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Most famous acting techniques: how actors are getting ready for the new roles

In this article, you will learn about five basic acting techniques and get a couple more tips on how to prepare for your next big role.

Just as any other profession in this world, acting requires training and application of various techniques if you want to reach the stars. You might have heard of Stanislavski or Chekhov, but not realise what these people actually did for the film industry. In this article, you will learn about five basic acting techniques and get a couple more tips on how to prepare for your next big role.

Stanislavski’s system

Stanislavski’s system is a universal acting technique that is based on the theories and philosophies created and developed by Constantin Stanislavski. Professors teaching Stanislavski’s method aim at developing concentration, physical skills, voice, emotion memory, observation, and dramatic analysis of their students. By learning a variety of these parts of a human existence you will be able to try a character, apply him or her to your own life and use your personal feelings and experiences for proper portrayal. The best idea of this technique was said by Stanislavski himself: “Create your own method. Don’t depend slavishly on mine. Make up something that will work for you! But keep breaking traditions, I beg you.”

Chekhov’s acting technique

Michael Chekhov was Stanislavski’s student, but he looked at the portrayal of a character from a different perspective. He taught that an actor needs to focus on the character’s internal problem and then express this issue or struggle through movements. Clint Eastwood and Marilyn Monroe used Chekhov’s technique to live their characters’ lives. They would repeat movements and gestures of their characters to allow their physical memory build their performance on an unconscious level. Once the body remembers proper gestures, any improvisation will come naturally attached to the character.

Strasberg’s acting technique

Lee Strasberg and the members of his Theater Group developed the technique that emphasized the importance of affective memory for an actor. They said that an actor needs to connect to a character through personal emotions and memories. All professors working with the Strasberg’s technique design exercises and workshops to develop students sense memory and affective memory. Actors working with Strasberg’s technique are referred to as “method actors”, they are Jake Gyllenhaal or Jared Leto.

If you would like to work within this framework, you will need to imagine yourself with the thoughts and emotions of your characters in order to develop lifelike performances.

Meisner acting technique

This acting technique is related to the Strasberg’s one, but in this case, an actor focuses not on him- or herself, but completely the acting partner. And by focusing here and now on the partner, an actor gets into the state that the reality is only something that exists in this particular moment. Such technique is used frequently for intimate scenes that require a lot of authenticity. This method and especially exercises for its advancement help get closer to the partner and make the scenes more natural. These are Naomi Watts and Alec Baldwin that employ the Meisner technique.

Practical aesthetics acting technique

David Mamet and William H. Macy are the founders of this acting technique and it’s based on the Stanislavski’s and Meisner’s techniques as well as the philosophy of Epictetus. This technique is based on 4 step-analysis of the situation: 1. A literal description of a situation; 2. Explanation of what one actor wants the other one to do or to say; 3. Understanding of what the character is supposed to do and what the actor will be doing; 4. Implementation of the actor’s personal experience in the situation from point 3.

This method helps an actor go away from the fiction and make the whole scene more truthful. However, in this case, the scene will be based not only on the character’s life and experience but mostly on the actor him- or herself. Felicity Huffman and Clark Gregg are the examples of this technique in action.

Of course, you understand clearly that all five techniques are essential for working over the role and are of great use in different scenes. What you will choose for a particular shooting day is up to you, however generally film investment companies like Red Rock Entertainment explain that they are more likely to sponsor a film with actors juggling all these techniques at once.

Below we also prepared several real-life tips that will help you get ready for the first day of the shooting.

Learn your character

Before you can apply any of the above-mentioned techniques, you need to understand who your character is, what they like, what they hate, whom they love/like and dislike, what they wear, how they talk and move, etc. Think of your character as of an interesting person you need to know best of all. Once you know who you need to transform into, the process will go easier.

Of course, be ready that not everything might be clear from the very beginning. For instance, you might not know what your character’s hobby is, or what’s their political position. In such cases, you have the right to complete them with your own ideas and experiences. However, make sure that you share your groundwork with the director and writers before implementing them into the life.

Get into the skin of your character

Once you learn everything about your character, it’s time to start transition period. Speak in the way your character would, learn their accent, talk to people with the same accent, listen to the audio tracks to master the speech aspect. The same rule applies to the gestures: watch as many videos as possible, talk to the similar personas to get in the right direction.

If you can afford it, move to a place similar to the living conditions of your character. For instance, Robert de Niro moved to Sicilia when he was preparing for “The Godfather: Part II” or he studied the behaviour of the mentally ill people and worked as a taxi driver for a month while preparing for “Taxi Driver.” Adrien Brody sold all his home and car to experience the need, he started starving to feel the despair of not getting any food. Such tortures were needed to play an impeccable character of Władysław Szpilman in “The Pianist.” Both actors received the highest award possible for their efforts – the Oscars.

Stay in the character

To stay in character you need to use all the described above techniques of acting. But here’s a shortlist of essentials for you:

  • When at the set, recollect some similar situation from your memory, remember your feelings and emotions at that moment and live it through again. Keep in mind that microexpressions do count, so think of a particular smell, taste, view, sights, as well as tactile feeling.

  • Instead of recollecting your old memories try to apply your character’s problem or situation to your current love. So replace or substitute your partner with someone from your real life to make emotions feel more natural.

  • Think of the gestures that would fit perfectly into the current scene and situation and use it in the most important moment. By doing so you will also make your whole body work following this little gesture and so making your acting more truthful.

The bottom line is to learn the theory and then apply in your profession. Without any doubts, by only reading this article you won’t learn the craft of acting, but you can become aware of the existing techniques to come prepared for workshops and classes. Learn, act, and transform – this is your motto for the career!

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