“Acting is the most personal of our crafts. The makeup of a human being – his physical, mental and emotional habits – influence his acting to a much greater extent than commonly recognized”
Emotions make up the core components of the method actors instrument.
If you cannot access or identify with your emotions, no tools or level of technique will make you a great method actor. In fact, a great actor must be able to tap into emotions above and beyond their experience level. They must be able to express themselves and their character in a way that will often take them far out of their comfort zone.
In the actor’s attempt to show the human condition, warts and all, he or she must be able to get to grips with the complete wheel of human emotion.
The Wheel Of Emotion
“An actor needs to be able to experience and express at a level that most people cannot do or would not be comfortable with”
As a method actor trying to tap into the emotions of your character, there will be some emotions that you can access easily, while others will less familiar to you. It all depends on your past, your conditioning and your individual habits.
Tuning the key components of your method-acting instrument is about becoming more in-balance with the cross section of emotions, or a perfectly round Wheel of Emotion.
For each emotion on the diagram above, rate yourself out of ten. If you find an emotion easy to express, rate it a ten and draw a line at the appropriate level. At the opposite end, if you think an emotion is totally without the realms of your expression, give it a one.
Do this for each emotion, drawing a line at the correct level for each one. How rounded is your wheel of emotion? If it was the wheel of a car, would the car run smoothly, or would it be a bumpy ride?
Don’t worry if it is all over the place. That is to be expected early on in the process. Part of becoming an accomplished method actor is gradually smoothing out your wheel of emotion over time through practice.
How Can I Practice Emotions?
“Acting can literally save your life”
In modern society, we are very good at bottling up our emotions, often to the detriment of our health. A study by Harvard University, in fact, found that premature death from all causes increases by 35% among those who fail to express their emotions.
Using the Wheel of Emotion, actors can identify the emotions that they keep locked up, and work on letting them out. It can be a long, uncomfortable and challenging process, but you will emerge more accomplished as an actor, and a more rounded human being, by the end.
“Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing students go from emotion suppressers to emotion expressers”
If you would like to know more about the Wheel of Emotion, why not pick up a copy of my new book. If you are looking for more formal training in method acting techniques, we have a range of classes. I’m sure we can find the right one for you!
“Act with your scars”
“Affective memory” technique is probably one of the most well known method acting exercises. It is widely used by Hollywood actors, whose extreme interpretations have been well documented. For some critics, it is genius, for others, dangerous.
‘Affective memory’ is the act of delving into your own past experiences to add truth and humanity to the pain, suffering and fear of a character. It is an extremely effective technique in which actors find a parallel in their own lives with the character arc of the role they are playing.
How Does It Work?
Once you are relaxed, sit in a chair and begin to relive the past experience that you believe will help with your character. Try to remember as many details as possible about the event – Where did it take place? What were you wearing?
Dig deeper, and try to remember the sensory elements of the experience – what did the place look like? What was the weather like? What did the clothes feel like? How did they smell?
It is important that you recreate the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of the event in as much detail as possible.
At this stage, we are not trying to recreate the emotions that you felt at the time. The hope is that by remembering every sensory element about the experience, the same emotions that you felt then will be naturally triggered.
Sometimes the emotions can be quite unexpected. Often they can be disturbing and traumatic.
“I felt very much at home with the sadder side of Tommy, but it’s not a territory I need to dwell in”
Some of the experiences we need to draw on using the “affective memory” technique can be painful. They are also very powerful. This means it’s important to understand how to use the technique in detail. It’s not for dabblers, you need to master the technique to be able to us use it in a safe and effective manner.
Given the powerful effect of reliving traumatic experiences from your past, we recommend exploring ‘affective memory’ for the first time in the secure environment of a method acting class.
Many people think that acting is easy. That anyone could give it a go. This is actually true: anyone can give it a go and it is easy to be bad at acting.
To be a professional actor requires professional training.
Acting is one of the few professions in the world for which many believe that training isn’t required or can be done on the cheap.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Let me put it this way: If you had to have brain surgery and you had the choice between a brain surgeon who had done a professional training or one who had been to a few classes and workshops, who would you choose?
Right, you want the professional guy! Of course you do because he/she is going to be better. They have more knowledge, expertise and techniques under their belt.
