To call our profession Acting is a bit of a misnomer. In fact, the key to acting is not to act at all, but rather to be in a real moment. Being sounds simple enough, right? No problem. We do that everyday.  But alas, therein lies the rub. As actors, we are not tasked with being in the real life scenarios that we encounter everyday. We are not purely subjects under observation in our natural habitats. As actors, our task is to be while in the presence of an audience and/or film crew, which resembles a real life setting where we are supposed to be. Arguably, an actor’s greatest challenge is to be real under the most artificial of circumstances. Being then becomes exceedingly more difficult than it sounds.

In order to be in a real moment that is actually not the current moment, an actor must fully prepare an internal landscape of that moment. That is to say, you must outline in detail your character’s thoughts, feelings, wants, fears, secrets, expectations, perspectives on the world, views of other people, etc. A full internal landscape will propel you through the scene, providing the impetus for action so that you are free to do nothing but remain true to your impulses in the moment of the scene. You don’t have to think or try. You don’t have to do anything. The work has already been done in your preparation. This is what it means to get out of your head and to lose yourself in a scene. Remember Denzel Washington in Training Day? Of course you do. What about Natalie Portman in Black Swan? Yes! And I’ll bet you only wish you could forget Mo’Nique in Precious. Such truthful and raw moments as these cannot be described as acting. These moments are each the result of a fully prepared and subsequently realized internal landscape. The actors did the work beforehand and in so doing we knew exactly what they wanted, what they were afraid of, even their exact thoughts and feelings as they had them. It doesn’t matter that the exact thoughts and feelings I saw were perhaps different from those that you saw. What matters is that each of these actors so completely constructed the world in which each of their characters lived that we too could see that experience reflected through their eyes, well enough to interpret its meaning based on our own experiences. So powerful is constructing a full internal landscape that it can not only transport the actor beyond the artificial environment of filmmaking, but also transport the audience beyond the mundane reality of sitting in front of a movie screen.

An incomplete internal landscape, on the other hand, leaves both the actor and the audience hanging. It takes the actor out of the reality of the scene and, instead, into the actual current moment of being on display in an artificial setting. It is impossible to become lost in the scene when you run out of internal material to draw upon and motivate your behavior. You might find yourself trying to come up with a strong choice to make or execute an unjustified movement (big mistake) just to feel like they are doing something in the scene. This is when the audience can see acting rather than being. They are not transported into the reality of the scene, but are instead reminded of the actual current moment in which they are simply watching a movie. They likely won’t be startled if the phone rings or upset if someone passes in front of the screen, because it’s just a movie at that point. But audiences don’t want to see ‘just a movie.’ They watch movies in order to be transported, to be taken on a journey, to feel and experience something. To escape mundane realities. An actor can do all of these things for an audience simply by doing nothing but allowing the full internal landscape that he/she has previously prepared to take over….and that takes courage, practice and lots of digging deep. This is sacred work, always protect your art!!


Diane ChristiansenDiane Christiansen’s career spans four decades as an actress, coach, director, dancer and author. Diane began coaching actors in 1992 and in 2011 and 2012, Diane’s classes were voted the best acting class for kids and teens separately by Backstage The last three years, Diane was voted One of the Top 10 most effective Coaches in Hollywood by Actors Access. A graduate of the Strasberg Institute, she was mentored by Academy Award Nominee, Sally Kirkland and the late Joseph Bernard. Actively coaching “working ” actors of all ages has led to 90% of her student roster booking jobs consistently.

Visit Diane at DianeChristiansen.com or call 818.523.8283 to sign up for one her classes.

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