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Intentional Acting Tips: Are you Holding Back?

February 18, 2015

Are you Holding Back?  Follow Your Instincts!
By Loren Chadima, Acting Coach

Many times when I’m working with an actor on a scene and I feel they are holding back, they tell me they don’t want to be too _________ (fill in the blank) -- too big, too loud, too sexy, too…. many things.  But really what they are holding back from is following their instincts.

Often this “holding back” is because a director or teacher gave them that note for a different performance in the past.  Don’t generalize your notes from a director or teacher and bring them forward. At least run these old notes by your current teacher and get his/her feedback.

When it comes to acting one of the most frequent questions I’m asked is what it takes to replicate great performances. My answer is “Know your Intention”.  But what exactly does this mean?

When I trained at Trinity Rep Conservatory, I studied all the major acting techniques: Stanislavski, Method, Meisner, Stella Adler, Spolin, Suzuki and the Viewpoints. But still I wasn’t exactly sure how to prepare the moment before I walked on stage.

Getting in the Zone

Once on stage, the feeling of being in what many call the “Zone,” or “dropped in,” “channeling,” “present” or whatever you want to call it was elusive.  When I was in the “Zone,” I wasn’t sure what I did to make it happen or how to get that feeling to happen again.

After performing I could tell you how I felt, but it sometimes differed from what the person watching me experienced. I had an idea of why my performance did or didn’t feel good but getting into that “zone” seemed dependent on a lucky day. After all, for me, and I’m sure it’s probably true for you, the feeling of performing in “the Zone” is addictive and what keeps me always wanting to act.

As a Coach and a Teacher, I wanted to teach a technique that, when applied, consistently created natural, compelling, “Zone” performances.  I noticed that when I asked an actor the nine questions that form Intentional Acting, that they: consistently gave strong performances that felt easy and fun; they were in the “Zone” more often;  the actor could discuss how they achieved that performance with clarity; and the quality of their performance was repeatable.

Technique is there when you don’t drop in, you’re not in the zone. Good technique should give your mind, your inner critic, and your body something to do when you’re not in the zone. And when you are in the zone, technique will disappear, performing is exhilarating and the people watching, whether it be an audience, a casting director, producers, directors or the suits, will get lost in the story with you.

What is Intentional Acting?

Intentional Acting is designed to empower actors with the tools to create compelling, natural “Zone” performances. The tools, principles and methodologies taught through Intentional Acting will help the actor to be confident, creative, present and passionate which results in higher success rates for the actor to secure the job and fulfills their dreams.

Intentional Acting not only teaches the art of thorough script analysis, but also utilizes the nine (9) Intentional Acting questions that are at the center of all acting – doing.

The Nine Questions of Intentional Acting

Have you ever walked out of an audition thinking you nailed it, but didn’t get even get a call back?  You think that you had asked all the right questions of the script, but later realized perhaps you missed some important clues.

Like a computer if we give our mind a question our mind will produce an answer. The key for an actor is to ask the questions that elicit the most active, personal, and dynamic choice for the scene.  The problem is that many actors don’t ask the right questions and the answers they get satisfy their minds, but don’t engage their experiences of being human.

The nine questions of Intentional Acting are the acting principles found in all major acting techniques: Intention or Objective, Motivation, The Event of the Scene, Stakes, Connection, Using Personal History, Substitution.  With Intentional Acting, however, these principles are formed into questions that will trigger the actor to make immediate experiential choices.

The questions are also put in a specific order, designed to build on one another in a sequential order. This results in a repeatable technique that creates consistent, personal, engaging and spontaneous performances. The Intentional Acting questions can also be a highly effective and a practical tool for evaluating auditions and performances.

Here, then, are the 9 questions:
  1. What is the scene about?
  2. What is the experience of the scene?
  3. How do I relate to the experience of the scene?
  4. What do I need the other person to feel or do?  (Intention)
  5. Why do I have to get my intention, right now?  (Motivation)
  6. What am I listening for?
  7. What is at stake if I don’t get what I need?
  8. Who am I focusing on to get my need? Who’s the Most Important Person in the scene?
  9. How do I make my performance personal?  How do use this script to benefit me?

Our mind and our inner critic want us to think that we have to do more, but that’s just not true. Think about it – when you’re in the “Zone” isn’t it simple, easy?  Doesn’t it feel like freedom?
With that in mind, my mission with Intentional Acting is to empower actors with the tools to create compelling, natural “Zone” performances. These tools will help the actor to be confident, creative, present and passionate which then gets the actor the job, which then fulfills their dreams.