Ian Thomas Malone

Monthly Archive: November 2015



November 2015



Utilizing The Meisner Technique in Crafting the College Dialogues

Written by , Posted in Blog, Social Issues

When I was faced with the decision as to how to spend my summer in 2010 after my freshman year at Boston College, I decided I wanted to do something a little different. As I say in Five College Dialogues and Five More College Dialogues, those four years are best spent outside one’s comfort zone. On the recommendation of a friend, I enrolled at the Ted Bardy Acting Studio in New York City.

The Ted Bardy Acting Studio is world renowned for its curriculum, The Meisner Technique, named for its architect, Sanford Meisner, who was part of the legendary Group Theatre back in the 1930s, which also included Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler. Repetition, a core pillar of The Meisner Technique, ended up drastically transforming the way I approached writing.

It’s a bizarre and practically unexplainable concept, so here is a video of repetition in action with Sanford Meisner himself, courtesy of Contemporary Arts Media:


Repetition is simple in nature and yet painfully difficult at the same time. It requires the participants to be fully active in the exercise, but not in a way that artificially steers the course of the “conversation.” Laughter is common and perhaps crucial to understand the concept.

One bit of advice offered by Ted Bardy and fellow teacher Glen Vincent in practically every class was to avoid using “tit for tat,” in repetition. I found this bit of advice to be crucial in writing my dialogue. People and characters need to respond to what’s been said to them. They don’t need to spit it back in the other person’s face.

That’s the inherent difficulty in writing fictional conversation. Unlike practicing repetition, scripted dialogue is created with specific purpose. The dialogues in FCD and FMCD are thematic in nature as the characters are there to discuss a specific topic. The flow of conversation needs to serve the purpose of the dialogue, but it needs to be real. When characters speak to each other, they need to process what’s been said.

Writing and acting are obviously very different, but they share one important similarity. Both mediums set out to make the inorganic real. When an actor is performing, it is their job to extract genuine emotion out of a scripted scenario. When I set out to write a dialogue, I need to take my characters on a purpose driven journey that resonates with the readers.

FCD & FMCD are unusual books because they’re all dialogue. I found that what I’d learned from Meisner Technique played perfectly into Socratic Method as I could implement repetition in my efforts to create authentic contemporary Socratic Dialogue. The characters constantly question each other but they aren’t merely working to advance the subject matter. Repetition helped me to avoid something that came across as stale and inorganic, even if you may not commonly find students walking around casually conversing in Socratic Dialogue.

Which is why I recommend that all artists dabble in forms outside of their comfort zones. I haven’t done many auditions since my time at the Ted Bardy Acting Studio. If that doesn’t change, I’ll still be forever grateful for the lessons I learned. Creating emotion requires immersion. To achieve immersion, you need depth and that’s only possible if you push your limits. I’m of the belief that creating art must at least be a little scary. Whether or not I was successful with that is up to you, the reader.

The ebook versions of Five College Dialogues and Five More College Dialogues are still just .99 cents for a few more days. Pick up your copy today!



November 2015



Spectre Is Daniel Craig’s For Your Eyes Only

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What are action movies supposed to be in the year 2015? There’s the Mission Impossible and The Fast and the Furious series which defy age and logic to introduce one exciting installment after another. There comes a point where mere excitement simply isn’t good enough. How else can we explain the lukewarm reaction to Avengers: Age of Ultron, a painfully uninspired entry into the increasingly uninspiring Marvel franchise? With James Bond, we have the task at hand to determine where the gold standard of long running franchises fits into the modern age.

Unlike many critics, I hated Skyfall. While the film was largely praised for deviating from the standard 007 mold, I disliked M’s prominence in the central narrative. As much as a I like Dame Judi Dench, I’m a purist in the sense that I don’t believe any actor is larger than their role. Such a sendoff was most unnecessary and came at the expense of Javier Bardem’s theoretically interesting Raoul Silva.

Craig’s 007 films have cared more about continuity than the rest of the Bond canon. Spectre awkwardly tries to tie the events of the past three films together and largely falls flat with those efforts. Like Bardem before him, Christoph Waltz is tethered to an unnecessary need to be more than a standard Bond villain. By tying his backstory into Bond’s, the film attempts to heighten his emotion impact, but the results are merely distracting. For the second consecutive film, the Bond series has cast an Academy Award winner as the villain only to waste them in senseless clutter.

