A long time ago I decided I wanted to be an actor. I absolutely loved acting because it felt like escaping to another world, another world where I felt free, where the stresses of my life were forgotten about, where I could do what I do best – create.
Prepping & Priming
The first performance I did where I genuinely “felt something” I was aged 15. I shocked myself but was on cloud 9. Little did I know back then that I’d naturally used The Method. I couldn’t stop talking about how I’d truly lived in the moment, to the annoyance of my friends.
My school friends didn’t want to be actors so couldn’t understand why I was rabbiting on about my performance, but acting was (still is) what I lived for. I felt complete and my heart sang when creating a role and performing.
It was my GCSE drama exam and I’d had the most supportive and kind teacher who knew how to get the best out of me, she was more than a teacher – a mentor. My friends and I had written a short piece of theatre based on the experiences of three girls in world war two. Our amazing teacher had helped us develop our characters and even took us to visit her neighbours Anderson shelter. Whilst we sat in it she played the sound of the air raid sirens, which made my imagination jump for joy.
I counted down the days to drama on Thursday afternoons like a child at Christmas with their advent calendar.
Come exam day I was nervous but my teacher/mentor, who I still credit as one of my biggest acting inspirations, had primed and prepped me so thoroughly for my role that when we began I completely forgot I was in a rotten old, smelly school hall, with a battered old doll for a baby sister and my class mates watching. I was in World War 2 and I could smell the atmosphere, see our house and hear the bombs dropping, it was a visceral experience. I felt vulnerable, alone, scared to death and a huge connection to this battered old doll who had become my little sister.
The music faded and my teacher threw her arms around me. “That was the best acting I have ever seen come out of this school”. I couldn’t believe it, I was in total shock that my imagination had truly believed the story and that I’d lived through it. Little did I know back then as a shy 15 year old that I’d used two very important method acting techniques and was able to do that because I’d prepared well through my mentor.
Fast forward a few years
Now I was at drama school and I couldn’t act, I was scared stiff and too afraid of what others thought to give myself the opportunity to act truthully. My imagination was drowning and my acting talent shriveling up like a wilted flower, all the while my mind monkey’s were having the time of their life.
No matter what I did I couldn’t get past these thoughts and I developed a LOT of bad acting habits. The reports I received after my performances were heart-breaking. My self-sabotaging thoughts were killing any creativity I had and I considered quitting acting, but each time I had that thought I knew deep down in my heart that’s not what I wanted to do. I had to over come this and I had no idea how. My confidence was at an all time low.
Working with The Method
I decided quitting wasn’t an option, I needed to overcome this fear and I wanted to start owning my craft, so I enrolled in further acting classes after drama school because I figured that learning is a lifelong journey and it didn’t matter about working because my craft wasn’t in check.
Nothing was tasty enough, every acting class I tried was mediocre, they would skirt over everything and do the same old stuff that kept me stuck. I’d got my confidence back but the bad habits were so damn difficult to shake off… until I discovered The Method, and this is where my love affair with it began…
Now I was working on a much deeper level, now I was given tools and techniques that others had struggled to find for me – to help me undo my bad habits, it was so thorough. I was beginning to understand what the human condition was all about, that’s what acting’s all about isn’t it? Only this time I could apply what I was being taught to each role and keep developing.
I was building up my wall of talent brick by brick and it felt great. I was able to offer so much more to each role and it was getting noticed.
So I took it one step further and took extra training at the very same studio Lee Strasberg had began training actors at, I was taught by those who had worked in Hollywood and on Broadway, I was taught by those who were just as passionate about the craft as I am. Working with The Method was like finding the missing piece of my jigsaw.
How to develop your talent with The Method
You may have noticed a pattern – when my soul was being fed and my imagination stimulated the mind monkeys (self-sabotage) disappeared, and that really is the key to killing those little buggers off, so here is how to develop your talent with The Method.
- Get in control of your mind – Lee Strasberg noted that many of the actors problems are nothing to do with acting but with their personal problems, like mine.
- Prepare well – which means priming your imagination.The aim of the method is to have conscious preparation but unconscious results.
- Relax – tension is the occupational disease of the actor as Lee Strasberg discovered (and I can vouch for). When you are not relaxed you work from your unconscious DEFAULT SETTING, with your bad habits playing lead role and your creative impulses tantruming because they’re not being heard. You go back to what is easiest but it’s not always the most effective.
- Understand your current bad habits – if you are aware of them you can then begin releasing them. When you get deep into The Method you will be given techniques that work specifically for you to replace your bad habits.
- Make the role personal – how do YOU relate to this role and if you don’t how COULD you relate to the role?
- Focus on behaviour – behaviour always trumps emotions. Begin by people watching so you can fill up your tool kit and transfer this to your next role.
- Be disciplined – The Method will show up flaws in an instant if you aren’t disciplined. Acting is a craft, to be learnt by those disciplined enough to want to become masters of it.
- Keep learning – perfecting your craft isn’t an instant coffee; one cup and you’re a world class actor, it can take years. Working with The Method is worth it because once the penny drops you’ll feel rich.
If you want to make a start with resolving your bad acting habits and are ready to delve deep into The Method to find your missing piece in the jigsaw you can apply here for our Autumn 12 week method acting programme, or if you need something to ease you in, you can apply here for our Weekend Method Acting Training Camp, which gets you familiar with the basics of The Method.
Have you ever felt similar to how I felt or had struggles with your craft? Let me know in the comments box below, I love to hear from you.
Here’s to your success!
Don’t give up, just keep learning
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If you found these tips useful, you can grab yourself more tips completely FREE. Louise O’Leary is a professional actress, method acting coach and Artistic Director of StandBy Method Acting Studio. Her mission is to help as many actors as she can achieve their acting dreams and become the best actor they can be. Join the hundreds of actors around the world who have downloaded her eBook “Respect your craft, discover my top 45 method acting secrets to launch your career“. Download here and be on your way to acting success today!
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