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A Hollywood coach introduces a twelve-part acting method that has been utilized by some of today's top stars and draws on the traditions of performance masters, sharing behind-the-scenes anecdotes while explaining how to apply her techniques to create genuine characters, disseminate scripts, and audition effectively. 25,000 first printing.
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Ivana Chubbuck founded Ivana Chubbuck Studios more than twenty years ago, becoming one of the most sought-after acting coaches in Hollywood. She also works as a script consultant and has been widely profiled in the media.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Acting is a complex and elusive art to define. Yet almost everyone can tell good acting from bad acting—or good acting from brilliant acting. Why can one actor be riveting in a play and another actor be dull and boring in the very same play, doing the same character, the same lines? If it were just the script, the beauty of its language, the artful turn of a phrase, we would only need readings. But the words are not just read with sterility from the page. They are performed and brought to life by actors.
Every actor knows that discovering and understanding your personal pain is an inherent part of the acting process. This has been true since Stanislavski. The difference between the Chubbuck Technique and those developed in the past is that I teach actors how to use their emotions not as an end result, but as a way to empower a goal. My technique teaches actors how to win.
If you look closely at virtually all drama and comedy—in fact, all literature—you will find that the will to win is the one constant element. In every story, a character wants or needs something (their goal)—love, power, validation, honor—and the story documents the way in which they try to win that particular desire or need. While what and how the characters try to win is defined in many ways and takes many forms and shapes, when you distill these goals down, you find that every character’s conflict and struggle is about fighting to win whatever their goal is.
I teach actors how to win because this is what people do in real life! They go after what they want. Interesting and dynamic people go after what they want in interesting and dynamic ways, creating greater emotion and intensity in realizing these goals. They do this subconsciously, whereas the actor must understand himself thoroughly and have the tools to break down a script in order to make this interesting and dynamic behavior appear and feel like a subconscious process. The Chubbuck Technique stimulates this behavior, allowing for this natural and powerful human drive to be realized.
The Chubbuck Technique grew out of my search to understand and overcome my own personal traumas—particularly, how they impacted my acting and my life. I had no idea how powerful and profound this concept would become.
I grew up with a distant/dysfunctional/workaholic father and a physically and emotionally abusive mother. I developed deep-seated abandonment issues and felt unworthy of being loved. In essence, I rose to the occasion of being diminished. As an adult and an actress, I took all my childhood and adolescent horrors and wallowed in them. I was looking for sympathy and understanding, which I thought would help relieve the suffering of my past. As any actor would strive to be, I was truly in touch with my emotional pain.
But I began to wonder, “To what end am I feeling all of this? How do the feelings and emotions from my past shape my work as an actor? How do they shape who I am as a person? How can these fractured, scattered and sometimes divergent emotions be focused to serve a character in a script?”
As a working actress, I would see so many actors who were truly dredging up deep, painful emotions, but whose work seemed self-indulgent. I realized that having deep and profound feelings didn’t necessarily make me a deep and profound person. I saw that coddling one’s pain—in life and onstage—creates almost the opposite effect. It seems self-involved, self-pitying and weak, the key characteristics of a victim. Not the most compelling choice for an actor to make.
I began investigating how to put the legacy of emotions I had inherited to better, more effective use in my work. When I examined the lives of successful people, I noticed that they seemed to use their physical and emotional traumas as a stimulus, not to self-indulgently suffer, but to inspire and drive their great achievements.
I suspected that very same formula could be applied to actors and their approach to their work. I watched the great actors of our time and I saw in their performances the same emotional drive to overcome adversity, and, in fact, to use those very obstacles to necessitate achievement of a goal and win. In their performances, great actors were instinctively mirroring the behavior and nature of great people.
I needed to create a system that would reflect and guide this process. A system to replicate real, dynamic human behavior. A system that, once the actor committed to making fearless choices, would guide and empower the actor to use their own pain to win their character’s goal. A system that would also provide a way to craft risky choices that would allow an actor to break the rules and make new rules, inspiring exceptional work and characters. A system that would create an emotionally heroic character rather than a victim.
