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What is method acting?

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The greatest performances are the ones that move us emotionally. We feel what the actor is feeling at the moment and perhaps it's one of the most beautiful connections between the audience and the performer. Sometimes the characters portrayed by the actors require them to reach into extreme depths to explore the layers of the life that exists beyond the script.

We are only moved by an actor’s performance if it is played by utmost conviction. To create this belief while entering the shoes of another person an actor uses different methods. One way to do this is by using "method acting".

Let us explore method acting to get a better understanding of the process. 

Method acting rehearsal

In this article, we shall explore:

  • What is method acting?

  • Who invented method acting?

  • Why is method acting important? 

  • How to use method acting?

  • Elements of method acting

What is method acting?

Method acting is a tool that actors use to create truly believable and natural performances. In this process, the actor uses personal experiences to recreate emotions that the character might be feeling. This would help them to relate to the character.

The actor uses the human body as an instrument to create a physical, mental, and emotional self that can be as close to the character. While using method acting the actor never breaks the character until the filming is done. 

Who invented method acting? 

Built upon Konstantin Stanislavski’s technique ‘the Stanislavski system’, Lee Strasberg developed his technique that is popularly known as ‘the method’. It focuses on realism as opposed to larger-than-life exaggerated emotions. Lee Strasberg’s method immerses the actors into the characters to a point where they understand the circumstances of the character. This means the actor should have to live a life similar to that of the character or create an environment physically or mentally that enhances the ‘realness’ so that it’s easier for the actor to be as close to the character as possible. 

Why is method acting an important art form? 

The way we consume cinema is rapidly changing with so many new avenues in the form of OTT platforms. The audience is exposed to worldwide content and it’s the survival of the fittest. This requires top-quality filmmaking with the contribution of all departments. The audience can now sense when an actor is faking their emotions so it’s tough to get away with merely narrating your lines. The viewers want to be hooked and moved by the truth of the character’s journey.

Well played characters are more relatable as their emotions appear raw on the screen. This level of depth and truth on screen can be achieved with the use of method acting.

However, method acting does come with its set of challenges. 

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How do method actors prepare to perform? 

Sometimes, finding a relevant memory to recreate experiences that haven’t occurred in the actor’s life can be difficult. For an actor to be truly be embodied in the character they need to do proper research. Then, the actor needs to live the lifestyle of the character until they are completely into it.

By practicing method acting, one can master the art of getting into the character, and coming out of the character with ease without having to get ‘lost’ or losing a sense of the self. 

Hollywood actors that use method acting are often critically well-acclaimed such as Christian Bale, Robert de Niro, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Jim Carrey.

Their portrayal remains with the audience due to the work they put in for their part.

Robert De Niro used to drive a cab around New York City to prepare for Taxi Driver. There are many such examples where actors go beyond the sets in search of their characters.  

Elements of method acting

To create realistic performances, there are techniques that are used by actors to portray the characters with honesty. This requires the actors to use multiple elements in different scenes according to the situation. 

1. Removing unnecessary thoughts

Lee Strasberg’s method needs the actor to remove tensions from their mind to start from a clean slate before entering the character’s shoes. The actor needs to be free both physically and mentally before creating the character. One can relax themselves using multiple exercises and breathing techniques. 

2. Enhancing Focus

After removing unnecessary thoughts the actor is required to be present at the moment to enhance focus so that it’s easy for them to respond to their stimuli. This is extremely useful in scenes where the actors are interacting with each other. When both the actors are focused and ‘in the zone’, magic happens!

3. Using sense memory

Tapping on to memories that are effective to the scene and can be easily executed must be the prime objective. It’s important not to be overwhelmed with the tapped memory and allow yourself to channelize the emotions by being in the character.

4. Trial and replication 

An actor needs to recreate the emotion while tapping into their senses and replicating it to meet the need of the scene. 

Record your method acting videos with Clipchamp video editor 

Method acting is applauded by the audience when done with complete honesty. The camera knows and captures everything so put your best foot forward and be believable as an actor. When you're ready to record your method acting performances, add background music, transitions and more with a free online video editor like Clipchamp. Get started for free.

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