Butch’s Notes on Spacework

Been meaning to post the notes from my workshop on spacework – good things to think about if you’re looking to improve your mime object work – the simple bullet points you can reduce object work to seem to be these, at least to get some broader realism:

– Leave space for the object in your hand, no matter how small it is
Even a sheet of paper takes up space, holding that space will remind you that you’re holding that object and having to hold your fingers apart to maintain that space will show your grip on it (see opposites showing force, below).

– How you lift/stop it shows how heavy it is
Bending at the knees = heavier than bending at the waist
Every movement that moves weight is preceded by the tiniest fraction of a move in the opposite direction – in animation this is referred to as “anticipation” and it’s a useful tool for creating weight. In animation there is no gravity or physics unless you create them, the principles are the same – The bigger that opposite move, the heavier your object is, before you even pick it up.  This continues when you stop it from moving as well – if you can stop it without it moving your feet, it doesn’t weigh anything.

– Where you hold onto something shows how rigid it is
Handing someone a clipboard or a ruler,  you can hold the far corner and it juts into space.  Hand someone a baby (or a bag of water with a goldfish in it) and you have to cradle the whole thing or support it in several places at all times or it falls.

Here's a bag with our new goldfish in it

Here’s a bag with our new goldfish in it

– How you move something shows how solid it is/what it is full of
You can move an empty glass in a straight line all you want, start and stop it on a dime.
Once you fill it with liquid, it moves in circles and arcs or it is spilling everywhere.
Solids move in straight lines – anything fluid (or containing fluid) moves in arcs

– Opposite directions show force
If you want to “push” on something that isn’t there, set your body and pull as hard as you can without taking your hands off the mime object.
If you pick up a mime rope and want to pull a heavy mime object, set your feet, lean the direction you want to go and then push your arms as hard as you can the other way.
It feels weird, but I promise it works.

Do those things, or at least be mindful of them, and your audience won’t know exactly what you’re miming every single time but the things you do will FEEL more real to both you and the audience. You’ll spend a while thinking about all the things you’re doing, which will make you feel like they stand out as weird and fake but once you break through that need to think about it and do these things habitually your object work will feel as natural to you as it does to the audience.

In that vein – stop giving in to that need to “make it clear” what you’re doing or give a mime “explanation” of an activity because you’re in your head about it – If a physical reality is your goal, calm down and stop doing unreal things in order to indicate something physical.

Driving is my favorite example – mime driving is BORING because most people don’t realize how little you move when really driving a car, so they add to it and over-do it to try and make it clear that they’re “really” driving.  You’re indicating what you’re doing instead of doing it, because doing it feels like it’s not enough.

It’s the spacework equivalent of making cartoonishly large expressions for every emotion and then expecting people to talk to you as if you’re a normal person – All you’re doing is undermining your own work.

Stop indicating and start just doing.

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