What is it You Really Want? Finding Your Objectives

BY ANNETTE LANGE

If you’ve had any training in acting, you’ve come across the idea of objectives. While I’m not a master in using them effectively, I’ve improved and found principles I thought I’d share in order for you to act as believably as possible.

Laura Bond, author of TEAM For Actors: A Holistic Approach to Embodied Acting, has a section in her book on objectives which helped me immensely. If you want further explanation, check it out here.

Objective – Something aimed at or striven for

Synonyms – aim, intention, goal

People are governed by what they want. Every human being has desires and acts accordingly – they are our driving force. The same applies to our characters.

Determining the objective of a character is a bit more complicated than thinking what your character wants in a scene. It’s easy to choose ineffective and weak objectives. Below are some guidelines to help you determine effective objectives:

Where are your character’s needs rooted?

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First of all, you will need to understand your character’s basic needs and motivations.

Is your character seeking to fulfill basic physiological needs (hunger, thirst, sleep, physical comfort) or is your character desiring security (shelter, order, stability etc.)?

How about their social needs? Is your character primarily seeking love, acceptance and relationship, or is he/she really looking for ways to satisfy his/her ego (achievement, independence, prestige, recognition)?

Is your character driven to gain more knowledge or striving towards beauty? What if your character can’t be bothered by beauty, but ultimately seeks spiritual fulfilment?

Try to determine which of these needs your character is primarily seeking after, bearing in mind their needs and values might contradict your own.

E.g. “My character wants to be loved.”

Are you referring to your character in first person?

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Rather than talking about your character in third person, identify with him/her as soon as possible by talking about your character in first person. This obviously applies to your objectives as well.

E.g. Instead of saying “She wants to be loved”, embody your character, bridging the distance by saying “I want to be loved …”.

Does your objective call for your partner’s participation?

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This is straightforward. Don’t forget to involve your scene partner(s). The other character(s) is normally also the reason for conflict. If there’s no conflict, you will not captivate your audience.

What is your character’s relationship to the others in your scene? What do you want from them?

E.g. “I want him to show me he loves me.”

Are your objectives focused on what you want?

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An easy trap to fall into is focusing on what your character doesn’t want. First, understand what he/she wants before you focus on the obstacles.

Figure out the positive aspects of your character’s journey.

E.g. Instead of saying “I don’t want him to fall in love with her”, say “I want him to show he loves me.”

What is the desired outcome?

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What would be the perceived victory of the situation in the scene be for your character? What could the other character possibly do or say in order for you to feel victorious?

Make sure that you have a clear picture of what that would look like. Be specific.

E.g. Instead of defining your objective as “I want to be loved,” try “I want him to say ‘I love you’.”

Is your victory difficult to attain?

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Creating a sense of urgency in the scene will aid you as the actor immensely.

Actors normally call this ‘raising the stakes of the scene’.

We have previously talked about imagining the perfect victory for your character. Let’s take it up a notch and make sure you’re selecting a victory extremely difficult to attain.

You might set them so high, the victory will never happen. Allow for the possibility, that way it doesn’t become unrealistic.

E.g. “I want him to say ‘I love you’ before the end of our date.”

Does your objective sustain the scene?

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In other words, do your objectives motivate your character throughout the duration of the entire scene? If the victory happens in the middle of the scene, your character would have nothing left to fight for.

This goes further than the individual scene.

E.g. The previous example “I want him to say ‘I love you’ before the end of our date” only works if the scene ends when the date ends. If the above victory happens in the middle of the scene, the objective does not sustain the entire scene.

Do you have main objectives and scene objectives that carry your character through the scene/film/play? What are the general unsatisfied needs your character is wanting to fulfil, and what are the scene-specific needs in need of fulfillment?

Are your scene objectives in line with your main objectives?

Know the story.

Of course you need to have a good understanding of the story and its intention in order for you to be able to choose strong objectives. Your objectives have to be in line with the intentions of the script and your character’s given circumstances.

Practice.

If you need to practice more, watch and analyze scenes of movies and other actors that were particularly engaging and see if you can find out what the objectives of the respective characters were.

I hope these guidelines help when you’re stuck and need a little inspiration.

How Failure Improved My Acting And My Life

By Keaton J. Evans Sr.

Attempting to dodge failure sucks. Trust me, I’ve done it a million times in my life. I consider myself to be the expert on the subject.

 

That being said, I’ve learned how to overcome a fear of failure and now wish to share with you what I’ve discovered about failing. Hopefully, these lessons will help you learn to fail well. The key lies not in planning to fail, but allowing yourself to fail and learning from what you’ve done wrong.