Around the halfway marker, I started to make the connections to For Your Eyes Only, Roger Moore’s fifth entry into the series. Both films have well put together action sequences and neither passes up a single opportunity to interject humor into the dialogue. Critical reception of For Your Eyes Only varies, with “fun” and “forgettable” accurately summarizing both sides of the equation. Also worth noting that FYEO features a “cameo” of sorts for Waltz’ character, though legal issues prevented the film from acknowledging the character as Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

Coming off of Skyfall, it might have been unreasonable to expect Spectre to raise the bar in terms of the plot. Adding complexity to Bond can produce dangerous, or rather painfully boring, results. The real question is, did it even try?

The film isn’t without its redeeming qualities. Besides the well crafted action scenes, Lea Seydoux shines as Dr. Madeline Swann. Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and Ben Whinshaw all put in fine efforts, but none top their Skyfall performances, which is disappointing at least for Fiennes, who takes over for Dench as M and fails to bring even half of Dench’s commanding energy to the role.

As for Craig, it’s hard to criticize him. He’s comfortable, but he should be by his fourth go around. Uninspiring could be a word used to describe his performance, but that also speaks to the film in general.

Spectre’s biggest crime isn’t that it’s conventional. It falters because it doesn’t fully commit to being a fun movie. The film tries too hard to justify its legitimacy as a post Die Another Day Bond film that it forgets that it’s okay not to be revolutionary. Traditional and boring are two different things. I’m not sure Spectre could tell the difference.



November 2015



Breaking Down Why The Bastard Executioner Is So Unwatchable

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We’re living in a wonderful time for the action/fantasy costume drama. There’s never been so much to choose from. Regardless of whether you want to watch something that’s going to be a Emmy contender (Game of Thrones, Penny Dreadful, hopefully Outlander next year), something with well choreographed fight scenes (Vikings, The Last Kingdom, Black Sails), or merely something to fall asleep to after a second nightcap (Olympus), there’s something for everyone.

The Bastard Executioner should have been a welcome addition to the second tier. A historical drama created by Kurt Sutter, the man who brought us Sons of Anarchy, had all the makings of a show that would fit in well with the current mix of offerings.

It doesn’t. It’s not just a bad show, it’s a downright unwatchable travesty. Calling it worse than Marco Polo is almost insulting to the underwhelming Netflix entry to the genre.

It took me a few weeks to figure out why this show is this bad and it’s not because the show had perhaps the worst name in television history. It’s not even that the show has bland characters and feels highly derivative. The Last Kingdom has essentially the same plot as Vikings and is still an excellent new show (worth noting that TLK is based off of a series of novels by Bernard Cornwell, which makes the similarities more acceptable).

I’ve seen four episodes of the show and I’ve found it hard to care about anyone on the program. Even Stephen Moyer, who can’t seem to make anything work with the bland writing. As much as I enjoy Katey Sagal, her character is unbearable with that completely baffling accent. Her character looks like something out of The Legend of the Seeker, which is hardly a compliment for a show on a network like FX (though I enjoyed Seeker and The Sword of Truth books its based on).

The show has no obvious likable characters. No Tyrion, no Jon, no Ragnar, no Floki. Just a bunch of crappy generic characters with generic names. There’s no fun to be had at all with this lot.

Some shows take time to develop, even the ones that were good from the get-go. Game of Thrones, Vikings, and Outlander are all different programs now than when they started (which would be a bit unusual in Outlander’s case if it wasn’t following its source material). Problem is, The Bastard Executioner makes it downright impossible for you to actually get through the episodes.

As we learned with the last few seasons of Sons of Anarchy, Kurt Sutter is not a man who likes to be edited. Since 2012, SOA episodes almost always ran for at least 90 minutes on commercial TV, often longer. This trend has unfortunately continued with The Bastard Executioner.

It takes the saying “too much of a good thing” to a whole new level. It’s too much of a terrible thing. A show trying to work through its growing pains doesn’t need to air episodes that are longer than most HBO shows on a regular basis. I assume Sutter has a fair amount of pull at FX. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work to the benefit of the show.

While I’d say the long run times are the show’s biggest problem, the fight scenes are very subpar. They’re sloppy and have way too much gore. You can’t exactly blame the budget either, when fellow non-premium cable show Vikings produces the most consistently great fight scenes on television.

I’d imagine that Sutter set out to beat Vikings at its own game. I don’t think he seriously expected a show with the title, The Bastard Executioner, to be an Emmy contender. While Vikings isn’t going to challenge for Best Drama either, it has grown into one of the best shows on TV with amazing visuals, great action, and most importantly, compelling characters.

The Bastard Executioner has no redeeming qualities and that’s a shame. Sutter should have been able to do better than this. If his ego is half as bloated as his show’s run time, it’s possible he’s oblivious to how terrible the finished product is.