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When Being Too Competitive Restricts Your Performance

 How often do you fail to admit a mistake even though it's obvious you're wrong?  I'd add that we have all been there - most of the people in my life have a recurring tendency to argue over irrelevant things.  I am no exception.


Actors are among the least stubborn people I know, although on set it can often appear to be the opposite.  In a film, an actor invests an enormous amount of trust in the people around them - from the director to the costume designer to the makeup artist to the cinematographer to the camera operator to the writer to the script supervisor.  Almost every single member of the crew could make the actor look bad if they wanted to, by virtue of the sheer size and scope of details that need attendant awareness in every moment of the scene.  So most actors develop a broad sense of acceptance for the range of opinions of others, in essence placing their careers in the hands of a diverse series of artists who may or may not have the chops to do the actor justice.

Unfortunately, this attitude has one specific consequence - it exposes actors to the multitudinous mistakes that can be made on a set, and it allows them to feel the consequences more acutely than anyone else, including directors, can experience.  It's always difficult to develop any long-term strategies to avoid these mistakes, since art is a delicate and organic process subject to rule-breaking at every turn.  Nonetheless, certain things like bad sound, bad writing, incomprehensible actions or props, or odd pacing can really start to stick out to actors who have seen these mistakes time and again.  Thus, when an actor walks onto a set, there is a paradox.  How does one stay open-minded when every fiber of the soul is screaming that something is wrong and needs to be corrected?

In my opinion, good actors step into this stewardship of a scene and challenge the director, wardrobe, and makeup artist to think harder, better, and different about a scene, even if the actor is at a loss for a solution.  But how far should an actor push back against another artist, when it may be that the other artist has a clearer vision of their respective field?

This is a hard call to make.  If you are an actor, one thing to be mindful of is whether or not you are pushing for a creative solution, or if you are just being competitive with the people around you, perhaps envisioning yourself superior to other artists at determining creative solutions.  If you find yourself often in control battles with other actors or directors, you may want to ask yourself if you are wasting your energy.  An actor needs to summon a lot of energy for a sustained period of time, and that energy can be channeled to new and mysterious ideas, in every portion of your performance, adding an ever deepening layer of connection, if managed correctly.

When people advise you to stop being controlling or competitive, it comes across as though they are seeking respite from the negativity you are emanating.  That may well be the case, but I advise you to let go of your competitive edge strictly for yourself - give yourself and your performance more attention and affection, and let this energy manifest itself in more creative ideas to incorporate into your performance.  Paradoxically, it may help to cure the artists around you from their propensity for showing you in the wrong light, for nothing can compare to the burning energy of an electric performance propelled by a cornucopia of moments of acting grandeur.