Okay, so now imagine a Casting Director who is casting a new BBC programme and they need to get actors who would be right for a particular part. Bear in mind that if they get it wrong, they may not get the next casting job.
They have a choice between someone who has professional Acting School training and one who has done a few acting classes and workshops.
Yes, the outcome is clear. So don’t delude yourself – you need to train professionally and anyone who says otherwise is quite clearly deluded.
So, often I have seen people try to cobble together an ad hoc acting training and fail miserably. The fact is, professional training will lead to better results.
However, training in itself is not enough. I have known actors who have been to the biggest drama schools in the country and do not succeed, and others who went to smaller schools and did succeed. So, why did this happen?
Well, an actor’s success is down to the individual once they get into the industry. The training is there to enable the actor – the rest is then down to their application.
Basically, an actor goes to continuous job interviews. Some they get, some they don’t. The reasons can vary but one thing is certain: the better trained you are and the more optimistic, the better your chances.
Don’t scrimp on your acting training. Get the best you can afford – and if you can’t afford it, save up. It will be worth it in the long run.
If you trained as an accountant, lawyer or brain surgeon you would expect to invest in that training to be the best you can be. The same should be true when you consider training to be a professional actor.
If you just want to do acting as a hobby then a few acting classes here and there is fine and enjoyable. That’s all you need to do. However, if you are serious about becoming a professional actor, then a whole different, more professional, approach is needed.
Are you wondering about how to become an actor? Acting lessons are a crucial starting point. Almost no-one makes it without training and you need to think carefully about the type of training that will help you most. If you don’t do this, you’re making one of the top five biggest mistakes people make when trying to figure out how to become an actor.
- Never rely on talent. What we see as ‘talent’ is the result of hard work and skilful technique. Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep didn’t get to the top of their game by being complacent about their innate abilities. The reality is that our greatest actors have worked on developing their skills and exploring techniques that allow them to produce memorable, moving acting. Luck, innate inability and inspiration from above play little or no part in acting excellence and success.
- Never confuse acting with pretending. Faking it is death to your acting – and your career. The secret of how to become an actor is to understand the difference between natural acting that conveys authentic emotion and forced acting that is about pretence.
- Don’t fool yourself into believing that acting is about becoming your character. You can never be anyone but you – and do you really think you can ‘become’ Joan of Arc, or the Godfather? Acting is about using your own resources and experiences to explore and create a 3D character. It’s not pretending, but it’s not shape-shifting either.
- Shakespeare’s Hamlet famously said ‘the play’s the thing’. The reality of acting is that while the play (or TV or film performance) is the goal, it’s only a part of what an actor does. In fact, acting is a constant learning experience: from acting lessons to learning lines, perfecting accents, auditioning, rehearsing and finding the next role to pay the bills. Don’t let dreams of glory blind you to the never-ending hard graft and intelligent planning ahead that an acting career demands.
- Don’t give up. Acting isn’t a career where you graduate, get a job and everything is rosy. There’ll always be some setbacks and spells of ‘resting’ (unemployment, in other words) until you’re established. Unswerving commitment is a key trait that successful actors all have.
These are things not to do. But there are plenty of proactive things to do when you’re contemplating how to become an actor. Method acting lessons are designed to help you avoid these key mistakes and cultivate the skills you need to do the opposite. Method acting lessons rest on the premise that you can learn the techniques and grow your ability – if you have the commitment and tenacity.
Method actors use techniques and exercises to help them create believable acting that radiates genuine feeling, on cue, every time. This is the goal of acting lessons at Brian Timoney Actors’ Studio, an acting school in London.
The Studio’s acting lessons teach students essential, practical techniques for character creation, rehearsal and performance, as well as auditions. We also help students to plan, manage and launch themselves on an acting career. If you’re looking for an acting school in London, and want to avoid the mistakes that unsuccessful actors make, our Method acting training ticks all the right boxes.
The best actors are those who deliver the most believable and authentic performances. The audience forgets that this is an actor playing the role and is completely convinced by the- character they see before them. This is what real acting is – and it’s much more than just ‘putting on an act’.
