers inside Harry’s teacup and instantly collapses in horror. An omen of the highest magnitude. I would be cursed for years, no joke.

Christian Bale and Heath Ledger in Christopher Nolan’s, The Dark Knight (2008)

I wanted to be Batman. I can do the voice, was dating Rachel, and was even driving the literal Bat Mobile, 2020 Dodge Charger (in black) at the time. The three hundred and thirty horsepower beef supreme was a loaner, of course, while my flaccid four cylinder Saturn was in the shop because I wrecked it in the Mountains trying to make an extra buck.

So, Joker. One thing’s for sure, I thought – I’m gonna need a bottle a’ Jack, stat. And some smokes. Shit, maybe even some Lucy leww. Jeezus. Fuck, Hunter S. Thompson. I am a Post-production major. We’re the filmmakers who cower behind the computer monitor in the deepest dungeon of the furthest fortress. AWAY from the camera; not on the frontlines! “Doctor, NOT A POOL MAN!” Bruh, my baseline affect is Rain Man. My greatest aspiration in life is to trade this hoodie in for an invisibility cloak and wear it till I die. And you want me to perform THE Joker.

(shrouds face with a soft hand – “Annd, scene”)

(See, Acting👆)

To train zee dolphin you must think like zee dolphin

It’s sacreligous. Heath’s performance is the greatest magic trick ever pulled. “I’m gonna make (myself) DISAPPEAR!” (I forget he is in the movie every time I watch it).

So when I say, COVID rudely interrupted? What I really mean to say is thank god it did. We were shut down mere days before we were to act the scene in front of the whole class and embarrass ourselves. The relief. I felt like Peter Gibbons when Initech goes up in flames. A real life deus ex machina. (Film school is another story).

I was saved from embarrassment. But there was a catch. I never disengaged. A couple months later I would begin making my epic passion montage, A Dark Night (2022), and I found myself incorporating the interrogation scene and The Joker character front and center. I had not, until this very moment correlated that to the acting assignment. But now it seems undeniable. They were linked.

I spent the next 2 years of my life making this montage like a possessed madman. What if it was all because I never got the chance to act this character out proper? Because of COVID. And what if, as a result this archetype lingered in the shallows of my subconscious like a virus all of its own. Spooky thought isn’t it?

My classmate told me he cast me for The Joker because I looked like him with my long hair (Who, Me? Daintily finesses bangs over ear). But maybe my classmate saw more than just the hair. Maybe he saw this character lurking in my soul. That I needed to face him artistically, and spiritually. Make peace with him somehow. He would have been correct. It sure has been a process these past three years.



18 thoughts on “Sanity In Acting

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  1. Hi EF, sometimes….just sometimes the people who don’t want to be actors are the best at it! I am an example of that as I too was a technician on my Performing Arts course at college but had to appear on stage to obtain my overall pass. And it was the college production of “Once a Catholic” that I was “discovered” as an actor. I was given the role of Mr Emmanuelli, the Italian music teacher at a girls Catholic school. I had the job of also producing the sound, lighting and scenery for the production whilst trying to learn my lines. As a result I never got as much rehearsal time (I was a First Year and this was a Year Two project and they were meant to be the “big things” but the older students just wanted to do the least possible work then go off drinking).
    Anyway I adopted the all-in Stanislavski approach (I even developed a limp using a walking stick and I dusted my hair with chalk dust to go grey….spoke with an Italian accent based on Valentino Rossi!) and the big first nigh arrived. and I hobbled out onto the performance space.
    What I didn’t know was that there were REAL press theatre critics in the crowd and the next evening’s papers had reviews of our show…..and I was picked out by the critics for my performance (me a 1st Year sound engineer!).
    You could say this was another of the “Sink or Swim” moments you mentioned in your recent posts, but I knew I had to appear to pass the course….I just never imagined I would be singled out for praise as I was (much to the envy of the 2nd year students who were meant to be the stars)
    It took me a about a week to normalize after the show but I can still switch into the character now if I wanted to,…the madness can linger…..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember this, and is such a good story. Yes what a flex on those 2nd year slackers. You got the press haha. It’s so cool to hear how you applied The Stanislavski method as well. And the chalk dust sprinkle on the hair is a nice touch😄

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I would’ve fully embraced that opportunity! Heath Ledger’s Joker is one of my all time favorite performances and voice impressions. Fun fact: I actually performed a Joker monologue for my Senior monologue in high school. I was the quiet kid in school, but everyone saw a different side of me that day.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh you get it then!👏 Yes one of that advantages of being the quiet kid (I was, usually as well) is when we do talk, people tend to perk up and listen. For the novelty if nothing else😄. I’m curious which monologue did you do?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, a great school theatre, man! I wished I could have had such a chance those days in my youth. You know, I knew that I could play on the stage. Although, I Caught the opportunity later when I was in my late teeny years. At that time, there were two famous Methods: The Stanislavski method and Bertolt Brecht Method.
    As you know, Stannislaski Method is a deep take on the role, so deep that the player melts into the character. I heard a Russian actress who played the role of someone who had to kill herself on the stage, and she actually did! The Brecht Method is accurate and totally opposite to the latter; you are playing a character on the stage though you are still yourself; it is just a play and nothing else. I did take the Stanislowski Method and Marlon Brando as an idol. But I didn’t kill myself!😁😅
    PS: Honestly, it is an honour to play the role of the Joker! 😉👍

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Heath will always be THE Joker for me. Method acting to me always sounded (to this non-actor) like what all actors should always strive for. I always felt if you were giving your all, the character portrayed would need to be “cooled-down” as the actor returned to their own reality.


  5. But who knows…embarrassment may have been the LEAST of what happened, if at all. Fascinating discovery though, realizing it had been boiling and swirling deep inside you…resulting in A Dark Knight 2022.
    And now there’s a link……..!! 🙂 Yes! 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It has been a discovery alright. And Joker is so NOT me, historically speaking. I’m not funny, and i’m certainly not a murdering psychopath. Honestly sometimes I feel possessed. By an ancestor, perhaps. Someone in my lineage yearned for the silver screen but got stuck working retail their whole life instead. Saw I applied to film school and pounced lol

      Liked by 1 person

  6. That was very thought-provoking. Method-acting certainly produces results, but has so many undesirable emotional outcomes attached, in my opinion, anyway. Isn’t there a theory that Ledger never really “disengaged” from his Joker role and that was partly the reason for his death? I love this one quote from the Alan Rickman Diaries which I recently read (the book itself is terrible, by the way, and should never have been published). Anyway, the quote goes: “Fine acting is a bloody miracle of chance, the most fragile blending of time, mood, talent and trust. Too often, all we present is an attempted repeat of a hazy memory of the once we thought we almost made it” (Rickman). I just thought this was very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely, Heath went all in for The Joker and never disengaged. He locked himself in a hotel room for month prior to filming just to practice “voices.” Did his own makeup. His relationship with actress, Michelle Williams fell apart during production. He was heartbroken, and combined with the pressure of the role he could not stop his racing thoughts so he suffered from insomnia. Took Ambien and prescription sleeping pills and Overdosed by accident.

      I adore your quote from Alan Rickman. I will savor that! Thanks so much for sharing🙂


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