Actors need to learn to look — look at people, look at things. Actors portray characters going through the various bumps and bruises of life. The way to understand characters, or people, is to look at them. Truly look, and see what you see.
By the way, this would benefit anyone in any occupation, not just actors.
Well, you might say, “I look all the time.” Do you? Or are you generally too distracted to genuinely look? Are you too dependent on others to look for you? Are you thinking about something else when you “look?” Are you really seeing what’s in front of you, or some vague idea instead? Are you looking though the fog of random thoughts and the day’s problems?
If you’re not fully in the moment, you cannot look. If your mind is on how much the audience likes or dislikes you, you are not looking.
You have to be here to look.
An old acting teacher of mine used to turn to the class and say, “One day you’ll look back on these days as the good old days, but none of you are actually here to enjoy them.” He was right. Most in the class were thinking about finances, relationships, auditions, parents insisting we get a real job, and what have you.
So while our bodies were in the chairs, we were spiritually off somewhere else. And therefore, we weren’t really seeing anything. Sure, for a few seconds, when something unexpected or shocking occurred, we popped back into the room and really engaged in that moment. But those times were fleeting, if I’m being honest.
So, right now, look at the computer in front of you. Really. Did you do it? What did you see? Look again and notice something you’ve never noticed before. Good. Do the same for the room you’re in. Look around. See things you haven’t noticed before. Interesting, isn’t it?
Go to a busy place and take a look at people. See what they are wearing? Look at their faces. Are they happy? Sad? Thinking about something? Look at their shoes. Look at their clothes. Neatly ironed or shabby? Their hair? Make-up? From what you observe, try to figure out their occupation, their emotional state and other personal things about them.
Movie stars often complain that the toughest thing about being famous, is not being able to go to a busy place and just observe people.
If you start using this simple exercise, you’ll be surprised how many things you will learn and how many changes in yourself you will experience. This simple exercise is powerful.
All great acting is in the moment. All the life worth living, is in the moment as well. So, be here, and take a look around. You might learn something about others. You might learn something about yourself.