How can you become a real actor? The first thing to consider is what acting lessons can give you. It all starts with the training you choose, because no-one today really makes it without classes. Most kinds of acting lessons will help you on the road to an acting career, but you do have options. Choosing your acting lessons carefully is a second step towards creating real acting.
There is one kind of training that is dedicated to helping you do just that. Method acting is the end product of a hundred years of work on refining the actor’s craft. Finding ways to create genuine acting was the life’s work of Lee Strasberg at the Actors’ Studio in New York – and you can use the methods he developed in your own work at an acting school in London.
Step three is to recognise the goal. Real acting is about real emotion. Method acting has been developed to achieve this ultimate goal. Strasberg’s methods centre on techniques and exercises that every actor can cultivate to create the highest quality acting. A Method acting training will teach you to overcome the obstacles to real acting, such as the tension and stage fright that can ruin your performance.
Real acting is the opposite of superficial. Step four is learning how to create your characters from the inside out. Method actors learn how to create three-dimensional characters who can display authentic, persuasive emotion. In acting lessons you will learn memory exercises that will help you to bring your character to life and provide you with techniques to deliver memorable, believable performances on cue, every time.
Most of all, Method acting is about not faking it. The methods of Method acting have been developed over more than seventy years to get past the problem of stagey, forced performances. The audience wants to see the character and feel his or her dilemmas and struggles. They don’t want to see actors pretending to be a character.
The trouble is, the best actor in the world can’t become someone else. You’ll always be you. Your job is to find the resources within yourself, and in your own experience, to bridge that gap. Method acting lessons are not just about producing emotional performances. They will teach you how to use your own resources to produce the right kind of emotion for the role or scene. Real acting is about emotional truthfulness.
There is one acting school in London that specialises in Method acting lessons. The goal of the training at Brian Timoney Actors’ Studio is to give actors practical skills to hone their craft and create the real acting that is at the heart of a successful career.
Auditioning is a craft in itself. Unfortunately, there are many good actors who never see the light of day due to poor audition technique.
The Importance of Rapport
It’s not just about how well you act in the audition room; it’s also about how well liked you are by the people auditioning you.
I had an agent once who said to me;
‘Brian, sometimes it’s whether the auditionees fancy you or not.’
I know it might seem savage, but he did have a valid point.
Let me explain. Someone who auditions well not only has talent but they also have the ability to seduce the audition panel. They know how to get on their right side and make people want to work with them.
This is called building rapport. When you are in rapport with someone, you feel like they are on your wavelength. You like them. The thing is, you can deliberately build rapport with someone through good interview technique. It’s a skill. Something you can develop.
We Like People Like Ourselves
Here is one that you should try out for yourself. You don’t need to go into the audition room either to try this out. You can do this with anyone. It’s called mirroring. Basically, when you are in conversation with someone, start to mirror their body language and vocal tones.
If they cross their legs, you do the same. You wait a second or two after they have done it, then copy them. If they fold their arms, you do the same.
Listen to how they talk. Are they loud and direct or quieter and slower in speech than you? Match your speech with theirs.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘They are going to notice I am doing this.’ Not so. You will be shocked how many people never pick it up. However, their unconscious mind does pick it up and they start to believe you are just like them. We human beings are always on the lookout for people who are similar to us. We like people like ourselves.
Try it out the next time you are out with a friend. You could even tell your friend and practise with each other and see how it feels.
Don’t Say ‘No’
Another useful tip for when you’re in an acting audition is to try to avoid the word ‘No’. When you say no, it is a sort of rejection and brings the conversation to an abrupt halt. If you can, don’t say no and find a way to continue the train of thought.
Obviously, if you have to say no because it’s important in order to be clear, then do so. But practise trying to turn a no into a yes.
Does that sound tricky? Well, here is a short video from a live acting seminar I did on how to not say no in audition. I give you a real example from an audition I did many years ago.
Acting auditions are nerve-racking experiences and any tool you can use to swing the decision your way is worth adopting. Remember: you will be doing the audition panel a favour. They want to like you and give you the part. You will be solving a big problem for them.
The other reason audition panels like to get on with the actors they cast is that you may have to spend a long time working together – and who wants to work with someone who is a pain? Much better to cast someone who is similar to you.
Want more useful audition advice? Why not sign up for one of my method acting courses?