Chapter 19 of 28 from Helen Mirren

Film Acting Technique, Part 3

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Learn how to drop into character right before a take, how to stay grounded in your process, and how to give your best performance amid the distractions on set.

Topics include: Learn to Work With Other Actors' Processes • Incorporate Challenging Feelings Into Your Performances • Before the Take: Remind Yourself of the Character • Between Takes: Concentrate and Compartmentalize • Reach For a Baby-Like (or Dog-Like) State • Don't Study Your Performances

Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren Teaches Acting

In 28 lessons, the Oscar, Golden Globe, Tony, and Emmy winner teaches her process for acting on the stage and screen.

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Be patient with other people's process. Every actor has a different process. Some are very noisy on the set and very funny, and they have to make a lot of noise, and they have to shout. Other actors have to be really quiet and really silent in the corner. And why isn't he talking to me? What? Did I do something wrong? Everyone has a different rhythm. Some actors need a lot of takes to get to the essence of what they are going to do. Other actors do it in the first moment. Some actors need really quiet concentration before they work. I worked with an actor once who-- every time before a take, he would start telling a story or start on a joke, which he knew he wasn't going to get to the end of that joke on action. So literally, on turnover, he'd start telling the story, and then action, and then he'd drop the joke and start acting. And maybe that was his way. It was very distracting for me. It was really annoying. But because I'm the other sort of actor, I want to quietly concentrate. But it was his way of doing it. So you have to find-- you have to learn to work with other people. I think what's very important also to understand-- when you're in the middle of a performance, be it in a film or on the stage, you know you're on a train that you can't get off. In the theater, 7:30, curtain goes up, you've got to do it. On a film, on television, turn over, action-- you've got to do it. And sometimes there are elements that are just pissing you off or that are making life difficult for you. It's incredibly hot, or it's cold, or an actor is annoying you, or there's something that is really making you feel uncomfortable. My only advice there is to use it. Just incorporate it into your performance, as we do in real life. If something is kind of annoying us-- oh, this chair is so uncomfortable-- whatever it is, just use it. Incorporate it into your performance. I learned this very clearly once a long time ago. I was doing a play in the theater, and the actor I was playing opposite, and I was supposed to in the play be madly insanely in love with, to the extent that I was going to give up everything for him, everything, and basically sacrifice in the end my life for him-- I couldn't stand him. He just really, really annoyed me, and I found him physically unattractive-- repulsive, actually. And I just couldn't not express this. And we did a run-through quite late on. We'd rehearsed it, and we did this run-through. And a very, very astute actor came up to me at the end of the run-through. He was playing quite a small role, but he was a darling. And I've always thanked him for this. He came up to me and said, I know what's going on. I understand, and I can see, because I can see how you feel about him. You're showing it in your performance. He said, just use it. Just everything that you find unattrac...

Find freedom in your roles

Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy, and Tony winner Helen Mirren is one of the greatest actresses of our time. In her first online class, she discusses the dualism that is core to her method: the necessity for mastering technique (craft) and then letting go so that your imagination can take over (art). Learn how to break down a script, research characters, and master techniques so you can transcend them to find freedom in every role.

Helen brings you behind the scenes to show you the secrets of her acting technique.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Helen will also critique select student work.

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Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren Teaches Acting