Just recently, I came across descriptions that two successful film stars offered about how the techniques they use. Their approaches struck me as being very adaptable to the writing life. So here goes:
Jessica Chastain, a young, award-winning actress, discussed the importance of practice: “You have to assert yourself in a way where you work when no one is watching I was always studying. I was always doing play readings even if no one was watching.” Our takeaway: Every part of the writing process counts. Let’s work as if every moment on the page matters, because it does — even though we know no one is watching.
Michael Canine, the fabulous actor who was knighted in 2000, has written two popular autobiographies, What’s It All About? and Elephant to Hollywood. Even after decades of acting, he’s still looking for creative challenges. For his role as Alfred the butler in the Batman series, Michael invented a vivid back story: “I thought, I wanted to be the toughest butler in the world.” He decided that Alfred would have been part of a British military service. “He was a sergeant in it. He got wounded. He didn’t want to go to civilian life. Then he went into the sergeant’s mess, which is where Batman met him. I needed him to have social skills, like making cocktails and serving things. So that’s why I put him in the bar as a wounded ex-soldier who didn’t want to go back into civvy life.”
Michael subscribes to Stanislavski’s method acting and to his maxim: “the rehearsals are the work, the performance is the relaxation.” So, like he practices constantly: “Before I’ve ever say a line in front of a camera, I’ve said it a thousand times.” Our takeaway: Time spent creating back stories for characters is time well spent. And so is time stretching ourselves and perfecting our craft. Write on!