On Selfindulgence

When you are working with the private elements of your acting technique as we have been doing in these last few chapters, it's very important to steer away from being self-indulgent and self-involved. Although you're using many private aspects of yourself, the work isn't really about you, it's about the script. Many of the exercises are just that, a means to an end. That end is the character within the screenplay. At every step along the way, always refer back to the script. When you are working, everything you do must fly on the wings of the script; to do otherwise is not artistry. As you work, you develop an intuitive use of self that translates into the universal human experience.

If you are teaching a group, then it is your responsibility as a teacher to make sure that your students' work doesn't become too self-indulgent and that they don't start spinning tricks just to please you and their fellow students. When I do an exercise like the Zoo Story/Place exercise, I have everyone working at the same time to discourage the tendency to want to perform and entertain. I watch the groups rehearsing and listen to what they are doing. I'll ask questions and guide them to get their imaginations working more fully. I'll even have everyone stay in the spaces that they have been rehearsing in, and we'll go around the class, each pair taking their turn doing the work that they have prepared, while the other groups watch from their various points around the room. This seems to enhance the 360-degree feeling to the pairs and prepares the actors for a film set, where they might very well be surrounded by the crew and the other members of the cast. The classroom is a perfect atmosphere for creating public privacy, since we're all in it together, just like on a film set. As the ^ groups gain more and more confidence in their imaginary reality and the « spheres of public privacy surrounding them, I separate the group into ^ audience and performer and have each group go up and present the work "5 that they have done on the scene. For the purpose of creating imaginary g reality, I never mind if all they can accomplish is a few minutes of crea- | ting the space together and a few lines of the text. I am happier with that £

than if they sail through the scene and haven't created anything uniquely private at all.

Of course, the arena of a classroom and the arena of the real world are two completely different ball games. As a teacher or as a student, there is no better way to test and further develop what you have learned than by entering into the real world of filmmaking. The next section of this book will attempt to help you cope as an actor, as you begin to make your way into that labyrinth of exciting and variable possibilities.

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