By Master Acting Teacher ~ Diane Christiansen
Why did you become an actor? This is the all-important question. It is a question worth revisiting from time to time in order to remind ourselves of our purpose as actors. We do not do this for fame or fortune, for acknowledgment or accolades, or for other people. We just want to be great actors. Of course we all know great acting when we see it, but what does it mean to be a great actor? And no, you’re not allowed to just shout out, “Meryl Streep,” without thinking about it! A great teacher and casting director once told me that the best performances boil down to two simple questions: “Do I believe this person?” and “Do I care?” Be sincere and be committed. That’s it. Simple enough to understand, but not so easy to deliver. In order to deliver greatness, we must dedicate ourselves to the process of accomplishing sincerity and commitment in every performance, as well as in every day of our lives. One without the other will invariably fall short of the mark. Imagine believing an actor’s performance, but not being moved in any way. Perhaps the level of commitment to a chosen action is not strong enough to stir your emotion. Alternately, imagine it’s not for lack of a strong or committed choice that the performance falls flat, but rather lack of sincerity in that choice. Perhaps the action is forced and contrived instead of occurring organically in the moment.
Naturally, it’s easy to talk about the importance of sincerity and commitment in our work, but these tasks become especially difficult to accomplish given the fabricated worlds we live in on a set or on a stage. Well my friends, here is the Holy Grail: We want to do great work and to be great actors, but focusing solely on being great is missing the mark. The process is the prize. Greatness is merely the product of faithful dedication to process. Falling in love with the process is like choosing to do long division over rote memorization or using a calculator. It’s more challenging, but you can clearly tell whether a person really knows what they’re doing. Like watching Meryl Streep. So if you want to be great, then forget about greatness and dedicate yourself to the process of being sincere and committed in every role. Do the work it takes to get you there. Research. Train. Feel. Observe. Study. Practice. Recall. Experience. Develop a process that works for you so that you may fall in love with it, and in so doing, discover your own greatness.