Get out of your own way.
They’re the three key precepts I always stress as an acting teacher.
Of course there is so much more to the craft of acting but I passionately believe these form the core.
My students – I teach acting for the screen – are invariably sceptical.
Almost without exception their initial reaction is; “can it really be that simple?”
The answer – surprisingly – is yes.
If you absolutely commit to the rules – particularly the third – acting for film is simple.
You’ll notice I said simple, not easy.
There’s nothing easy about acting for the camera.
The ability to give a credible, affecting, emotionally-charged, often laboriously repeated performance, hour after hour, take after take, in a highly technical environment, is high art indeed.
The moment to moment demands on a screen actor are phenomenal.
And even if he or she masters them, the camera is watching the moments between the moments for any flicker of falsity.
Just as a loving lens can be your friend, it can also be your harshest critic.
The camera actually hates acting – it can spot a “performance” a mile away – so actors can’t get caught being themselves while trying to be someone else.
In one of the profound paradoxes of the profession, screen acting demands that actors be – simultaneously – completely open, spontaneous and authentic, while at the same time having already created their character, learned their lines and “blocked” most of their movements!
How is this possible?
To paraphrase one of the giants of acting training Sanford Meisner, they do it by a staggering amount of preparation beforehand, then completely letting go during performance.
They must Trust that emotion is being conveyed without forcing it.
They must Allow whatever arises to do so organically.
And they must Get out of their own way so as not to block, censor or manufacture the process.
Only recently have I fully appreciated those same rules don’t just apply to acting; they’re a powerful template for a satisfying life.