Let’s take a step back for a moment: what kind of work do you want to create? For me, it was about delivering Oscar-worthy moments in every performance, because those are the moments that stay with an audience.
So, what does it mean to be Oscar-worthy? Well, I actually did a poll in every one of my masterclasses over the past year, which shed light on what actors all around the world thought Oscar-worthy performances to constitute. Here is a compilation of what they said:
- Being present.
- Being accessible.
- Having tangible emotions.
- Putting you “on the map”.
- Making audiences believe.
- Capturing the audience’s attention.
- Being multi-faceted.
- Being dynamic.
- Being fluid.
- Being compelling.
- Being relatable.
- Being free of inhibitions.
- Accurately displaying the human condition.
- Being alive.
- Being complex.
- Being heartfelt.
- Touching the audience.
- Leaving the audience wanting more.
- Being authentic.
- Being genuine.
- Being natural.
- Being honest.
- Being raw.
- Being real.
- Documenting the truth.
This list is what this work has done for my own career: in my last feature film, I snagged four Best Actress In A Feature awards for my performance using this work—and I wouldn’t have been able to get through it without this method! It was a super emotionally charged role where the character bares her entire soul while dealing with loss, jealousy, and mental health issues. There were days on-set where I would have to break down to tears for twelve hours straight because we were shooting the five-page climax scene where she completely loses it. We had three characters to shoot and multiple setups (maybe fifteen) to capture for this scene alone, and in each setup, we did about three takes—so that is about forty-five takes where I drop to my knees in hysteria, unable to fathom what has happened to me and my family. Forty-five takes where I had to bring it one hundred percent each time. If I didn’t have this work to ground me allowing each take to be super organic, I don’t know what I would’ve done!
The way to make people feel your work is to simply be honest and specific with your intention, relationship, physicality, voice, and energy. Easy-peasy. (Ha. Not.) The first step to making consistent work like this is to learn and digest each chakra first, the same way you would learn the notes on an instrument. My book Acting With Energy: Creating Brilliance Take After Take should give you a taste of what’s possible when you create your recipe for repeatable brilliance.
As you are assigning chakras and chords to your script, remember that sometimes, the more effective choice is to use a single chakra, and other times, it is to use the double or triple chord to serve the moment and communicate the essence further. A triple chord can certainly be considered as an Oscar-worthy moment, and yet so can a double and a single note; it depends on the story and what is needed to serve the human condition in that exact moment. It will take some practice to get good at this, so you want to give yourself some space and time to really dig deep: I have been doing this work for over ten years, and it still teaches me something new every day! Quite incredible, really—especially considering I get bored quite easily with other things!
You might have dreams to win an Oscar, like so many of us do—so will you if you apply this technique? Maybe. That is my plan, anyway! And I know that if I want to be recognized for my work, I need to show up for myself, my work, and my art at all times. My performances need to be on lockdown: I can’t cross my fingers and hope that my breakup from twelve years ago will serve this character’s story; that is unrealistic and unfair to myself. I want to put myself in the best possible situation for my work to affect others, and to do this, you need to take risks with your craft to really see what you are made of. That is one of the reasons why I created About The Work: to provide a safe space for professional actors to try new things and stretch themselves out of their comfort zones so they can really see what they are made of; a place to get inspired to go further; to go deeper in pursuit of excellence by pinpointing that repeatable brilliance which is a necessity for every professional performing artist to build a career. This is a totally new, cutting-edge way of working that I have developed over the last ten years, and the best part about it is that you can take this language and reverse-engineer Oscar-winning performances to really see how they build their performance. You can use this language to discover their recipe! All you have to do is watch their performance and distill their choices into chakras, chords, and melodies to uncover their magical recipe. Pretty dope, right?
You, too, can become a masterful emotional technician. It is your time to leap and start creating, so start taking risks with your craft to find out what you are truly made of. Let’s go!
Now, I know you might be thinking, What happens if I get so good that I steal the spotlight everywhere I go? Ha! Champagne problems, my friend. Let them see your genius! Casting directors don’t decide Oscar-worthy moments; you do. You just need to feel empowered with the tools to craft the performance for yourself.
The actors that I feel give consistent Oscar-worthy performances (and there are so many) are Viola Davis, Anthony Hopkins, Meryl Streep, Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, Frances McDermont, Sally Field, Benicio Del Toro, Sandra Oh, and so many more. These are the actors that I study through the lens of this work and reverse-engineer what they are doing to uncover their recipe. Are they using the chakras? Who knows? But since uncovering this approach, I now have a language and a system to reverse-engineer their brilliant performances—and now I can do it, and so (soon) will you!
~Murisa Harba (Artistic Director of ABOUT THE WORK)