To teach my teenage students how to critique themselves objectively I asked them “What makes a good performance?”
Before you answer that question think of your favourite films, actors and scenes. No doubt you’ve watched a performance and said, “He was good.” So what exactly makes him good in that particular moment?
You need to adopt an emotional point of view (Eric Morris technique). By that I mean, define ‘good’. My class decided to use the first installment of The Pirates of the Caribbean as an example since they’d all seen it and could offer an opinion. Our discussion focused quite closely on Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow.
So according to a group of teenage actors (my students), this is what they came up with for the ten tips of what makes a good performance (in no particular order):
- Character Development – Johnny Depp’s immersion into the journey of his character. Character history.
- Relationships – how does Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow engage the other characters? I.e. interaction/action/reaction, listening.
- Believability – does Johnny Depp come across natural and do we believe him?
- Voice – projection/volume, his articulation or lack thereof, any accents and emotional attachment to the dialogue.
- Physicalisation – body movement and within environment OR use of body and space effectively.
- Facial Expression – which is connected to physicalisation. Does his face express what he’s feeling?
- Improvisation – were there any organic moments (that perhaps weren’t scripted… that’s where the real magic begins)?
- Interpretation – Johnny Depp’s originality of the character. Having courage and taking risks applies here.
- Technical Awareness – this comes with much acting experience and means how aware is the actor of the screen medium (in other words nailing a performance but always aware of the camera)?
- Objective – probably THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR!!! What was Johnny Depp’s objective in that scene and was it clear? This is partially adopting the Ivana Chubbuck Technique and is crucial to all professional acting techniques. Having an objective is important to you, your character, each scene and the whole story-line from cover to cover.
Each tip is as important as the last and complements the others. They are not the be all, end all to a great performance but they certainly make you think about the finer details.
So next time you watch a movie and think to yourself, “That was good.” Ask yourself why? Why was it so good? And take the above ten tips to what makes a good performance into account. The more aware you become of these facets of a good performance the more you’ll bring that awareness into your own acting.
I’ll explain more of those ten tips to what makes a great performance in future blog posts.