As an actor, I’m sure you watch a lot of film and television, but have you really thought about what elements are used to create the performances you love? Of course there’s talent and hard work, but what technical elements did those actors employ to make the greatest impact possible?
Over the course of the next several weeks, we’re going to distinguish and discuss the four principles to creating amazing on-camera performances, and give you real advice and tips that you can use in your audition, tomorrow. Three of these principles you are probably already highly trained in, especially if you are theatre trained, but it’s the fourth that makes all the difference in on-camera work, it’s the fourth that most actors never learn, and it’s the fourth that can make or break you in any film and television auditions.
We start with Active Listening because as the great Morgan Freeman said,” Most of acting is reacting, and you can only react if you’re listening. I think that if you have a talent for acting, it is a talent for listening.
Keep the focus on them
When you are involved in a real conversation you are already actively listening; your attention is on the other the person, not on yourself; and their focus is on you, not themselves. Full attention is given to the other person and what they are saying. You’re not thinking, “How should I show this person that I’m thinking this thought or feeling???” You just have opinions, think thoughts or feel emotions. This is the core of Active Listening, you must forget yourself and stay over with you scene partner.
You’ll have real reactions
Active Listening is exactly that: ACTIVE listening. When you are actively listening, you will hear and perceive things that you wouldn’t normally notice. You’ll take in when your scene partner changes the delivery of their line, and your performance will also change, because you are present. In life, you can tell when someone you’re talking with is distracted or not paying attention; you can hear it in their voice or see it in their eyes, right? Same rules apply to the screen. You will lose your audience without this element – they simply won’t believe you.
Strong opinions and real emotion
Actively Listening also generates real, honest emotions, and strong opinions. One of the biggest challenges that we face as actors in the audition environment is generating real emotions in an imaginary (read: audition) environment. The reason you are AMAZING in the car while running your sides is because you are able to be present and in the scene, instead of in your head!
How do we stay present? How do we actively listen when the pressure is on? Keep the focus on the other person, and remember that you’re hearing this for the first time. That alone will keep you ahead of the game.