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  • Writer's pictureClare Lopez

Everything You Say is Because of THEM

Updated: May 17, 2020

Everything we do and say is a direct reaction to what that other human in the room is giving us. Think about a daily conversation: When I say something (even something as benign as 'Gosh, it’s hot today'), I always expect there to be a response from the person I’m talking to. None of us start a sentence, expecting to go on about the subject for 45 seconds. We launch a thought, and we expect there to be a response. And not only that, we expect a specific reaction. We hope that what we say will be received, acknowledged, agreed with, AND lead to change our scene partner in some way. It’s only when they don’t respond the way I'd expected (or don't respond at all), that I realize that I need to try something else, to get something out of them. Am I trying to open them up to a deeper conversation? Am I trying to get my mind off something that’s bugging me, and gauging how primed they will be to take my side? Whatever it is I am hoping for, in this moment: their lack of response is a response. And it fuels my need to say the next thing. In fact, if my scene partner, were to interject ANYTHING at all, the entire scene would change, and I’d likely not say any of the lines that follow. But they don’t. They don’t react the way I hoped, or expected. And so I have to do (and say) something else, or perhaps say the same thing, but in a different way. Even the decision to start a new thought, or launch into a new tact, is sourced from the face, breath, and eyes of my scene partner. Something that I see in them is giving me a clue as to how to respond next. What does that all mean? For one, it makes it nearly impossible to work on a piece of text without another human in the room. Believe it or not, this acting thing can’t be a solo endeavor. It’s why more and more casting directors want you to tape your auditions with a reader, an actual human in the room with you. Because you acting with your own pre-recorded voice, or a friend via phone, isn’t actually showing them what they need to see: you reacting to the physical body in a space. It also means, that any time I find myself talking, or continuing a section of text, without specificity, or mindlessly wandering into the next chuck of words without quite knowing why—that it’s a big indicator that I have lost connection to my scene partner. If we haven’t connected deeply into who this person is (our relationship), and have no idea how anything is landing on them (we’ve lost connection) then it's pretty challenging to forcibly ‘make’ the scene go anywhere at all. Our words come out in that mechanical “the screen writer told me to pause so I pause here” – and we get lost in where we are in the scene. Even when we've clearly worked on our own point of view on a subject, it is more important that we take stock of our scene partner's point of view. Because, at the end of the day, if we don’t know where they stand in any given moment, how can we possibly change them? When you’re lost in a passage of text. When you find your character repeating the same sort of phrase again, in different words, it’s a big clue. Something in our scene partner hasn’t shifted the way we wanted. What we said, hasn’t changed them. And exasperated, more desperate now, we try again—to get them to hear- to understand, to come to bat for our point of view. At the end of the day, even when it seems like our characters dialogue is much more dense than our scene partners, the writers have saddled us with a really daunting challenge. To listen twice as much as we speak, (even if we tend to speak twice as many words than our scene partner seems to). Everything we do and say is a direct reaction to what that other human in the room is giving us. And what’s even more awesome about that? It’s incredibly freeing. It becomes less important for me, the actor, to invent choices with each phrase and word—to pre-plan this masterful tapestry of tactics and choices that I should apply to every take of the scene. And MORE important to be available. To just exist in the text, and really focus on that other person. And let every choice, and tactic, and moment be sourced from them. When you aren’t responsible for curating a scene as a director, but rather as an impulsive, reactive human in space—we end up creating a scene that is much more alive, and as actors we start to let go of any preconceived ideas of how the scene should go. And what results, is a dynamic take of a scene that is so alive and in-the-moment, even we can’t quite predict what will happen. We feel free, and unfettered and admittedly a bit out of control. And that is the reality of any exchange between two people. We can never really control how anything will play out. We can plan, and worry, and choreograph all we want, but at the end of the day we just can’t ever know how a person will choose to respond. And as a result, that out-of-control space allows for us to align our hearts with the characters. We find ourselves more deeply invested, our stakes go up, our need is greater, and our connection to that scene partner becomes intrinsic to our scene. How cool is that? -C

#Process #ActingTechnique #Craft #Motivations #Technique


Clare Lopez is an Actress and Director of Education and Outreach at Book From Tape Acting Studios in Orlando, FL. She is deeply passionate about supporting fellow actors in their craft, and loves using storytelling to educate, elevate, and empower others.  Email Clare


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