Listen…… I revere the actor.
I love the actor.
I am, and always will be, awe-struck by the actor.
If you observe an actor in process, preparing for a role on stage or screen; or if you have the rare and extraordinary privilege of working with one of them, you will know how strange they can be. Their grasp on reality can be tenuous, at best. They are "intense". Oddly enough most of them, though they display their emotional landscapes for all the world to see on stage or screen, are withdrawn and introverted “in real life”. They are invariably obsessive; the craft demands it. Where else does one engage in repetitive actions, in such minutiae, just to give truth to a life-like moment? A moment that might span a few seconds. Those few seconds, however, can touch a spectator for hours, perhaps weeks and even years afterwards.
There is no discernment in my adoration of the actor. It is enough for a person to say: “I am an actor” and my being responds with a peculiar kind of awakening. And so it is when I coach actors, or direct them or cast them in movies. As they enter – or attempt to enter – into their performance, I step into it with them. Alert. Focussed. My senses unfurl inwardly to pick up the subtle and profound resonances that bespeak the actor.
Yes. I love the actor.
One most resounding truth about the actor on camera is this: the actor who is most still and receptive, present and open, is the actor that arrests the camera and viewer most powerfully. Unfailingly. There must be a willingness to surrender, a sense of loss to self, in order for the camera to fully engage and capture the actor. “Camera is King!”, I tell my pre-teen actors and immediately, with child-like glee, they submit themselves to said King, allowing it to gaze at them impartially while they enter into the rigours of their make-belief world. A world unimpeded by judgment, doubt or responsibility. “The Camera is King”, I say to my adult actors and they are fearful, doubtful, even suspicious for a second; the self resisting sovereignty to an instrument of scrutiny that they secretly fear or loathe.(This too is a strange actor contradiction, loving and hating the camera at one and the same time.)
It is the act of authentic listening that subtly and powerfully alters the actor. The actor who is authentically present to the act of listening, is the most effective and powerful actor on camera every time. It is this act, requiring inner stillness, that seems to confound many actors. This then, is a dying art; the exquisite art of listening. Listening in order to take, and then to give. How many dances, in real life, are born out of that simple dynamic: giving and taking. It is odd to see actors trying to listening, or worst still, acting listening. Acting listening creates a sort of cartoon-self to this casting director’s eye. It looks like someone who is listening purely for the purpose of knowing when it is their turn to speak. They are listening for a ‘cue’ (verbal or non-verbal) that says: “I’m done, your turn!”. I see many actors who do not even react to what they claim to be listening to. They simply speak because it is ‘my turn to speak’; their desperation for utterance thinly veiled. Such listeners may as well be texting while you talk to them, such is their (in)sensitivity to all that is going on around them. These actors miss the opportunity to react to the constantly unfolding moments of stimuli impacting their senses.
I find little in the world more fulfilling than being still, and listening, with my entire being to all that is continually unfolding before me.