In this clip, actor Michael Fassbender (The Killer, X-Men: Apocalypse, Alien: Covenant) talks about wanting to “be well-prepared so I can have freedom”. This may seem surprising to some aspiring actors, who think that preparation gets in the way of freedom and spontaneity. But in fact it’s the opposite: to paraphrase the great scientist Louis Pasteur: ¨Fortune favors the prepared mind.¨ It is THROUGH preparation that we arrive at freedom. A teacher of mine at the Yale School of Drama would say: “Freedom lies on the other side of technique”, a related sentiment. Through doing the homework, as Fassbender says, we get oriented to the character’s situation and we are prepared to respond spontaneously and appropriately to the input we get from our fellow actors and the scene environment. As General Eisenhower said: “Plans are useless, but planning is essential.” The process of preparation raises possibilities which can then be explored fruitfully in rehearsal. As I discussed in a previous post, Jeremy Strong, of Succession fame, said of acting:
“Most of acting is about preparation, so that if you are armed with a visceral understanding of this character, you can get to set and essentially just play and be in the moment. And I’d say or do anything formed by that understanding.”
How to prepare is a huge part of what I teach in acting class. It’s a huge part of what technique is all about. Through technique, we learn to explore and frame the character’s situation in order to set us up to do the best possible work when we are in rehearsal and performance. It’s through preparation that we are truly able to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances.