Skills: Competence vs. excellence

My current hypothesis is that people who master the competency skills are capable and qualified to get a job and do the job. People who master the excellency skills are the ones who actually GET a job.

Skills for competency

  • Performing accurately. This means getting your lines and your blocking and any other technical stuff right. It also means that your actions and expressions are appropriate for the scene.
    • I’m doing alright with memorization, but haven’t been super methodical with experimentation.
      • Anthony Hopkins apparently reads a script 200 times BEFORE he begins to ‘work’ on it. Memorization and familiarity with the script is pre-work.
    • Meisner has helped me prepare appropriate emotions. I’m definitely still a novice, though.
  • Performing naturally. This means knowing your part so well you don’t lose character or lose your place in the scene.
    • This comes from rehearsal, I think.
  • Perform consistently. Every take should be just as good as the last.
  • Listen to / connect with your scene partner. In contrast to, ‘wait for their lips to stop moving so you can say your line.’ The best way I know to rephrase ‘listen to your partner’ is to say, ‘let your partner’s words and actions affect you and produce a response.’
  • Be present / focus / live in the moment. The opposite of presence would be to think about the lines that are coming up, to anticipate future actions, or to think about something outside the world of the play.
    • Meisner’s repetition exercises have helped me with this. Meditation, too.
  • Have sufficiently high stakes. This relates to the frequently used term ‘stakes’ and Ivana Chubbuck’s will to win. I have to actually care about my objective, and care enough that the audience will care, too. And I need to believe I stand a chance so the audience will root for me, want to watch me pursue my objective, and leave feeling challenged, even if I fail.
  • Commit. You are your character. Lose the self-consciousness and the half-way performance. That’s kid stuff. For goodness sake, believe in what you’re doing. People should say, “Oh my gosh! He’s actually a sea lion. Like he actually believes he’s a sea lion!” Assuming you’re playing a sea lion.
  • Be easy to work with, encouraging, enthusiastic, and fun on and off the set. Basic professionalism. Don’t be a diva. Embrace your eccentricities but don’t let them get in the way of selflessness or collaboration.
  • Bring your A game every time all the time. Step on set already warmed up and primed for the best performance of your life. Prepare for and discuss your role before the cameras roll, not after ‘money time’ starts.


Skills for excellence

  • Fill the room. That undefinable aura. That sense of leadership.
  • Make bold choices. Develop your character in ways that are unforgettable. The director may have a mental image of what she wants before she auditions you. You have to prepare something that will make her say, “Holy crap! That was so much more amazing / powerful / meaningful than what I had in mind!”
  • All the technical stuff that I’m not aware of. You know where the camera and lights are at all times and move accordingly. You know how to position and reposition yourself to preserve continuity and make the editor’s life easier. And all this comes naturally.
  • Treat each person you interact with like they’re the most important person you’ll meet today.
  • Bring relaxed, focused, joy. That attitude that inspires others, and makes them feel welcome and at home. The combination of those three items might be a good synonym for confidence. Thanks Jim Nieb of Playhouse West for that one.

What would you add? Remove?

  • Connie Sechrist — a working actor!!! — adds the following: “free yourself from all insecurities. In order to truly be present in your role, the story and to connect with others and yourself you need to drop everything and be vulnerable. This is the hardest thing to do, but the most important. Second, be a team player. Accept constructive criticism with open arms. Work together instead of competing against each other. Give not take. Expect nothing in return and appreciate everything. Look for the good in the bad and never stop growing and learning.”
  • Martin Burke, a writer and actor, says, “100% yourself. Meisner said that acting is being truthful in imaginary circumstances. If you are not totally being yourself, you will not be being truthful.”

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