By Loren Johnson
Although the words we speak are important, it’s our non-verbal communication that is the most important, and as an actor it is vital to remember this. You may speak the lines beautifully but if you can’t commit physically to a character then your performance simply won’t be believable. This is where the art of observation comes in. As an aspiring actor you've probably found that you already notice things that your non-actor friends don’t, like the small details in your your interactions with others along with all their micro-expressions.
The basic job of an actor is to replicate life, now in order to do this you need to observe life. Next time you’re in a shopping centre, notice how the person in front of you walks. Notice his or her posture and physicality. Notice their small facial movements. The little lip purses, slight rise of an eyebrow, a quick glance away – what do all these mean. When you are on film, especially in a close up shot, every little movement your face makes the audience will take meaning from. So basically, just watch people - but not in a creepy stalker way. don’t breathe heavily while you sit in a dark shadow.
Now it’s not only important to observe the things that others do, but you must also be able to observe yourself. You need to know where certain types of emotion sit in your body, how they really feel. I’m sure if you talk to anyone who’s been acting a long time they will have experienced a time when they are miserable and in the middle of sobbing they realise, oh this is how you cry! This is what it feels like – I need to remember this!
a classic story about an actor on Broadway who absolutely hated his character’s love interest on stage and was finding it impossible to act like he was falling in love with her. Then one rehearsal he noticed that she had incredible taste in earrings so decided he would fall in love with her earrings, and every night on stage he did. That little observation helped him to act feelings and emotions that he otherwise found impossible.
Acting is all about observation. As an actor you should be interested in everything around you. You should look at the world like a scientist looks down a microscope. You need to find the truth in everything. After all Pablo Picasso said, “Art is the lie that tells the truth.”
I hope that helps. Until next time, stay safe and as always – happy acting.
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