 

As an actor and artist, learning to fail has been the biggest success I’ve had yet. This idea didn’t really make sense at first. The idea that the way to succeed is through accepting failure.

 

We’re all going to fail and make mistakes, that’s one of the ways we grow. The process of moving on from a fear of failure requires you to do a few things.

 

The worst thing you can do is what I did and try your hardest to not make mistakes. If you do that then you will never take the risks you’ll need to take if you are worried about failure.

 

K(no)w risks, k(no)w failure, k(no)w success

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Picture this: you’re about to audition for a role in a new Marvel film, say, Captain Ironman. Now you are thinking about auditioning, but then suddenly you start thinking about how terrible you’ll probably do and how you might flub the audition and how it would be better to not even audition, cause why waste your time doing something you don’t do well?

 

Probable situation, right?

 

I’ve been in a similar place as an actor. While acting in a scene I would continually think about how I wasn’t reaching the standard I held for myself. I became a perfectionist in every sense of the word. (Ask my parents, they’ll back me up on this one).

 

Earlier on, before I got more used to auditioning, I hesitated and stopped from going to auditions or even trying new things out of a fear of failing. There are so many opportunities I could’ve taken but didn’t. You’ll never fail if you don’t try, it’s true. But you also won’t ever succeed either.

 

Besides, the continual fear of failure stops you from having fun! Speaking of fun.

 

Seriously, don’t take everything so seriously

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The pressure that the fear of failure and perfectionism both create not only hindered me from taking opportunities that would’ve helped challenge and grow me as an artist, but it also kept me from one of the very reasons people create art: for the fun of it.

 

An example of this idea in my life came in the form of painting. I liked to paint, but after attempting it a few times, I became so discouraged by what I was making that I stopped. The paintings were never as good as I wanted them to be. The fun of painting had been strangled by my perfectionism.

 

But just a few weeks ago that all started to change.

 

I underwent this beautiful mind shift where I decided to paint and just have fun. I no longer painted with the intention of avoiding mistakes, that is, having to create something perfect. While I was brushing away at the paper, making a landscape of hills and trees I had a revelation: I was having so much fun just making something. It didn’t have to be perfect or even that good. I made mistakes, but instead of getting rid of the painting immediately, I would fix the mistake or even turn it into something I hadn’t originally intended it to be. In fact, the mistakes were the very things that made me the most proud.

 

This revelation was huge for me. It showed me fun is found in the unexpected twists and turns that happen when making something. Also when there isn’t the pressure for the piece to be perfect, I am surprised by what I am able to make.

 

The same could be said of any art. When there’s the pressure to be perfect it keeps us from enjoying the creative process. I felt this in my acting. I was starting to take it way too seriously. Then I remembered that acting is about playing. Let us never forget that.

 

Perfectionism hinders your creativity and imagination

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With the pressure to be perfect and to create perfect things, starting out becomes a real pain in the butt. When starting something, I had the idea in my mind that I needed to be instantly good at it. I would quickly become frustrated when I discovered I wasn’t.

 

This kept me from doing a lot of things as well. I didn’t allow myself to be a beginner, I had to be excellent right out of the gate.

 

When it came to creating things or acting, I was the same way. And this need to be excellent right off the bat hindered me from experimenting with different ideas and methods. I had to choose the right course the first time. I couldn’t afford to be wrong. Needless to say, what I created and how I acted was fairly flat, and it would never get any better because I didn’t allow myself to make mistakes and learn from them.

 

I fortunately learned that when we begin something, we won’t be good. I learned that it might take awhile, a long while to get good at whatever I was attempting. But that’s ok. The sooner you learn that the sooner you can let go of needing to be perfect and cling to the desire of getting better.

 

If I had held to perfectionism when I started out in acting I would’ve quit early on. Fortunately the passion I have for acting helped drive me forward and push past some of the frustration that comes from starting something new.

 

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See, letting go of perfectionism and the fear of failure isn’t the rejection of excellence. Quite the opposite, in fact. Learning to accept our failings and learning from them is how we achieve excellence in what we do.

 

That is what I learned, and it has changed how I have approached art and even every day. I see each day as an adventure, not as a day where I could mess up, or things could go wrong. So believe me when I say, learning to fail is one of the greatest lessons you can learn. Don’t try to always be dodging failure. Beat it by seeing it as a necessary step towards growth. You’ll never look back once you do.

 

It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default. -J.K. Rowling

 

Live Presently, You Must

Written by Keaton Evans.

Ask the impossible, Yoda does not. Related directly to acting, this is. How it is I will, er, can show you… ah, forget it.

If you are as much of a Star Wars fan as I am, which I guarantee you’re not, you might remember the scenes from The Empire Strikes Back where Yoda is training the ever-growing Luke about the mysterious ways of The Force.