I realized that an actor must identify their character’s primal need, goal or OBJECTIVE. With this OBJECTIVE in mind, the actor must then find the appropriate personal pain that can effectively drive this OBJECTIVE. After working with this idea for a while, I understood that the pain must be powerful enough to inspire an actor to fearlessly commit to doing whatever it takes to WIN their OBJECTIVE. If the emotions were not strong enough, then there wasn’t enough there to help the actor sustain their fight to win. But when the appropriate personal pain is paired with an OBJECTIVE, it connects the actor to their character’s predicament, making winning the OBJECTIVE real and necessary for them as a person, not just as an actor playing a part. With this new approach, my cutting-edge technique was born.
I began working to refine this theory of overcoming personal pain to empower a performance into a technique. I had to figure out how to help actors find a way to psychologically personalize and feel their character’s drive to win as their own.
Once I began applying these concepts I found the process so personally enriching that it literally took over my life. I began teaching seven days a week, many hours a day. Because I primarily taught and coached working actors, word spread through the professional acting community quickly. I opened an acting studio. Shortly thereafter, the studio had a rather lengthy waiting list. I never advertised and refused to do any promotion or have my school listed in any of the trade publications for actors. I didn’t even have a website. In fact, for a number of years, my studio’s telephone number was unlisted. I wasn’t being snobby or arrogant, I just figured that if an actor really wanted to find me, they would. Some people went to great lengths to get into my class, sometimes taking months just to get the school’s phone number. As a result, I attracted those who were truly dedicated to the craft—whether they were a writer, director or actor. I truly believe that the quality of my students, the majority of whom are committed, working actors, has been a part of elevating and advancing my technique.
Over the past twenty years, I have coached thousands of actors on thousands of parts in literally thousands of movies, television shows and plays. These actors are a living (and acting) research lab for my acting technique. Often, I have coached several actors auditioning for the same part in the same movie. I have seen, firsthand, what works and what doesn’t. Over time, I have identified the common denominators of what is most effective. When I would see certain approaches succeed again and again, I would develop, explore and refine them until they were easily reproducible. When my actors would get parts or win great reviews and awards, I found that it frequently came from using similar fundamental tools, all rooted in basic human psychology and behavioral science.
Another pattern I’ve observed over time is that my acting technique has a tendency to bleed into an actor’s personal life. To actually use adversity as a way to overcome it and win is so inspiring and effective that many of my actors unconsciously incorporate this way of being into their lives, becoming more personally realized and empowered. They take the victimization out of their lives, as they do for a scripted character.
What’s important for you as an actor or a director, screenwriter, or even a non-actor who wants to learn how to use your pain and win your goals, is that I have a technique that profoundly deepens actors’ performances and changes their lives.
This book will give you the precise methodology for the Chubbuck Technique, which is ultimately a rigorous, step-by-step, nuts-and-bolts script analysis system. A script analysis system that will help you to access your emotions and give you a way to not just feel them, but use them with dimension and power. The Power of the Actor will show you how to take your conflicts, challenges and pain and turn them into something positive, both from the standpoint of the character you are portraying and the human being behind the character.
Throughout my career as a teacher I have received many personal cards, notes and letters from my students expressing their gratitude for the technique, which seems to always change an actor’s, writer’s and director’s life and career. Let this book be my way of saying “Thank you” right back. For I’ve learned just as much, if not more, from my students—through who they are as people and their diverse life experiences—as they have from me.
The 12-Step Chubbuck Acting Technique
An actor who merely feels tends to turn his performance inward and does not energize or inspire himself or an audience, whereas watching someone do anything and everything to override pain in an attempt to accomplish a goal or an OBJECTIVE puts an audience on the edge of their seats, because the outcome becomes alive and unpredictable. Taking action results in risk and, therefore, an unexpected journey. It’s not enough for an actor to be honest. It’s the actor’s job to make the kind of choices that motivate exciting results. You can paint a canvas using real oil paint, but if the final painting isn’t a compelling image, no one will want to look at it.
This technique will teach you how to use your traumas, emotional pains, obsessions, travesties, needs, desires and dreams to fuel and drive your character’s achievement of a goal. You’ll learn that the obstacles of your character’s life are not meant to be accepted but to be overcome, in heroic proportions. In other words, my technique teaches actors how to win.
