An invitation to my fellow artists.
Currently we're in the middle of summer and all I can think about is this thought that's been in my mind, one that's never particularly ever faded, the root unrecoverable, sitting and incubating in the hyperbolic chamber, but without any action taken on it, nothing will change. It's theory, and honestly I spout this stuff all the time, and get so annoyed hearing myself talking about it again, but I'll only forgive myself if I follow up on the activation of this method. So here it is.
Throughout my schooling at PACE University, my focus solely based on creating human beings in a performance setting, we sat in a chilled NYC classroom watching our teacher place theory from incredible past acting teachers onto a whiteboard. Examples were set into place; What's the character's objective, scene objective, what happened the scene before, what's the relevant information, and so on. Different webs were created through the subjectivity of our classmates experiences and circumstances. Different human beings would create different things. The most important aspects of these classes was the opportunity to put these theories to the test the actual physical exploration of these tools. We got to play. We were critiqued, given the opportunity to improve, expand, deepen.
A year out of being in a classroom full of incredibly talented beings, I now have to figure out how in the world I'm supposed to improve in my craft. I've tried passive activities; Lot's of movie and TV watching a lot of consumption, and sure, learning and building my name dropping skills (I'm still awful). I listen to podcasts of interviewed actors, WTF With Marc Maron being a particular favorite. Taking care of myself, improving in random skills, being as varied as I can as a human being, exploring what's incredibly important, which I will continue to do. In fact, I'm sure I'll continue to do all of this at different levels. Being in Ohio makes things a little harder for me, I have yet to find a class for professional actors. I see a lot of college audition prep, and boot camps, and masterclasses all for ages 6 - 18. So, alright, I suppose since I don't have the tools I'll just wait to get to my next location, since there will be a plethora of acting classes, acting coaches, events, whatever, to choose from at all levels. I should just keep waiting, because if I just keep absorbing, I'm probably still going to be alright at acting...
Please, no, by all means, there has to be some implementation within a creatives life. and being "alright" doesn't cut it for me. I don't know about you but I intend to be infinitely better than "alright." If you are in fact trying to reach for the top of the industry then work needs to be done (This whole bit is in theory, but I'll get to that in a little). Actions need to be taken to improve, steps need to be put into place, and walked to head towards the direction in which you wish to go. I believe this to be true as I grew up as an athlete. You don't watch a soccer player watching only soccer games every day. You don't see a swimmer just watching swimmers, or studying the temperature of the water. You see these people, day in and day out, finding one small thing to improve upon. Or two, or five, or fifteen. 1% increases in terms of creating compound interest over time, and eventually you will in fact be at the top tier of the industry, but what is it that you can do to get further? Actions! Get up on your feet, jump in the water and start swimming, get your soccer ball and start shooting on goal. Start Dancing! Run, jump, PLAY!
I remember being jealous of the commercial dancers at my school because they were worked just like an athlete would be worked. Everyday they would go in and they would put their bodies through basics, challenges, and their theory was still there, but their implementation was far more advanced then I believe the entire performing arts program combined. Maybe a bold thing to say, but when you see the line up of who has booked and who hasn't, the commercial dancers win every single time and continue to win throughout there career. This isn't a dis in my own learning, but there was something missing and every time I watched the commercial dancers perform I knew some clues were located there.
It takes actionable steps, something that you can in fact achieve, but then past that it's 1% improvements, it's creating discomfort, and slowly stretching and lifting yourself more and more. It's my theory in terms of the actual way of approaching something that is in your desire to achieve and I'm sure others would share this similar theory. In general it really is just practice makes perfect, but I myself have found that to be a fallacy, as, one, you'll never be perfect, and two it's not that simple. Let's break it down instead. Finding your why is first, we need to look at this incredibly objectively and with a discerning eye.
So follow along, and jot down notes for yourself. We are going to get to higher spots within our professions together so let's begin.
What is your why?