I think he has some key insight into what it’s like to live in the moment and how to concentrate. The Dagobah training scenes are rich with all sorts of sagely small green humanoid wisdom. But here I am going to translate some of the key ideas and show you how living in the moment will greatly reward you as an actor and how you can even do this on a busy set.

Listed below are some techniques I like to use to help me live in the present. They are quick and easy and shouldn’t take you any longer than ten minutes.

  1. A quiet place, you must find

Did you notice in Episode V how Yoda greeted all his neighbors on his daily walk to the local Dagobah supermarket before he met Luke? No? Neither do I. In fact we never see another sentient soul on the entire planet besides our little green friend.

That’s because Yoda (R.I.P.) understood it’s best to be alone when you do any kind of training. Including the training of living in the present moment. Take a page from Yoda’s book. Find a place on set or location, where you are about to film, that is quiet and away from the distraction.

If you’re up on the acting ladder you’ll have a trailer. Find that quiet place. The green room is a great place. The honeywagon is great too, if you have nowhere else.

  1. Your body, stretched it must be

Yoda was also quite the advocate for stretching. Now, while we never see him actually stretch, except for his hand when he lifts Luke’s freaking X-wing out of the mud. Now the stretching we see Luke do is not quite the same as what I have done, although the idea remains the same.

In that quiet place, your Dagobah, as I’ve now decided to call it, the first thing to do is to stretch. If you’re not wearing standard jedi garb then that’s ok. As long as the clothes are not too restricting, you can do the basic stretching techniques.

Try touching your toes, reaching for the sky, or my personal favourite: swinging your arms in giant loops.

Not only is stretching great for getting you relaxed and in the right mindset, but according to healthguidance.org, it also helps warm you up, increases your range of motion, and improves your posture. Stretching has a multitude of benefits. As you can see, and now so can Luke, Yoda knew what he was talking about.

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Do or do not. There is no try.

  1. For success, close your eyes and breathe deeply, you should

Did you notice in the movie how when Yoda focuses The Force he closes his eyes? Well the same goes for training yourself to live in the present moment. I (almost) guarantee that when Yoda was reaching out with The Force he was breathing deeply. If you zoom in on him in the scene where he lifts Luke’s X-Wing you can just see Yoda’s chest (Oz’ hand) move up and down in the same pattern a human would if they were breathing deeply. My point? Yoda was onto something… that genius!

After stretching, pull a concentrated Yoda. Pretend you are lifting something with The Force while your eyes are closed and your breathing is deep. This is great for calming your mind and getting the distractions like the threat of the empire or your friends’ death in Cloud City off your ol’ noodle.

But seriously, according to Harvard Medical School, deep breathing can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure. It’s great for helping you to live in the present moment.

Here’s a link to the article about deep breathing which goes more in-depth:  https://hms.harvard.edu/

  1. All around you, sounds are. On sounds, focus

Yoda talks about how The Force is all around us. It’s in the rocks, the trees, that possum you saw the other night, even in your very own computation device.

I believe that sounds are all around you. And I know from trying that while you are breathing deeply you focus on listening it makes all the difference in the world in pulling you into the present. Simply listen. Hear the birds, the cars, the talking, white noise, cats meowing, dogs barking. Then after you simply sit and listen to all the sounds, even if they are faint, try listening to only one sound. This will help your concentration. As you have to concentrate on one sound you will learn to concentrate on only one thing, that is your script later when you are waiting for the next shot.

  1. Now the time to focus on your role, it is

The last step in your jedi training, er, present-moment training, is to focus on the most important part of your job: your role. As you have used the instructions of the universe’s most trusted whatever-species-Yoda-is, you are ready to live in the moment and focus not on the distractions around you, but on your character.

In the moments of deep breathing with your eyes still closed, think of the background of your character. Think of their history and relationships. Think about your character’s overall objective and their objective in the upcoming scene. In this way you will be ready to live in the present moment by focusing on your role and it will be that much easier to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances.

The distractions of everything else will fall into the background. You will be able to concentrate on that which is most important.

Through these steps you have found your Dagobah, you’ve stretched your body, you’ve deeply breathed, you’ve listened, and you’ve focused on your character. You journey towards the darkside WON’T be complete now! Hurrah! Suck it Palpatine!

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Pictured: a wrinkled sap who doesn’t live in the present.

Hopefully these steps will help you to live in the present moment and prepare you for the scene you are about to take part in. Well, as they say in Yoda’s swamp town: “bye”!

