The actor who books the role is the one who brings their most interesting, insightful and dynamic qualities to the words on the page. Discovering these qualities requires looking deeply in to your mind, heart, and body. Whether it’s for a particular role, or to widen your range of choices, exploration of the specificities of your internal life is key to finding out what separates you from everyone else and, as such, is necessary to the success of the television/film actor.
To assist you in getting the most out of your exploration, here are the first four steps of a process I created that has helped many of the actors, athletes, dancers, and corporate clients that I coach. It is designed to prime your mind, body, heart, and spirit so you can have the clearest, most unfiltered look at what makes you you.
1. Relax the mind. Your brain has thousands of functions. For the purpose of exploration you only need your mind to quiet down, be relaxed, focused, and receptive. Start the relaxation process by closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. Take 10 deep breaths from the stomach, exhaling very slowly and calmly. Repeat this sequence taking the next 10 breaths from your chest. On the next 10 breaths, keep your attention on the tip of the nostrils. Feel the air coming in and out of this very specific spot. This not only relaxes you, but is a great way to increase your focus.
Now, open your eyes. Simply sit and take in any of the sights in your range of vision. Listen to all the sounds, and feel the temperature of the air on your body. Don’t try to change anything—just relax and be aware of everything around you just as it is.
Your mind should be starting to relax and focus, and your senses beginning to open so that you will be able to experience fully whatever comes up during your exploration, without your mind judging the experience or editing the content.
2. Open the heart. While you’re sitting in calm and focused awareness of everything around you, see if you can generate a feeling of gratitude.
Start with being grateful for your breath, and your ability to see hear, smell, taste, see, and feel. Move on and feel grateful for the thoughts and feelings that are starting to arise. Extend the gratitude to all of the experiences and people that brought those thoughts and feelings into your consciousness. Now go even further and feel gratitude for all of the experiences you’ve been through, and the people you’ve known—all have played a part in making you who you are—thank them for that. Finally be grateful for everything and anything that you learn about yourself during your exploration.
Gratitude is one of the most effective and gentlest ways to open the heart. It also works to expand the heart, creating space to hold anything that may come up in your exploration with compassionate acceptance.
3. Energize the body. Every emotion you experience has a corresponding physical sensation. Tuning in and getting to know those sensations can bring untold richness to your work.
During periods of emotional exploration, you want the body to be in a state of alert restfulness—not too energized, but not too sleepy. The key to achieving this state is awareness of what the body needs to get it there. Do you need to stretch, get up and run, do yoga, lift weights? When you are doing your breathing and gratitude exercises keep in tune with what is going on in the body and make the adjustments necessary to achieve the state of alert restfulness. Just a little bit of awareness will help you see what the body needs in order to achieve the balance it needs to be sharp and receptive.
4. Be kind. Exploration is of no value if it becomes just another way for you to judge and punish yourself. This work is not about self improvement, it’s about self awareness—discovering and examining your thoughts and feelings just as they are.
You possess a wide variety of qualities—try not to judge them as good or bad, but rather just qualities. Judgment cuts off your access. You might find that you want to hide the parts of you judged as “bad.” But, exploration is a process of expansion, not contraction, so treat everything you find with kindness and acceptance.
We are often our own worst enemy, but if we are to expand as people and as artists, we need to be our own best friend—understanding, encouraging, compassionate and supportive of all parts of ourselves.
Gentleness yields insight. Harshness shuts us down.
Exploration of the internal landscape is exhilarating and necessary work for an actor. Greatness can be achieved by the knowledge gained through these journeys of self-exploration, but the effectiveness of the journey is dependent on a clear sense of purpose and a strong start. I hope these first steps help you begin your journey inward with a relaxed mind, receptive body, and a kind and open heart.
Craig Wallace is the creator and award-winning teacher of The Wallace Audition Technique, an audition preparation system that he developed based on his years of experience as a studio executive, talent agent and casting consultant. In his 14 years of teaching, he has seen the careers of hundreds of his students take off. He is also the author of the best-selling book, “The Best of You – Winning Auditions Your Way.”
Craig is currently teaching his audition technique classes and his Meditation for Actors classes in Santa Monica, CA. For more information visit www.wallaceauditiontechnique.com.