I often am asked about the various things I have to help me in portraying Santa Claus. Now, I do not dispute or go against the common believe that Santa is more than just "things." I do think, however, that the more I FEEL like Santa, the better my acting and portrayal will be in my outward performance.
I have enjoyed adding quite a few custom items to my portrayal. Some items I have made myself, while other pieces I have worked with and commissioned individual craftsman and artists to create.
Personally, with anything, I have a few questions that I like to ask when creating something to add to my portrayal.
1. What would I have liked to see as a child?
This is pretty easy for me...as I'm just a GIANT kid at heart. I remember seeing Santa as a child and I remember being overwhelmed as my imagination was on overload watching films that featured our beloved St. Nick. I have always been one for details. It has been that way my entire life. So, while some children might look at Santa in his entirety...I was studying his buckles, what his buttons looked like, how his mustache was shaped; I love the details! I would encourage anyone portraying Santa to look at a picture of yourself in your suit...what would YOU think of this "Santa" from your younger perspective.
2. What would I like to see as an adult?
Well, this question is just plain fun. We have such a great resource here on Clausnet. Here you can see a myriad of Santa professionals, some of the best of the best and see how they portray Santa. While I understand these are real individuals, for the moment, separate them from their Claus persona. Look at a particular "Santa" AS Santa. What do you see? What do you like? Is there something you do not like? Now, I'm not talking about judging our fellow Santas...just look at what might spark your own imagination. Again...we have such a wonderful opportunity to be together here and learn from each other. This also goes outside of just professional Santas...look at your favorite films that feature Santa too...favorite artwork, books, etc. I particularly love antique items like postcards from the Victorian era.
3. What is my style/Who is my Santa?
From the contemporary to the traditional, the European to the American...there are SO many ways to look at Santa's style. If you are going to add "things" to your portrayal, you need to know who YOUR Santa is...what would he wear?, what would he like? I know it sounds odd...but if you are really going to portray Santa in any kind of convincing way, you must truly try to convince yourself...make him real in your mind, create who he is. Now, I'm not saying I believe I AM Santa...but when I portray him, I AM Santa, I try to forget for the moment who "Johnathan" is.
If you have asked these questions and have a good idea of the direction you want to take...great! I personally want my "things" and my portrayal to be geared towards everyone. I want children to love Santa just as much as I want parents (adults) to. While most children will look at HOW you portray Santa much more than the adults. The adults will really start studying your details and look at things with a larger perspective as well as your personal interaction with those around you. They too were once children, many an adult has locked away in their memories and hearts the feelings they had as a child when they saw Santa. If you can unlock those...truly special experiences can happen for them too. Your acting and your heart are center stage with everyone. Sincerity is something very hard to fake...don't. We have such a great responsibility, if you don't love it...don't do it, please.
Now, once I have gone through these steps, I'm ready to approach the "thing," whatever it might be. The particular item I have determined I want to use, and need to think about the style, need, use, etc. Here is where another interest comes into my portrayal in the form of a concept.
I love movie props! I not only own quite a few screen used props, but I've gone to great lengths to create or commission replicas too. In the motion picture industry and prop community, we used the term "hero prop."
When you have an item to be used on film, you typically have a few versions...especially for expensive props. The term "hero" comes from a prop that is used by the lead character (think of the hero in the film) and that can stand up to being filmed at very close distances without looking fake or seeing "the movie magic." You might have a particular item that is carried by background and extras, you might have your lead character using a sword from a distance, hitting this and that...but on a close up, you could have the "hero" sword, showing detail in every little way. Now, when viewing the film...they all look the same because you are too far away to see the details most of the time. So...back to Santa.
I look at my Santa items as "hero props." If I were to have a film camera photograph or film my suit, my bag, a pen, a button, a book...I want it to look not only real, but aged if needed, and authentic. This looks this way not only from 20 feet away but I want them to read the same way on film at 2 inches. I also find it fun to add details that you are only going to see if you are holding the item and studying it. Why? Because that's what I love...I want it real in every way I possibly can.
These things help me get into the character of Santa. They help me... but they are not me remember. I can take my suit and all that I have and place it on the next person that walks down the street, he will not be convincing, he will not be Santa. Portraying Santa has both the inward and the outward elements to it. I have loved learning and fine tuning both those elements and I'm still on a long road ahead.
I am not done by any means in my portrayal. I know I can be better, I can know the character more, I can be better prepared for questions that come up, I have SO much to learn. There are also "things" that I will add...and I will do my best to have them fit MY Santa...and have great detail and fun in them.
Hopefully this hasn't been too boring. Thank you for all YOU do. If you're reading this, chancing are you are working to be better...and that's just awesome. Reach your goals, make a difference, and have fun my friends.