How to Get Into "The Zone" by Gemma Kaye
Posted: 06 November 2012 at 06:54:37PM
Weʼve all felt it... the tension, your heart racing, the excitement, the anxiety..."Iʼve got an audition!!"
If youʼre lucky, you might have one a week, one a month, or a few per year. They happen so rarely itʼs understandably difficult to become skillful at them...but if youʼre serious about a career as an actor (as opposed to a hobby), this is your task. In other jobs, in other industries, someone can study, get passable results, and walk into a job paying $40k/year or more - simply by virtue of passing, by being average. This is not the case for actors.
Rule of thumb for actors - about 90% unemployment - which means average doesnʼt cut it. Only the top 10% get any work at all. Only the top 2% are making a living. Only 0.05% (thatʼs 1 in 2000) make a decent amount of money. And perhaps 50 people in the entire world have what most actors dream of... stardom. It is daunting.
Iʼm grateful to say I have gotten myself into the 2% - Iʼm not famous, but Iʼm a successful working actor. And I got there through the principles of sports psychology. If you think about it, an audition is like running in the finals of the 100m at the Olympics. For a runner, competitions are not every day - they happen a few times per year... much like auditions. When a runner gets to the finals at the Olympics, they have a very short space of time to perform at their peak, there are lots of people running alongside them, there is only one winner, and there is little room for error - much like an audition. So if you want to "win the gold" and be cast (let alone be cast regularly and make a living), you need to be able to perform at your peak reliably and on demand - you need to be elite
in your field. You need to be able to get "into the zone".
So what is "the zone"? What is peak performance for an actor? There are a lot of different definitions of acting. This is mine - Acting requires the ability to be fully present in, and responsive to, an imaginary circumstance, without self-consciousness - to respond fully with heart, mind and body to an imagined reality without censoring yourself on any level. To be creative or inventive in the intuitive space (rather than the analytical one). To be uncensored. Imaginative. Creative. Unselfconscious. These are complex psychological skills - and we canʼt go into the skills themselves here - thatʼs what acting training is for! But you can use some simple strategies to optimise your level of performance no matter what your level of skill - whether beginner, working actor, or star...
My recipe for getting "in the zone" = Confidence + Presence + Clarity
1. Confidence (...there is no secret to it!)
a. Set small goals and achieve them.
b. Practice your craft. Regularly.
2. Being present "in the moment" (... again, no secret!)
a. Meditation - the art of being present. I do it 10mins x 3 times per day. If you donʼt already meditate. Learn. If 10x3 doesnʼt work for your schedule - try 20mins in the morning or evening. Or 10mins. But start. Do it every day. Start by starting. (For a free meditation class in Sydney visit - http://bit.ly/T0J3DU. For a free 10 day meditation course in various places throughout Australia try Vipassana -
3. Clarity of mind - no thoughts or feelings rolling around in your head about your life, your problems, your past or your future - just the thoughts and feelings stimulated by the imaginary circumstance. For this I use a technique from sports psychology -
a. 15mins before every audition (or rehearsal, or job) I listen to a song that makes me feel spontaneous and free. While listening, I sit with my eyes closed and visualise a large, white piece of paper in front of me. If my thoughts wander, I gently bring them back to the white piece of paper. I consciously forget who I am. I leave "me" behind. I let go of any thoughts or feelings about me and my life. I am a clear vessel for the imaginative, creative impulse.
b. After I leave every audition (or scene, or job) I listen to a song that makes me feel calm, relaxed, and like myself again. I breathe deeply and reconnect to my sense of "me". I think of the things I like about myself. I forget the character. I let the audition go.
And there you have it!
To get "in the zone" - Get confident. Get present. Get clear.
1. Set small goals and achieve them. Practice your craft.
2. Meditate daily.
3. Use visualisation before and after every audition.
Simple and effective. But knowing this is not enough. Action is required!
So start now. Start by starting. Start today. Start with your next audition.
I hope you enjoy these strategies and find them useful. Remember - they do not replace good training. But I guarantee if you implement them you will enhance your performance. Break a leg!
Gemma is currently writing an e-book for actors on how to get the "X-factor". To get an advance copy for only a $1, chip in to her crowdfunding campaign - www.indiegogo.com/actorx (e-book will be $17 later... so take advantage of this now).
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