Good actors know how to put all their attention on an object outside of themselves and block out any and all distractions. In doing so they are able to work spontaneously on a moment to moment, impulse to impulse basis. They are able to “play” with an absence of self-consciousness. They know that their actions are reactions to how they are being affected by the other person. To achieve this “privacy” in a “public” situation they have to learn how to open up. Availability, susceptibility, vulnerability are necessary elements of the best acting. intellectual, pre-determined responses suggests that the actor is not “listening” to the other person, which leads to flat or over-the-top responses.
A story about the late Stanley Kubrick comes to mind. Kubrick a NY native, was born in the Bronx. As a boy he developed a fascination for photography. This fascination was shared by his friend and upstairs neighbor. Kubrick and his friend would take to the streets of the Bronx, shoot pictures, and return home to develop the days shots in his friends homemade darkroom. Kubrick’s affair with photography continued into his teens. Shooting and submitting his work to newspapers and magazines became a regular activity. On one occasion, at the end of WWII, Kubrick stumbled upon a news stand that was framed with newspapers announcing the death of FDR. Kubrick took a picture and submitted it to LOOK magazine. The photograph was accepted and Kubrick was offered a job as a staff photographer. On one particular occasion Kubrick was assigned to shoot some pictures for a human interest story about children at play. He proceeded to a local playground where he found exactly what he was looking for. Kubrick wasting no time, began to shoot his subjects at play. Predictably, when the children saw that they were being photographed they began to jump and mug for the camera. Kubrick was not interested in having the children pose for his pictures. He was interested in capturing the children “living” in the moment. To his credit he continued to shoot, never once instructing, or directing the children to strike specific poses. In time the children became bored and went back to doing what they did best. They had completely forgotten about this stranger with his camera and Kubrick was able to get the shots he was seeking.
Actors, to be affective, must learn to find the child in themselves and “play”. They must forget that they are under the scrutiny of the watchful eye of the camera. They must be able to focus and concentrate sans thought. They must develop the ability to live truthfully and impulsively from moment to moment. Living privately in public situations is the goal whether on stage or in front of the camera.
Marlon Brando’s nephew said that his uncle had the remarkable ability to put all of his attention on what he was doing regardless of the number of takes required to get the scene. Kim Stanley, Maggie Smith, Cate Blanchett, Daniel Day-Lewis, Anthony Hopkins, Albert Finney, Michael Fassbender, Sam Rockwell, Toni Colette, are among the actors I admire for their unique ability to block out distractions and “live.”
There are many essentials that are necessary to achieve truthful results in the imaginary circumstances. Curiosity, patience, attention to detail, imagination, fullness, are among the many tools actors must have at their disposal. If you wish to be the very best you can be you will have to develop the necessary technical skills that will enable you to work on a professional level. You can’t rush the process. Embrace it. Don’t spend your time obsessing about the destination. Fall in love with journey