How Intimacy Is Essential to Acting

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Photo Source: Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Why talk about intimacy? Well, let’s break it down. Handsome, pretty, charming, funnynone of it matters if the actor empowering the character isn’t interesting. The actor must be interesting! Otherwise, why are we watching? Ultimately, intimacy strengthens relationships and creates interest that people are willing to pay a lot of money to watch. Sadly, shared intimacy is by no means an easy thing to create, especially with total strangers. For you, the actor, these intimate moments must be shared while an audience or camera is watching.

While there are numerous obstacles that keep people from obtaining their goals, over the years working as an empowerment coach I’ve seen time and again that intimacy, or lack thereof, plays a significant part in holding you back. The word intimacy is often misunderstood and commonly associated with things of a close, personal or sexual nature. Because of this, it’s often thought that intimacy isn’t something you share with anyone other than someone very special to you. In the “regular” world, this may be true, but for the actor, no way! Thinking like this will not only smother your acting but can negatively impact your personal life. You may not realize you have an issue with intimacy until you’re confronted with an opportunity to step outside your emotional comfort zone into a situation where you’re not in full control. Meaning, you’re sharing the experience with someone other than just yourself.

In effective scene work, story comes out of relationship and interpersonal relationship is largely determined by its level of intimacy. It’s in these situations where you really get to see how awkward you can become. Your ability to exercise intimacy can be equated to the development of any skill or the building of a muscle. You need to isolate it and work it out. You must exercise often for proper growth and performance.

So, what exactly is intimacy? Intimacy can be a lot of things like sitting quietly alone, an embrace, a kiss, or looking deeply into someone’s eyes. Intimacy can also be an aggressive argument, a push or shove, or even a full-blown fight. So how can two opposite behaviors be the same thing? Intimacy is experiencing a close familiarity with another person, place, or thing, accompanied by a sense of complete freedom. I personally explain intimacy to my clients and students as allowing someone else to see deeper into you and when the other person allows you to see deeper into them, we call this getting intimate or experiencing intimacy. In order to be intimate, you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable. Personal guards must be let down, allowing inner truth and humanity to become accessible. Where this is dangerous in the “real” world, it’s imperative in the acting world!

Here’s a look at some of the different categories of intimacy. Where much of this can be subjective, it will give you a clearer understanding of what it means to be intimate:

Emotional Intimacy
Think of this as a “heart” connection. It’s when you experience shared feelings of closeness through relational connections. It’s being truthful and becoming vulnerable.

READ: How to Become an Actor

Intellectual Intimacy
This is when you bond with someone over things you think and care about, that you relate to and share together. Positively or negatively. The terms mutual understanding or like-mindedness may come to mind, even if the thinking is diametrically opposed.

Physical Intimacy
As mentioned, it can be sexual but not always and it’s not limited to sex. Just as all sex is not intimate. Physical intimacy is close personal contact, whether kind and loving, or mean and aggressive. It’s anytime you make physical contact with someone.

Experiential Intimacy
This is connecting through doing things together or the bonding that comes from simply talking about or relating to similar experiences.

Spiritual Intimacy
It’s not only connecting with someone else on “God” matters, but also on issues of the heart, dreams, and things of a more personal, esoteric nature. Although not exactly the same thing, spiritual intimacy can also be associated with soul intimacy.

Soul Intimacy
This is when all of the categories above (and more) come together! Think soulmate! This is often what’s being looked for in chemistry reads.

Professional Intimacy
I coined this phrase years ago to help actors not only overcome obstacles and barriers in their scenes but also to keep the acting work from becoming overly gratuitous or violating. This way a working actor can let down their moral guards (the protectors that work for them as survival mechanisms in “real life”), and in the “created life” of the scene, they flat-out become the character. Think: this is who I play, not who I am. 

Intimacy is imperative for the powerful conveyance of truth and truth is demanded in powerful scenes. However, keep in mind that it’s impossible to be more intimate (and vulnerable) with someone else than you’re able to be with yourself. So, find a safe place and continue working it out! A good acting studio should provide you with that.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Clay Banks
Clay Banks is a former Fortune 500 business and life empowerment coach. After a successful eighteen-year acting career, he founded Clay Banks Productions & Studio International (CBSI) where he’s the head coach and offers ongoing on-camera acting classes. Clay is also a recurring Master Coach at SAG-AFTRA Headquarters as well as a regular guest Master Class Auditioning Coach with the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Hollywood.
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