The Objective is one of the most important power tools for an actor because it provides a starting point in the analyzing stage of any scene.
So what is the actual definition of “the objective”?
Every character is attempting to “get” something in every script and play. It may be love, a job, recognition, money, respect, sex, attention; this list can go on and on. However, it is important for the actor to figure out and articulate what the character you will be portraying wants and/or needs, and what is worth fighting for.
The objective supports the dynamics in any and all scenes, be it drama or comedy. If no one wants anything or needs anything in a scene, if nothing is at stake, the acting becomes uninteresting to watch. All drama and comedy is based on conflict.
“We are captivated by a struggle. We are captivated when watching a game that has two strong opponents.” – Acting with Impact
Think of a boxing match. If neither fighter wants to win the match it would be a silly and uneventful spar. But if both of their objectives were to let the other guy win, that would be an objective. And if they really played with that intention, because it is unexpected in a normal boxing match, the audience might even find it funny because they are taking great risks to lose instead of win. However, if they enter the rink with no need to win or lose, nothing at stake in fighting, no sense of competition, eventually the onlookers will lose interest in the fight.
Life is about going after a goal—a want, a need, something worth fighting for… some people want a family, others a career, and some both. Some are fighting for better health, some for a better day job. We all want, and because of our want, we feel emotion. When we feel we are winning in life, we feel happier than when we feel we are losing in life our objective. Interestingly, the Objective gives us many life lessons on how we experience our journey.
If we don’t have an objective in life, we may feel lost and without direction. This is also true in acting. If you discover that you feel a bit lost or without direction in a scene or cold reading, discover the character’s objective you are playing and play their objective with all of your heart. This will give your acting a point of reference of the character you are playing and support your commitment to live into their world.
Here are some fun exercises that will serve your ability to utilize the objective:
Watch a film, play or TV show with attention on what the main characters want. Ask yourself “what do they want?” Try to articulate their objectives in terms that allow you to visualize what it might look like if they did receive and win their objectives. And take note of their emotional life and notice how they feel by whether or not they are getting closer to what they want.
Also, take a moment to look into your own life to decide what you want and what you are willing to fight for, what’s at stake for you in your life. Perhaps you are looking for a breakthrough in your acting skill, or a chance to audition for a certain casting director, or you may want to book a job with a specific director, or you may have a love interest. Take note of your desire, your actions, and the risks you take to get it. Now, knowing that every character cares as much about their objective as you do about your own, play the character’s scene objective with that much commitment. Be compassionate to the hunger that lives in any character to get what they desire.
Your acting will always be enriched when you effectively take the risks that surrender your own desire to be great, and instead play the character’s desire to win their goal. One can never watch themselves in the work when playing the character’s objective with true intention.
Be strong, believe and live authentically,
For a more complete lesson on the objective, please check out my book, Acting with Impact: Power Tools to Ignite the Actor’s Performance.