The Moment Before
What did your character experience before the scene began?
(By Tonya Tannenbaum)
You learn your sides, you go to the audition or enter a virtual audition, and you begin your scene.
Before you utter one word, aren’t you forgetting something? Aren’t you omitting something critical to your ability to deliver your lines with truth and authenticity?
Of course, you are!
You missed all the lines that your character would have said, but never had to say, before the scene commenced. In the business, this is what’s known as “The Moment Before”.
Your sides only tell you what’s happening to your character right now. Rarely is an actor ever told what happens to their character the moment before the scene begins. The actor, oftentimes, has no clue!
But that’s no excuse for not knowing what your character was doing prior to entering the scene. If the script doesn’t tell you, you must come up with it on your own. Invent, in your mind, the actions and dialogue your character experienced, prior to entering the scene.
The Moment Before is crucial to your ability to enter the scene with the appropriate emotional state-of-mind. It’s essential for portraying a fully functioning human being who’s living an actual life.
The Moment Before is crucial to your ability to enter the scene with the appropriate emotional state-of-mind.
Here’s an example:
Your character is supposed to enter the scene and tell her best friend that her boyfriend is cheating.
You have your sides and you know your lines. But what happened prior to this moment? If the sides don’t offer clues, you have to create them yourself.
*Perhaps you were on the phone with another friend, discussing how you were going to break the news to your bestie.
*Perhaps you had just caught the boyfriend in the act of cheating and you are shocked and angry.
*Perhaps you’ve been debating with yourself whether or not to tell your friend the bad news, and now you’re emotionally distraught.
*Perhaps you’re nervous about telling your friend, for fear that she might hate you for telling her something she doesn’t want to hear.
The possibilities are endless! But as you can see, whatever you choose as your moment before will have big implications for how you play the scene. It will affect your energy, the pace of your speech, the volume of your speech, the confidence with which you speak, your emotional state, everything!
It may not be provided for you in your sides, but your character experienced something right before the scene began. It’s vital that you know what that something is!
Using “The Moment Before” in performance
The Moment Before isn’t just useful for auditions. It is also useful in performance. Even though you’ve won the role, have access to the full script and know what happened the moment before, you still must connect to that moment, before entering the scene.
The Moment Before can be very helpful when performing on stage. But when it comes to acting in film, The Moment Before is absolutely vital. In film, scenes are often not shot in sequential order. So, actors aren’t able to ride the momentum from the previous scene into the current scene, like you can in theatre.
But by tapping into The Moment Before, actors can regain the appropriate level of emotion needed to effectively play the scene.
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