An authentic performance is an oft chased, rarely achieved goal of an actor. The differences between a perfectly acceptable delivery and a truly authentic one are hard to define, you just kind of feel it when it’s right, both as the actor and the audience. So how is that elusive state achieved?
The answer to this million dollar question is as complicated as trying to define the goal itself. Many have tried to capture a lightning-in-a-bottle technique that will apply to actors of all type at the flick of a switch – Stanislavski, Meisner, Hagen, Spolin etc…
So which is it?
The answer, frustratingly, will be unique to you.
How do you think? How do you create? How do you emote? Are you reactive? Are you a visual thinker? Does sound or music move you? Are you able to recreate past experiences in your mind, without causing renewed trauma? Is physical repetition of movement freeing or maddening? Are you empathetic? Does how you look or dress inform your mood/emotional state?…
One of the most effective ways that I’ve found to unlock a true performance is to figure out how the individual actor’s brain operates. Once you have that information you can use technique to trick the mind into experiencing something that isn’t actually occurring, or as Meisner defined: “living truthfully in imaginary circumstances.”
In voiceover we can become obsessed with the sound of our performances. This is akin to an on-camera actor focusing on what their face is doing.
Try not to think about the sound of your voice, the specs, or even the client when you’re delivering copy. Before you utter a single word, spend an extra few minutes deciding who this person is, what they are trying to say, who they are speaking to, and where they are. That time in advance of your read gives you the freedom to be in-the-moment, allowing an authentic performance to flow out.
To get to that place you may need additional stimuli – maybe it’s music, a quiet moment to relive a past experience in your mind, wearing an item of clothing… if it can help you get there in a safe manner that doesn’t disrupt others, then that’s what you need to do.
I would suggest investigating these long established and highly respected acting philosophies for clues into a process that works for you:
- Stanislavski Method.
- Classical Acting Technique.
- Method Acting Technique.
- Meisner Technique.
- Chekhov Technique.
- Practical Aesthetics Acting Technique.
- Uta Hagen Technique.
- Viola Spolin Technique.
There are ideas and practices in all of these techniques that bring great value to actors. You may find one that perfectly fits, or you might combine various elements in a way that works best.
“But Jamie, how do I do that in a session with a client? Won’t they think it’s weird that I’m clanging a bell and screaming before every take?”
Well yes, that could be a little weird in a session. However, repeatedly getting into that authentic state through practice forges strong, mental connections. The ability to drop in and out of it becomes a little easier as time passes, to the point that ultimately you won’t need a crutch to get you there.
The first step though is to get ‘there’, and this is the roadmap to that place.
I hope that helps!