When acting, the no. 1 rule to apply is to follow our instincts, to forget all acquired and learned behavior that has helped us survive so far in real life. It isn’t easy at first because we are used to suppressing our essential needs to fit in and belong, subconsciously conditioning our behavior. Instead, our job as actors is to set free and eliminate all expectations, mannerisms, and consciousness to deliver powerful and organic performance and remind the audience of their most basic emotional needs, resulting in catharsis. Being in the moment, being in character, or being present is how our industry refers to this phenomenon on stage in theater or the frame when acting on screen. Our choices must come from the character we play and not by ourselves. The character has to come alive within us; this is only possible when we are completely “naked” regarding vulnerability, humanity, and transparency. Being vulnerable - we all know that now - thanks to Brené Brown’s TED talk- is the most effective and powerful way to get what you want. But it isn’t easy.
Our life - unfortunately- doesn’t evolve on stage or in front of cameras. We live in the real world, and outside the four walls, we have to behave, control and direct our own choices. There is no director to guide us on what to do, when, and how. It becomes our responsibility to manage ourselves and take charge of our actions. Being centered, aware, and self-conscious is how people rule and guide their lives.
Actors are in between these two contrasting worlds when auditioning. Being an actor booking the job versus being the character is transitioning between being self-conscious and being present. In other words: being in and out of your head simultaneously. When trying to book a job, the stakes are so high that we tend to focus more on pleasing the casting director, which overrules the character’s needs. But these two worlds are like oil and water: they cannot co-exist. When auditioning, our job is to fulfill the character’s needs, not to please or convince anyone about our learned skills and behavior. So when you’re preoccupied with what YOU are, what YOU want, and what YOU can do, you’re not a great actor. You must let go and trust all your acquired and learned acting skills that sank into your subconscious to be the character.
If you become an actor because you’re passionate about storytelling and giving something to the world for an audience to be impacted, educated, and moved, aiming for anything less is sadly a disservice to you and the audience. Your goal, aim, objective - whichever word you prefer- must be to tell the story.
Here are some adjectives that might resonate with you about what we mean when being in or out of your head:
Off-screen: covered, hidden, suppressed, conditioned, behaved, aware, mindful, wit, attentive, awake, percipient, assured, observing, observed, perceiving, perceived, vigilant, watchful, certain, sure, alert, regardful, cautious, conscious, artificial, built-up, conditioned, careful.
On-screen: naked, uncovered, unwired, oblivious, instinctive, in the moment, present, unaware, unconscious, unobservant, unobserved, unperceived, unperceiving, unmindful, unacquainted, uninstructed, unlearned, inattentive, unsafe, invisible, spontaneous, non-vigilant, unalert, careless, free, unconditioned.
It would be nice if all people could live in this free state of what we simply call: Art. But unfortunately, that is not the case. It is possible to evade the real world now and then and desert reality to art, but 80% of our lives, we do live in reality.
I am the no. 1 person to understand the love for art and performance, but hands-on your heart: how much time do you spend on performing, auditioning, and how much on surviving?
That is why you must make conscious choices regarding your life and career that will help you spend more time with what you love to do: Art. And that is our privilege as Artists.
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