Did you ever notice the lessons one learns in acting can also be applied directly to life? Why I sure did, and here’s what I found.
Out of everything I learned in acting there were three lessons which have really helped me in life. Hopefully these are some things you can relate to as well. The three lessons I learned were developing imagination, learning to listen, and practicing focus.
Acting is a fascinating art form, and it requires the artist to be deeply imaginative in order to bring a character to life. I experienced this firsthand when I took an acting school.
While developing a character I was challenged to think about the history of the character and certain things about him that would round him out but was not specified by the script. This process of creating who the character was took a lot of imagination.
Practicing this as well as practicing imaginary circumstances allowed me to develop my imagination and expand it to new areas, showing me the amount of imagination God has given me was far beyond what I thought it was.
The cool thing about learning to develop imagination on my acting school, is when I was back home I found it so much easier to paint or write because of the development. Things I would have never tried before suddenly became more fascinating because I had a better grip on my imagination.
Even just being able to stare off into space and imagine I’m in a different place doing something else has proven to be inspirational all in itself and has proven to help in difficult situations. It sounds a bit weird, but it’s quite nice to be able to zone out once in awhile.
Another thing I’ve learned alongside developing my imagination is the ability to listen. Before taking my acting school, I didn’t listen very well, and I wouldn’t give people my full attention. But during the school I was able to learn what it means to truly listen to someone.
Michael Caine wrote a little something about the importance of listening, that sums up what we learned in my acting school, in his book “Acting In Film”.
In the book he writes:
“Movie acting is a delicate blend of careful preparation and spontaneity. The art of new-minting thoughts and dialogue comes from listening and reacting as if for the first time. When I was very young and in repertory theatre, I was given some advice by a clever director. He said:
“What are you doing in that scene, Michael?”
“Nothing,” I said. “I haven’t got anything to say.”
“That,” said the director, “is a very big mistake. Of course you have something to say. You’ve got wonderful things to say. But you sit there and listen, thinking of wonderful things to say, and then you decide not to say them. That’s what you’re doing in that scene.”
Of course you have something to say. You’ve got wonderful things to say. But you sit there and listen, thinking of wonderful things to say, and then you decide not to say them. That’s what you’re doing in that scene.
We also followed the wise teachings of Sanford Meisner and practiced repetition exercises on the school. We would each have a partner and we would repeat exactly what the other person said. In this way we were required to listen and focus on our partner.
In this way I was able to take this back home and practice with other people, giving them my full attention and really listen to what they were saying. It helped me be grounded in the moment and relate to people a lot better, which all started with learning the technique in acting.
The third thing I learned to do in acting, that has greatly helped in life, was the art of focus.
There are many different areas I have discovered requires focus as an actor. Focus is needed in auditioning, in developing a character, in rehearsal, on set, and during the scene.
Bruce Ladd, one of the speakers on my school, taught many different techniques that helped us with focus and what that looks like for an actor.
I remember one time we were doing an exercise where we had to control our breathing and believe you me, that took a good amount of concentration and focus. After just a few minutes of controlled breathing you do your best not to gulp down a lot of air. But that training in focus opened the door for me to practice this in my daily routine.
With the training of focus and its importance on my noodle, that is, brain, I was able to focus better while I worked. I also became aware of my own level of discipline. When working at a desk I have noticed that because of this awareness and amount of training I’ve been able to carry out more tasks and finish them to the end whereas before the school I hadn’t been able to.
Ah! Isn’t it so cool how acting can teach you these beautiful little life lessons? I find it so helpful and inspirational.
With all of these techniques, be it imagination, listening, or focus, it takes a lot of time to practice them. But if you do practice then you will see yourself not only develop as a better actor but also as a better person.