103. Ways to Connect
Understand the mechanisms for personalizing your material.
Hello and welcome to season 1 episode 3 of the BLS acting tutorial. I am your host, Braden Lynch.
So, we’ve got a basic handle on the four elements that go into every conversation we have in real life. How does that apply to acting? Three main steps: the investigation (what is the writer asking of you, what is going on in this scene and with your character), the connection (how are you going to get yourself into your character and into that scene, their emotional life, all that stuff, authentically — no fake crying or any other fakery) and the execution (actually doing the scene in a coaching, audition, on set, etc.).
So the investigation: again, I can spend a lot of time talking about this and there are some scenes where you should spend a lot of time figuring out what’s going on, cuz if you don’t you’ll be way off in your performance, for now I’m going to keep it simple. Stay out of the scene, don’t start saying your lines yet, you have no idea what’s going on so you have no idea how they should be said and you don’t want to start putting the blinders on. Read it like you’re reading a book about other people. Pay attention to where your character is, when, what is said, when it’s said, how everyone seems to feel about everything and everyone else. Find every clue that you can and put all of them together so you can paint the most comprehensive picture possible of exactly and specifically what’s going on.
If we go again with the example of the audition, you and that other actor have very different experiences, and you have different experiences from audition to audition. Some you love, some you’re pretty happy with, some are confusing afterwards, some are just kinda bad, some are terrible experiences. If you get an audition where you’re playing an actor going on an audition, you can’t just say “oh i’ve been on auditions before, i know what this is like,” nah. this character is having a very specific experience with this audition, you have to figure out what that is, that’s what you’re aiming for, otherwise you’re shooting in the dark because their experience could be so many different things.
K? Once you’ve got that all figured out like a detective would figure it out, you move on to step two: figuring how you’re going to put yourself into that emotional space, what you’re going to be thinking about. there are three sort of categories that you can pull from, and they come from what makes us feel emotions in real life: one: you get a gift you’ve been dying for, you feel happy: real life events make us feel things, this concept is not rocket science. Two: you’re worried that you’re gonna be fired: we feel things when we apply imaginary circumstances to our real lives. Three: most of us were once scared of the monster under the bed or in the closet: so completely imaginary things can make us feel.
So, let’s say your character just received a gift they’ve been dying for, let’s keep it as simple as that, and figure out how we can get connected. real life: if you have you’ve ever received an incredible gift and the thought of it makes you start to feel a little something, that’s a possible choice. imagined circumstances applied to life: if there is a gift you would currently love to receive and the thought of it makes you start to feel something, that’s a possible choice. Full imagination: make something up that would be the coolest thing ever to own, it doesn’t even have to be realistic, pick a space ship for all I care, as long as you want it, that can be a viable choice.
So real life, imagination applied to real life, and full imagination. Now, there are three things you want to keep in mind when making these choices: be personal, specific, and brave. Personal means don't choose things that you don't care about. Specific means don't just say “it’s like a friend says something rude,” no, know exactly which friend and exactly what the rude thing is. And brave means that you should use choices that scare you sometimes, choices that you might not even want to tell people about. But a quick word to the wise, some choices are too strong or two recent for some people. If you’ve suffered a death in the past few days, I would be very hesitant to recommend using that as a choice. This is different for every person but know that there is a line in each of us, so exercise caution.
Now, last thing here: some actors and acting coaches believe that you should only use your real life, ever. Some will say only imagination, ever. The fact that there are great actors on both sides of that argument should tell you that both of them work. It all works. And anyone who tells you that one of them doesn’t simply doesn’t know how to do it. You just have to figure out what works for you. And since sometimes you won’t have the time required to fully build something from your imagination, and sometimes the material will involve something that none of your experiences can compare to, it’s in your best interest to cultivate all three of them so that you can use any of them.
Next we’re gonna go into how to actually get into these emotional spaces. And again we’re going to do it authentically. Let me harp on this again: you must do your best to never fake it. To never fake anything in this work. Yes, there are actors who have booked work after faking it in the audition and some who fake it for the final product, there are even some coaches who think it all should be faked, but the audience can almost always spot a faker, and really, what kind of actor do you want to be? I’ll see you on the next episode.