BANG! A gun fires. You jump! Action…re-action. No thought required, you’re totally in the moment.
In my last post, I spoke about acting being SIMPLE. In fact, the best acting is more (or less) than being simple. It is in fact, simply BEING. And what makes the being-ness simple and truthful moment-to-moment is: focus of attention.
Acting is the anti-thesis of Being. To Act well, Being is required.
It’s take 2. You know the shot’s coming.
BANG! Did you jump? Your reaction’s a bit off. Were you totally in the moment? Were you thinking about it? Were you thinking about yourself? Were you being self-conscious?
The most interesting actors are those who surprise you, whose next moment you don’t see coming. These are the actors who demand your interest and attention on the screen. And the reason you don’t see that next moment coming is because, neither do they. They are living totally in the present…in the moment. Their attention is fully invested outside of themselves.
Know that when you are self-conscious, it’s not possible for you to be totally present in the moment, which requires that your attention be focused solely outside of yourself. It’s impossible for you to have your attention fully focused in two places at the same time: outside of yourself and on yourself. And the gap that is created by being self-conscious while attempting to focus your attention outside of yourself is filled in with acting. Acting and Being cannot occupy the same space at the same time. And whenever they try, Acting will always dominate.
The only way to bridge this gap—the Acting gap—is to have a reason for focusing your attention outside of yourself that is more important than any reasons for being self-conscious. And more than likely, this will not happen automatically. Unlike in life, when you truly do NOT know what’s coming next, an actor is working from a script where the future is, they think, a given…known. So, the level of difficulty in reacting truthfully in the moment, in being present, in not thinking about how to live in that known moment, increases tremendously.
The only way to combat the “I-know-what’s-coming-next” syndrome, is not to think about it…which of course, is like telling someone not to think about the color red, for example. Easier said than done. The simplest way to accomplish that is to think about any other color except red.
So, you can conclude that the simplest, most effective way not to think about what’s coming next, that thing that you already know, is to think about something, ANYTHING, else. This way, when that next thing—BANG! —occurs, it comes as a surprise. Sounds easy, right? It’s not…but it is simple.
And here is the simple part to bridging the Acting Gap: aside from knowing that you can’t be self-conscious, that you must in a sense, forget about your “self”, one needs to have a way for doing that. And THAT requires having a reason, a compelling reason to focus your attention outside of yourself. And that reason is a NEED. A NEED to be satisfied…through the person (or people) you are in the scene, the conversation, with. With a NEED in place, you won’t see that next moment coming. Guaranteed.
Next week: DISSECTING THE NEED!