That Visceral Process … ‘Acting’


LeapofFaith_124629241An experienced and capable actor once said to me “Acting is such a visceral process you can’t really explain it or control it, you just have to trust it!!”

This thought excites the imagination and stimulates the acting juices.  But on closer examination it is only a half-truth.

Sure, explaining acting can be complicated.  And controlling your acting process is a challenge, while many find trusting it difficult.  Yet none of those ingredients are impossible to manage.   All that is required is a common sense process.

All day Saturday I watched a group of actors being auditioned by the intelligent and charming NATALIE WALL (Casting Associate with Barrett Casting, Sydney).  I witnessed many creative acting techniques being implemented.  I saw actors …

  • trusting their listening implicitly,
  • being ‘in the moment’,
  • trusting their feelings,
  • analyzing text,
  • working at behaviors that could be believable,
  • understanding their relationship to the space,
  • using their animal instincts,
  • and applying vocal techniques.

But in the end none of these techniques delivered a balanced and engaging performance … UNLESS a clear understanding of the nature of the person/character and the circumstances that surrounded them was the underlying element that supported ALL the choices.  When this happen the performances worked beautifully.

Circumstances and relationship determine the nature of any interaction.  That is a simple fact of life.  Understanding those fundamental elements is surely the key to a lifelike and real performance.

If the actor understands the ‘circumstances and the relationship’ then it is entirely possible to logically manage –

  • the ‘nature of the conversation’ and …
  • the ‘nature of the person’ who is having the conversation

Once those ingredients are plainly and practically understood it is then possible to add other embellishments.  Vocal mannerisms, behavioural idiosyncrasies and memories of past events are all peripheral embellishments.

However, starting with the embellishments is like trying to ice a cake that doesn’t exist.  It’s a pointless exercise.

So, lets start with the simple reality that understanding the ‘reason for the conversation’ and the ‘nature of the person’ is a functional path to a practical outcome.   These ingredients are explainable and controllable.

Add the other more visceral embellishments later if you have the time and they are appropriate.

And always be listening 100%.




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