A highly respected acting coach phoned into WOR radio in New York City with this observation:
"Actors today are too mechanical."
What the coach was talking about was not only the formula stereotyped actions and reactions of actors at auditions. but the reality that many interact better with their cell phones and video games than with their fellow human beings.
"How can you create a full human being on stage or film, if you think in terms of text messages and stiff video images?" they ask.
An actor must learn to listen, to the other character, to the environment, to the perceived reality of the characters world, to the very subtext and pattern of their own words or lines. Listening is how we capture ad understand reality. As any good salesperson can tell you, listening involves all of your senses, including a full understanding of movement, body language, intent, facial expressions, and like poker, subtle "gives."
An actor should listen and react as if it is the first time that the words are spoken, the actions taken and the reality of the scene unfolds. To do that they need to engage their senses as well as their mind, and set aside the mechanical we learn form pushing buttons, viewing two dimensional screens and constantly accepting stereotyped characters and images.
The coach went on to say how hard it is to break a beginning actor of the mechanical movements and predictable, or telegraphed gestures and expressions they have grown up to think of as "acting." While it has always been hard, today the cell phone raised gaming generation is more entrenched and dependent on these mechanical short hand tools than ever before.
The expectation of fast results, the ego of assumed rather than polished talents, the "overnight star" fiction of our society all work against the serious training and proven results seasoned actors know is needed to longevity in a very difficult, but rewarding profession.
Students jump from teacher to teacher, coach to coach, job to job without allowing the time for concepts, loyalty, "ah-ha" moments to set in and take root.
Acting resume, regardless of coaching or teaching skills and experience, attract students who think that by association along they can advance their degree. Long term investment and carefully fertilized individual talent and the needed life experience behind it, are overlooked or skipped entirely.
Craft and art are treated as an inconvenience or something you can learn the same way as you might learn to use a new computer program or electronic gadget.
As a result, the craft, the level of acting talent and the overall quality of the final projects are suffering, careers are shortened and the view of the general public of actors continues to spiral down toward "something anyone can do."
Students need to slow down, be more loyal and realize that you are only as good as your ability to suspend disbelief and create the reality of the story you are one part in telling, no matter how large or small your role.
What the NYC coach was referring to was the need to put aside the fast and the furious, and take up the bones or what it is to be human; to create reality; to tell the story in a way that it is believed and experienced
Live life. Use your life experience. Learn from the life experience of others. Be a true artist.
Lose the machine.