More than two thousand years ago, Aristotle defined the struggle of the individual to win as the essence of all drama. Overcoming and winning against all the hurdles and conflicts of life is what makes dynamic people. Martin Luther King, Jr., Stephen Hawking, Susan B. Anthony, Virginia Woolf, Albert Einstein, Beethoven, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela all had to overcome almost insurmountable struggles in their lives to achieve their goals. Indeed, the greater the obstacles and the more passion these people brought to overcoming their obstacles, the more profound the achievement or contribution they made. They didn’t become amazing, accomplished people despite their challenges, but because of them. These are qualities we want to duplicate in characterizations. It’s much more captivating to watch someone who’s trying to win against the odds than someone who’s content to put up with life’s travails. A winner doesn’t have to actually win to be a winner—a winner tries to win, a loser accepts defeat.
The better you know yourself, the better an actor you’ll be. You need to understand what makes you tick, profoundly and deeply. The following twelve acting tools will help you to dig into your psyche, allowing for discovery and a way to expose and channel all those wonderful demons that we all have. Your dark side, your traumas, your beliefs, your priorities, your fears, what drives your ego, what makes you feel shame and what initiates your pride are your colors, your paints to draw with as an actor.
The twelve tools:
1.OVERALL OBJECTIVE: What does your character want from life more than anything? Finding what your character wants throughout the script.
2.SCENE OBJECTIVE: What your character wants over the course of an entire scene, which supports the character’s OVERALL OBJECTIVE.
3.OBSTACLES: Determining the physical, emotional and mental hurdles that make it difficult for your character to achieve his or her OVERALL and SCENE OBJECTIVE.
4.SUBSTITUTION: Endowing the other actor in the scene with a person from your real life that makes sense to your OVERALL OBJECTIVE and your SCENE OBJECTIVE. For instance, if your character’s SCENE OBJECTIVE is “to get you to love me,” then you find someone from your present life that really makes you need that love—urgently, desperately and completely. This way you have all the diverse layers that a real need from a real person will give you.
5.INNER OBJECTS: The pictures you see in your mind when speaking or hearing about a person, place, thing or event.
6.BEATS and ACTIONS: A BEAT is a thought. Every time there’s a change in thought, there’s a BEAT change. ACTIONS are the mini-OBJECTIVES that are attached to each BEAT that support the SCENE’S OBJECTIVE and, therefore, the OVERALL OBJECTIVE.
7.MOMENT BEFORE: The event that happens before you begin the scene (or before the director yells, “Action!”), which gives you a place to move from, both physically and emotionally.
8.PLACE and FOURTH WALL: Using PLACE and FOURTH WALL means that you endow your character’s physical reality—which, in most cases, is realized on a stage, soundstage, set, classroom or on location—with attributes from a PLACE from your real life. Using PLACE and the FOURTH WALL creates privacy, intimacy, history, meaning, safety and reality. The PLACE/FOURTH WALL must support and make sense with the choices you’ve made for the other tools.
9.DOINGS: The handling of props, which produces behavior. Brushing your hair while speaking, tying your shoes, drinking, eating, using a knife to chop, etc., are examples of DOINGS.
10.INNER MONOLOGUE: The dialogue that’s going on inside your head that you don’t speak out loud.
11.PREVIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES: Your character’s history. The accumulation of life experiences that determines why and how they operate in the world. And then personalizing the character’s PREVIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES to that of your own so you can truly and soulfully understand the character’s behavior and become and live the role.
12.LET IT GO: While the Chubbuck Technique does use an actor’s intellect, it is not a set of intellectual exercises. This technique is the way to create human behavior so real that it produces the grittiness and rawness of really living a role. In order for you to duplicate the natural flow of life and be spontaneous, you have to get out of your head. To achieve this you have to trust the work you’ve done with the previous eleven tools and LET IT GO.
These twelve acting tools create a solid foundation that will keep you present and inspire a raw, profound, dynamic and powerful performance.
My work with Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball is a good exampl...
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Book Description Gotham, 2004. Hardcover. Condition: New. book. Seller Inventory # M1592400701