So … You Call Yourself an Actor!!

It is the actor’s dilemma, isn’t it? Even though you are called ‘an actor’ … the last thing we want to see on the screen is YOU ACTING!! If a director can see you acting they wont hire you.

When you think of yourself as an actor you prime yourself to ‘act’ even though looking like you are acting is NOT your intention. Psychologists now understand how our minds can be primed to make us do things that we don’t know we are doing. Advertisements, for example, are designed to prime our behaviour.

Over the previous nine decades, acting teachers have determinedly designed ways of preventing you looking like you are acting. But the majority of these tools actually prime the actor to behave like an ‘actor’ and not like the person they are portraying. They have created techniques to …

… use affective memory to look real Unfortunately, actors often do this consciously BUT in life this happens spontaneously and unconsciously.
… use creative imagination … While in life we are never imagining our existence. We are trying to identify the reality that is confronting us.
… break scenes into beats But the reality is we never divide a conversation into beats, in life. A conversation is always one entity.
… plan different ‘actions’ on every line (sometimes on individual words). In life we never plan actions we always have to make those decisions in the instant.
… to understand how the character is feeling In life we frequently don’t understand how we are feeling. We simply KNOW we are feeling AND mostly we are focused on looking for a way to change those feelings.
… plan the perfect version of a scene No conversation in life is perfect.

The list is endless … well, very long anyway. And these traditional techniques all have complicated side effects.

Thinking about objectives, intentions, actions and super-objectives concurrently is VERY complicated. The actor’s task needs to be simpler than that. Especially as psychologists now understand that our mind will only do ONE THING AT A TIME. The focus should therefore be on ONE key issue … the ‘Conversation Goal’. That’s the important task to focus on.  Priming your intuitive instincts to let the other elements run on remote control is a LOT simpler and a much more effective process. That way you have the greatest chance of looking real and NOT being seen to ‘act’.

If an actor can keep process as simple as that then ‘active listening’ will produce MAGICAL results. It’s that simple.

Those traditional acting practices born in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s and based on extended theatre rehearsal times no longer have the answers.

It is time for a change.

3 Simple tasks for the actor


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2 Responses to So … You Call Yourself an Actor!!

  1. Lawrie says:

    I really like this idea. It crystallises the meaning of Chubbuck’s final step “let it go”. The techniques you’ve talked about are only useful in doing the work before you present your character. Although I do not always need these techniques they do help me make that unconscious connection with the character IF i’ve done the work beforehand.

  2. Tom Liddy says:

    Damn straight Rich. 🙂
    Change is required from my personal observations also.
    Great work here, it makes sense and is manageable in line with what people do in life.

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