Advanced Acting Techniques – Selecting Past Experiences for a Scene

As an actor, you must learn how to accumulate your inner resources, which are your past experiences, and learn how to utilize these past experiences to help shape and cultivate the personality and emotional profile of your character.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout the past decade as a working actor it is how to objectively select past experiences for a particular scene.

As you progress within your acting techniques, you will find that emotional experiences will automatically return if you truly believe in your character’s actions, circumstances your character is in and the relationships between your character and those around him.

However, the true test when utilizing this skill is understanding how to objectively select a past experience for a current scene. Many times, you will find you’ve never gone through an exact situation as your character; however, when you delve into the vast array of emotional memories you will likely have a similar situation that allows you to empathize with your character.

Adjusting Your Memories

Let’s say that your character must attend the funeral of his mother who was brutally murdered on Christmas. Upon first glance, you have a basic understanding of your character’s emotions; however, such an emotionally charged scenario requires more than a basic understanding.

Upon delving into your memories, you may not have encountered an exact situation, but the only unexpected or sudden death you’ve encountered was that of your beloved dog. While this memory is not an exact match, the emotional blueprint is strikingly similar. You loved your dog, very much. He was your confidant and best friend. You suddenly lost him when he got loose and a driver ran over him. The raw emotions from this personal circumstance may be transferred into the emotions your character must feel during the funeral of his mother. Although the exact circumstances are quite different, the emotional foundation of both scenarios are similar and may be used to your benefit as an actor.

Recalling Emotional Matches not Exact Memories

This brings me to my next point, as an actor you must not recall exact memories, but a matching emotional foundation for a particular scene. In regards to the aforementioned scenario, you do not have an exact matching memory for this type of scene; however, you do have an emotional connection between tragically loosing something you loved so dearly. You must learn to scroll through your emotional memory rolodex to find a personal emotion that matches that of your character and use this raw personal experience to build the emotional blueprint for your character.

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