Live in the moment.
What does that mean for an actor?
It does not mean you do not have to act.
It can mean know what is going on inside your character, and live it with them.
Do not pretend.
Actors are not playing or pretending or presenting. We are part of the fabric of a greater story on stage, on film, on video or in roleplaying at conventions, events and in life.
We are not pretending, playing or performing or presenting in the sense the audience perceives it. We are a part of the experience the audience has been let in through the door or our and their imagination, the suspension of disbelief, the escape or adventure or emotional purging of events and stories.
So how do you live it in the moment?
First, know the moment in relation to who you are.
Who is this character? What has happened before the scene started, what happens in the scene and what continues on after? Go back to a full character history if you have the time, full break down of who they are and make them who they are. Simply think about the moment before, where is their state of mind at the start and why?
Where is the character in time, the space they are in, their relationship to the space (comfortable, uncertain, new, home, threatening and so on)?
What is their relationship, if any, feelings about, initial impressions of, attitudes toward other characters in the scene, the dialogue and/or the overall story?
When they look around, what is the subtext, the thoughts and unspoken words under what they are physically showing the audience?
When they interact with other characters what do they really mean, not the dialogue, but what they are thinking? The deeper you go, the more complex and real the thoughts.
Now the hard part.
Do not telegraph or perform your subtext or any of the discoveries discussed above.
Theater, film, video and other forms of acting differ slightly on this, the hardest step, but they all involve mastering it.
Just be the character.
Let your “homework” as described above simply be a part of you.
Never, unless directed or blocked to do so, indicate or fake any emotion, action or character trait (the exception being “business” which will be discussed another time). Even if it is in the script, it is a suggestion or a recorded record of what they Broadway or final motion picture actor choose to do. You are you, and your character, built from the ground up, the is one you created based on you own self-knowledge, your research, your skills, your knowledge of the craft and your talent.
On camera you do not have to do anything except feel comfortable and be in the full character. You face, your eyes, your thoughts will be there for an audience to interpret and use as best fits their needs at that point in following the story and your role in the story.
An important additional note…
We are presenting real life, on stage or on camera. Techinques may differ, but remember that in real life we do not have affected reactions but effected reactions. Both involve our reaction to outside forces, but the second is a verb, an action. We react as the character would, in an active way. Sometimes the active way is shock, and we show no emotion. Other times it may be flight or fight. Not all people react the same way to stimulus.
Understand the scene and the character and the choice will be clear.
While we do need to prepare and know where we are in a script and story line, often shot out of sequence, we need to be real whenever the camera rolls or the an audience sees us.
You are living in the now, with no advance knowledge of the near or long term future for your character or the story line.
All dialogue, action and thought are in reaction to internal and external forces at the time. Take the time to react.
Acting is reacting.
But that is another blog posting.
Until them…remember to live in the moment.
In life, and as an actor.
Art Lynch Coaching / Art Lynch Acting Studio