I often encourage actors to “leave it alone” in moments. Especially when you’re working on camera – if you push, we’ll know. But on the flip side, it can feel scary not to push when you are not yet accustomed to the feeling of letting go. Aren’t I doing too little? Isn’t this boring?
The key is all the work you do beforehand. Yes, it’s true that if you don’t prep and then leave yourself completely alone the performance might feel flat. There won’t be anything going on underneath. So how do you make sure you’re cooking with gas under the surface even as you surrender and let go? Check out this class clip to hear a few ideas. (And if you’re needing more, check out this previous post about not being boring!)
CLASS CLIP TRANSCRIPTION
Sarah: Some actors get confused like you’re trying to then substitute the person, your real life person, for the person in the scene, and I don’t think that’s helpful. I think it’s good to prepare with your understanding of it, so you can get that essence of like, okay that stuff is stirring, I remember what that felt like, you know.
Sarah: There was, like, certain songs that I used to use when I had to do scenes like that, songs that were really good for me. I had like, I literally had, this is very like share-y, but I had an old cologne bottle of my ex-boyfriend’s cologne that he had left when we broke up, and I saved it. It had like four sprays left, but I could just smell the cap of it and it was so like…it was all I needed sometimes, just to be like, got it. You know? Those little things that you kind of collect. Songs, images, memories, photographs, smells. You know, those things that just, boom, we’re right there. And it’s not even like a picture, it’s just a gut feeling.
And then you go into the scene and you can put all your attention, and then you can let go. If you leave yourself alone but there’s nothing underneath it, it looks flat. And that’s the thing that actors don’t get is that, like sometimes they’re afraid of being boring, being boring and uninteresting and like no choices, like they’re making no choices. But really, the work is releasing so that the stuff you built can actually come through. When you tense it, you’re literally shutting off, you’re shutting yourself off from being the channel of communicating all that stuff.
Right, again, it’s like the fireside Timothée Chalamet, you know, it always comes back to that. The three takes of Timothée Chalament in front of the fire. There’s no pushed-ness there, but there’s so much happening, there’s so much life inside, because it’s so specific to him.