Don’t worry. We are professional attention-seekers, so we know a thing or two about being the center of it. We are located in the grand city of Hollywood and in case you didn’t know, there are a few other attention-seekers located here. If you are an actor and earn a role in a play, in a film, or on TV, bully for you. But don’t think your career has been made. You have to have that extra something people like to call ‘presence’ in order to sustain a career. Even if you are not a thespian, you may still have a job requiring you to do a bit of speaking on stage and that same presence will grab your audience by the balls and take them on a fantastic voyage. Of course, not everyone is born with the ‘it factor’, so they need to work a little harder at it. Here’s something to get you started.
Note: For the novice, performing on stage and performing on camera are two completely opposite techniques. The principles are still the same, though. How convenient for you.
It’ll be hard to have any presence if you half-ass it during the preparation period. You know, stuff like learning your lines, knowing where your marks are, and doing the research. Stage work requires a lot more in the memorization department, so good luck with that. Film and TV are a little more lax on the lines because of multiple takes, but they are more strict when it comes to movement and where you need to stand. Just try and miss your mark by more than six inches and see how fast you will become the enemy of the camera department. It has to do with focus and boring technical stuff. We suggest taking some classes and workshops that will prepare you for the technical aspects of being top dog on film and also some stage movement classes. If you have trouble with memorizing…just try harder. If you are a musician, obviously endless hours of practice will keep you sharp and ready to rock when you hit the stage. Get to it.
Tip: Try to memorize by reading the material over and over, instead of sitting down to just commit it to memory.
Believe In It
Not to sound all failed acting teachery or anything, but you have to fully commit to whatever you are doing. Whether that be an acting role, on a lecture circuit promoting your book, or belting out your latest love ballad, you will need to fully believe in what you are saying. Acting professionals much more seasoned than us have especially expressed committing when playing a morally icky character. Don’t judge, just do it is the rule here. Just like the wise George Costanza once told Jerry: “It’s not a lie, if you believe it.” If you are not acting but engaged in a public speech, this will still ring true. Half the stuff you are doing for work might be crap, but if you fully commit, you will have a presence that dudes will covet and will make chicks hot. If you are performing in a band or going at it solo, believe in every note you play and every word you sing. It’s being heard by someone for the first time.
Tip: Everyone lies a little bit, right? Don’t judge it.
We say unique, but ‘weird’ might be a better word. Be the male Lady GaGa. People who stick out because they just don’t appear normal have grabbed billboard attention since the beginning of this whole entertainment thing. Benicio Del Toro seems like a good actor to us…or is he just a weird dude? Brando had that weird thing going for him, as does Johnny Depp. But Depp is also way more attractive then you will every be. If you are just a normal, boring dude, maybe it’s time to reinvent your stage/camera persona. Break up your speech pattern like you’re related to Christopher Walken. Adopt new gestures and use them at random moments. For musicians, wear outfits that have no business being worn by a human being. Brando rarely looked at his co-stars (partly because he was reading his lines on the floor or the ceiling) and this somehow, someway added to his immense presence. Although your hair can’t act (yes, it’s true Matthew McConaughey), trying something new with the ‘do can help you build a new you and get some presence.
Tip: Try a few different ‘new yous’ before deciding on the one you like.
Charisma and Intensity
Al Pacino has built a career by bugging his eyes out and appearing like he might actually commit a real murder on camera. Having intensity is a must for the dramatic actor or commanding public speaker. Ozzie Osbourne had this until he appeared on his reality show and we all realized he was just a broken old man with weird eyes. Intensity can be conveyed many different ways — eyes, voice, expressions — but you have to be intense. Seduce the audience. Just watch a play or a show and see where your eyes gravitate to (when you aren’t watching “Cathouse”, of course). It will likely be the most intense actor on screen or the musician who is owning the stage. However, when doing comedy, you can be bigger and change that intenseness over to charisma. Guys like Jim Carrey have got it. But again, if bringing charisma to your art/job does not come naturally, you will need to start practice adding charisma to your own life so it comes easier when on stage or on camera. Remember to maybe save the maniac intensity practice for rehearsal, though. Your local barista may not be cool with you threatening their life with your crazy eyes.
Tip: Try adding a pratfall to your daily routine. Or a spit take. Those are always charismatic.
Be Appropriately Big
On stage, big is the name of the game. In voice, in gestures, in movement. If you’re worried you are being too big, you probably aren’t. If the stage you are performing on — or teaching/lecturing from — is a smaller venue like a black box theatre, conference room, or closet, your bigness will need to be dialed down a few notches. For TV, cut the big stuff down by about half, and if you are doing your thing on film, ‘do nothing’ becomes your goal. Okay, obviously you have to do something, but on film everything registers. Partly because your face is on a giant screen, but also because there are more close shots of your mug. Musicians, you’re fine. Your song will dictate if you need to be big or not. Otherwise, make sure you understand your venue and adapt your movements, gestures, reactions, and voice accordingly.
Tip: Record yourself ahead of the performance and watch a few times. Make sure you are not being larger than the venue.