What The F#ck is Mindful Acting?
The REAL Mindful Acting Approach
Those who know me and my teaching well at Mindful Acting know me for two things, compassion, and no bullshit. Apart from this blog, I mostly stay out of many public and online conversations in and around the industry because of my private personality and distaste for the polarising nature of social media. By doing this the compassion value is being served somewhat. But in so doing, I've not been true to other important value I hold dear - authenticity (no bullshit).
So after reflecting and conversing with wiser people in my life I've decided to make a pivot in my public persona to rectify this. Starting with this post. I want to clarify some common misconceptions people have when they hear the term 'Mindful Acting'. And in the spirit of what Sanford Meisner used to say, "fuck polite".
Acting and Mental Health
So what exactly is 'Mindful Acting' and why do I teach it? The Mindful Acting approach will completely change the way you think about acting. Here you'll learn how the typical toxic bullshit approach to actor training doesn't just hurt your mental health it hurts your career.
The very training that's meant to set actors free is instead leaving actors hobbled and so full of self-doubt and neurosis that they are now just as afraid of getting an audition as not getting one.
I started Mindful Acting because it's the way I wish I'd been trained throughout my life (with compassion but without bullshit). That being said I've been inspired by a few great teachers over the years, who taught me the difference between encouragement and coercion.
With Mindful Acting you'll discover that you don't have to sacrifice your life and well-being for your art. And the tired old story of the best actors being the tortured geniuses is a myth.
Mindfulness isn't about chilling out
Let me clarify, mindfulness isn't about being "chilled out". Mindfulness training teaches us the fundamental skills needed to succeed in acting: commitment, self-acceptance, connection, empathy, resilience, presence, and how to work with your attention and awareness. And don't worry, you're not going to lose your edge. At Mindful Acting we strive to go push your acting further than you've ever gone before. To not just settle for the casual or acceptable, but to help you access groundbreaking acting. You can't spell compassion without passion.
At Mindful Acting we combine the techniques derived from masters of the acting craft with ancient wisdom to find the best approach for you. Think of it like Bruce Lee's approach to martial arts, taking the best aspects from each approach and discarding the rest.
Not only will you book more acting jobs, but you'll be happier and more confident when you do.
Oftentimes mindfulness is equated with calm, relaxation and concentration which conveniently fits into many people's preexisting worldview. None of these things sounds particularly disagreeable or offensive. Most people tend to want more of these qualities in their lives. But although those aspects are useful byproducts of mindfulness and meditation they are not the point.
What is Mindfulness Really?
Above all mindfulness is about seeing things as they truly are. Or in other words, cutting through the bullshit. The radicalness of mindfulness comes from how it approaches that task. You could say mindfulness is cutting through bullshit with compassion.
At its heart, it sees compassion and clarity as synonymous. Or more accurately two sides of the same coin. Compassion is not just some fluffy pie-in-the-sky aspect that comes later when the practicalities have been addressed. Compassion is the very ground of practicality.
True mindfulness takes into account the whole context within which we operate. It doesn't just look from a narrow viewpoint, ignoring the inconvenient facts and truths of existence, like many aspects of our modern culture. If you were to truly apply it to a typical corporate business model for example, it would reveal how every aspect of the business from the customers, to the producers, employees, employers, commodities, etc are all interrelated, and that ignoring the well-being of one will negatively impact the rest. In other words, unless everyone's needs are met, no one's needs are ultimately met.
Mindfulness is about clearly seeing reality as it truly is, on its own terms. It's about letting go of our convenient opinions and rationalisations that keep us bound and dissatisfied, in favour of truths that are inconvenient but will nonetheless set us free from our own self-imposed destructive bullshit.
Showbusiness is full of Bullshit
Nowhere else does this seem more relevant to me than in the acting industry. An industry almost defined by if not at least infested by obligatory bullshit. From the bullshit superficial approach to "networking" to the conveniently tardy response to diversity followed by an embarrassingly overzealous attempt to overcompensate, the acting industry is full of hypocrisy and charlatanry to a level usually reserved for politics. It's so pervasive it's almost impossible to imagine being part of the industry without also participating in the bullshit.
At Mindful Acting we do things differently. Our aim is to provide an antidote to this. To teach you how to swim against the stream as it were. Or at least to learn how to weather the industry without losing your authenticity and integrity as a performer, artist, and person.
How We teach acting
We're not going to teach you how to 'brand' yourself because we don't think it's ever healthy to think of yourself as a brand. You can be aware that others are branding you and know how to utilise that knowledge from a sense of play without starting to identify yourself with it.
We're not going to teach you techniques developed by controlling directors who simply want you to be a better warm prop for them. Instead, we'll teach you how to be a self-sufficient artist confident in your own ability to offer creative choices in line with the script. We'll also teach you how to translate those over-controlling, unactable directions you get into playable behaviours.
We won't teach you how to swallow shit, we'll teach you how to deal with it. How to stand up for yourself, for your boundaries and needs as well as those of others.
One thing I'll continue to say is this, let your life serve your acting, and your acting serve your life.