5 Ways to Stay in Shape as an Actor

written by Josias Jensen

 

Acting is a strange profession. It is a profession in which you need to take great care of your body, and yet the conditions under which you work make that task very difficult.

 

As an actor your body is your instrument.

 

How you look and what you are capable of doing with this instrument may determine whether you get gigs or not. I believe prioritizing your physical well-being is part of the job.

 

The profession of acting involves long hours, ever-changing schedules, potentially poor food on set (especially when you start out), financial struggles, emotional stress and many other challenges. It is a profession that is emotionally and physically demanding.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive guide to stewarding your health, but merely a few good tips to get you on the way.

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  1. Learn about the basics of exercise

 

The ever-changing schedules and potential traveling involved with the profession of acting can make it difficult to plan workouts and exercise. You may not always be able to go to the same gym, and you may not have the same time slot available for your training etc.

 

If all you know about exercise is how to use a certain exercise machine, then what do you do when you can’t access it?

 

By learning about basic exercises and what muscles they target, you can adapt your exercise to whatever is available to you. You can do remarkably much just using your own body weight and a few weights.

 

Over the years, I’ve lived in many different places and under many different circumstances. I have found that there is such freedom in not being dependent on your circumstances to be able to exercise.

 

It may seem like a daunting task to learn about the anatomy of different exercises. However, there are great books that have very simple illustrations that give a good understanding of different movements and what muscles they target. I highly recommend the book; Strength Training Anatomy by Frederic Delavier as an example. It has clear illustrations and covers strength training exercises from the most basic to the more complex.

 

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 2. Diversify your exercise

As an actor, you get asked to perform many different kinds of physical tasks. You need to be able to do these tasks regardless of their difficulty or how strenuous they are. It is beneficial to have good, all round fitness.

 

One way to do this is to try different forms of exercise, as well as different durations of time and intensity. It is ideal to do both cardio, endurance and some form of strength training.

 

This can also be an opportunity for you to expand your skill set. Try boxing, fencing, dancing, rock climbing, rowing, martial arts etc.

 

This is yet another way to adapt to your circumstances and use it to your advantage.

 

Try your hand at a sport or form of exercise that is prominent in the area you live.

 

Maybe you live in area that has beautiful scenery? Go for a run! Maybe you live close to the water? Look into rowing, kayaking or surfing! Maybe there is a rock climbing gym nearby… Mix it up for different seasons.

 

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3. Make your snacks healthier

 

When you live on the run you may find it hard to eat consistently. When this happens we often end up turning to snacks to cure our hunger.

 

Light and easy snacks do not have to be unhealthy at all. Here are a few ideas for healthy and filling snacks that can be prepared ahead of time and available to you throughout the week or that you can make in a matter of minutes;

 

  • Carrots and Hummus (or you can substitute carrots with your favorite vegetable).
  • Trail mix made from peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds and raisins.
  • Wholegrain bread with peanut butter or other nut spread (avoiding heavily processed nut spread)
  • Enjoy your favorite piece of fruit
  • A bowl of wholegrain cereal and sunflower seeds with milk or a milk substitute like almond, oat or rice milk. You can add a little honey and cinnamon for sweetness.

 

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4. Eat simple

 

Being on a healthy diet can be a challenge when you are on a budget. One of the best ways to do this is to buy simple, basic ingredients and learning to cook simple dishes.

 

There are actually plenty of healthy foods that are fairly cheap and that can serve as the foundation of your diet.

 

You are better served buying simple ingredients instead of heavily processed foods. If you replace most of the meat in your diet with plant based sources of protein like lentils, split peas, nuts, seeds and beans you can actually save money if you just choose the right products.

 

Some fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are expensive, but if you shop around there are plenty that are decently priced.

 

Here are a few ideas for simple healthy meals;

Mexican rice with red lentils and black beans, Curry Pumpkin soup with yellow split peas, Ratatouille with green split peas and whole grain pasta, Risotto with spinach and green split peas, Whole grain couscous with vegetables, beans and lentils.

 

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5. Have short naps!

 

This may be different for you, but I know that when I get busy one of the first things that I end up sacrificing is my sleep. Getting enough sleep is key if you want to stay healthy, yet this can be very difficult to achieve with long days of shooting and short turnovers between your work on set.

 

However you may find that it is not too hard to find a 30 min break some time during the day. Having 10-25 min naps can boost your alertness well being and performance for several hours after the nap. Having naps longer than 30 min. may cause feeling more sleepy and drowsy.

 

Naps are not a substitute for a good night’s sleep, but are a great way to stay on top and energized.

 

I hope these tips are helpful and will inspire you to pursue good health. When you are working in the film industry, maintaining a healthy fitness level is not an easy pursuit, but it is an important one!