Many of us actors are used to discussing characters in terms of “motivation”, as in: what is instigating, or causing this action? We do detailed biographies of our characters and want to know what is CAUSING us to act this way. The word “motivation” is past oriented, in the sense that we are looking for something from the past, which is “pushing” us to the next thing. Though some of this looking back might be helpful, I think it is overrated. At the time of any of our actions we are not so much thinking about the past but pushing towards our ideal future.

The actor is not so much being “pushed by the past”, as being “pulled by his ideal future”. One of the reasons some performances fall flat is that there is something missing: A REAL WANT– something that the character needs. Many times actors are simply asked, “What do you want here?” and have no specific answer. Yet they are full of opinions of what their character’s would or would not do based on the past. Forget the past for a second. What does your character want to see happen IN THIS MOMENT? If you don’t know the answer to this question, you need to stop and figure it out. Often we are pushing along and building something when we don’t have a solid foundation laid. Stop the rehearsal, stop the blocking, stop the characterization. If you don’t know what your character WANTS in the scene, then you don’t have anything. These don’t have to be super deep, or emotional moments but they have to be thought out. They have to be seen in the eyes. They have to be understood.

In LIFE ACTING, we don’t discuss motivation, but only what is the current intention. What is pulling you? The actor who keeps asking, “what’s my motivation?” needs to stop thinking deterministically, and start thinking futuristically! What does my character want right now!

The goal is not to integrate all these thoughts. The goal is to ELIMINATE thoughts, to simplify, to boil it down to thinking and acting one thing: What do you want now? The complete focus of the actor on his intentions means at any given moment, he is future oriented. That means at the time of performance the actor is not thinking about the past, his character, personality, but pressing in to his desired future. The clarity of this, more than anything else, makes for an interesting performance.

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