Behind everything you need to create your foundation. What is it that drives you in this world. What is it that you want to see in the future. What do you want to accomplish, and then go into the why. This is a larger study into the psyche of you and it deserves to be notated, read back, explored, and questioned further. Take this step as it will only deepen your future goals. Let me pass onto you an example of how I found my current goal for my craft: "My goal is to be a leading actor in a movie." "That's still well and wonderful, but can I ask why?" "Sure, my why is to be famous." "Why?" "I want to hold a platform to use my voice." "Why?" "Because I see what's happening in this world and I want to help in some way, and feel I have knowledge to contribute." This is then redefined into your own words. "I want to non-judgmentally create a human being to mirror truth of humanity, within the realms of media or stage (Film/TV/Stage), and encourage reflection and a deeper look within the consumer/audience member." This why statement is fluid, but it keeps it far more stable then it would have if I kept "I want to be a lead in a movie" which I absolutely still want.
How do we create progress towards your why?
I've been finding a lot of improvement with small steps, using James Clear's Theory of 1% differences (Atomic Habits). The idea is that every day you need to find something that is a 1% improvement on the day before. When it comes to your craft, how can you align it with this? If you're just starting out, go out and grab the tools necessary, most of the time you don't even need tools to start, and that's something I would actually avoid. Avoid grabbing or waiting for tools. If you can start with what you have, I ask and challenge you to start right away. Don't look at anything else, no other media, no other person who is also practicing, start NOW! This alleviates the analysis paralyses and helps you to step into it and begin as opposed to waiting for your package of tools to arrive. Waiting for the right camera, waiting for that new paintbrush, waiting to lose weight or look a certain way before you take photos. Where you are at this present moment is absolutely capable of beginning, and though it's easier said... No, that's such a superfluous phrase, at this point I wonder if it's easy both ways. I think you know what I was about to say. Just try it, I have complete faith that it's within your ability to make one step towards your goal(s).
My personal steps/my invitation.
So as I was saying in the beginning of this piece, it's been difficult to practice my craft, I don't have any classes around me, nor the funds, I don't really have the actors around me to practice with, but again to quote back from an earlier piece, just before I stated not to wait around for the proper tools. Stop waiting, this is an empty game of cat and mouse, where there was never a mouse to begin with, move on with your life and stop standing by that hole you think the mouse lives in. The fact is, to improve, you have to take actions, actions need to meet either success or failure. Actions need also to meet critique so that your next actions will be an improved collaboration of past and current actions. Begin collecting these actions, and put them up on their feet. Write down and notate.
My plan for myself is this. I myself need to put work on it's feet I have books that I'm reading about acting that I'd like to implement, this means playing around with tools and seeing if it's something that works for me. I am using the 1% process on how I approach this book by adding more and more aspects of this particular technique to my regime of character creation as time goes on. The book I'm reading is called The Power of the Actor (Ivana Chubbuck) so if you'd like to follow along you can pick that book up at your local book shop (uncertain if they might have it but if they do, support your local bookstore!) or amazon, very contrasting ideas within that sentence, but I rec this book regardless. Within the book it describes 12 tools to use for character development, as I'm currently on tool #4 I plan on beginning with what I have. SO! I will be putting a scene on it's feet this Friday using everything I have currently learned. I want to put up a scene a week on tape. Simple recording, simple audition style set up, with a reader, and that might be my parents or siblings, it's just gonna be what it needs to be, either way, I have to learn what works and what doesn't, and I'll never know unless I try. You'll never know unless you try. I will post these recordings of the scenes within a blog post and you are welcome to critique, give notes, or comment your support, just make sure to come from a place of consciousness, and grace. I'm emotionally regulated enough to handle rough comments, but that doesn't necessarily mean I want to.
Throughout this process I invite you to join me, whether that's within your specific craft, or you are also pursuing an acting path. Don't be afraid to share and put stuff out there, it's the first step of being unabashedly you, and the first step to reaching an ability better than where you are now. Improvements will be made, and then we'll be able to let the past stuff go slowly but surely. Cringe at first, feel uncomfortable to change, get ready for uncomfortable growth, it's not going to be easy, it's going to be really scary, let me face the front line with that, I'll be posting my videos here, I'll be posting my own critiques and notes, and I hope that can be a form of inspiration to you to begin creating and crafting and moving forward within your work. I'll see you soon!