|Note the detached, almost vacant expression in Pacino's eyes as he listen's to direction from Sidney Lumet while shooting "Dog Day Afternoon". He's listening intently while trying to maintain his focus. I see this look a lot on set.|
This is the second of two steps I recommend an actor takes before the director calls "Action" (or before you enter the scene. If you have not already done so, please read the last post before reading this one.
Incidentally, this is one significant way where my training differs with the Meisner technique. Now please note: I'm NOT claiming that my technique is 'better than the Meisner Technique' or that I am 'smarter than Sanford Meisner'. I use MANY aspects of the Meisner Technique as well as Strasberg's Method Acting, Chekhov, Meyerhold, Adler, Hagen and others, in my own teaching. The difference between my technique and the techniques of all these great masters is simply that I've created my technique specifically for acting On-Camera while all of their techniques were designed specifically for the stage.
I have found on set, that Meisner trained actors are SOMETIMES lacking in their connection to the imaginary circumstances, in the opening moments of a scene. They always enter the scene emotionally full due to their training in "Emotional Preparation" and often times this is enough to carry them through the scene; However, I have often noted that they don't tend to be anchored in the circumstances of the scene at the beginning, so it often takes them a couple of lines before they are "in" the scene. Here's what I suggest to my students as a solution to this problem:
After you've "Filled-up emotionally" (as described in "Step1"):
Create and Experience the Moment Before.
That is not an hour before or even the minute before but literally the moment before the first line (or your entrance). What happened in the 5 seconds before you entered (or "Action")? This moment should be related to the given circumstances in the character's life and, if at all possible, the Moment Before should increase the Obstacle for the character. The character wants something (his "Objective" or "Intention") and something is getting in the way (the "Obstacle"). By increasing the Obstacle the actor must try harder to get his objective and therefore enters the scene grounded in the imaginary circumstances. Here's an example to make this clearer: Hamlet is about to enter with the intention of making Ophelia hate him (for her own good) and sending her away. The actor identifies an emotion and fills up with it (Step 1). Then, right before he enters he smells Ophelia's perfume (either through imagination or perhaps he carries it with him on a hankercheif) and remembers how much he loves her. His intention is to get rid of her so this increases his Obstacle. When he enters he is immersed in the imaginary circumstances. and is already dealing with them before he even speaks. He must hide these feelings from Ophelia before he can convincingly say "Get the to a nunnery!" And this act of hiding his feelings from her actually anchors him much more in these imaginary circumstances. Hamlet will feel "in" before he even enters!
Keep in mind that all this prep - both steps one and two - happens before the director says "Action". Once the scene starts, your head is clear and you are reacting to the other actors and the imaginary circumstances - completely spontaneously. You can swing with abandon...