Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Don't dissect the skylark to see the source of its song

The Words of Wisdom this week are a little strange, but bear with me. They are ‘Don’t dissect the skylark to see the source of its song.’ Where I am coming from, with this, is that we can never fully understand ourselves or each other. We can never predict anyone else’s actions with complete certainty, nor even our own. Many things in the world are amenable to analysis but nothing can be totally analysed. There is always a degree of uncertainty. That is, in fact, a scientific fact.

Remember that I am a scientist by training, and believe that knowledge comes from experience, but even so there are limits to how much we can cut things up and reduce them before we change their nature. A skylark is a living creature and it only sings while it is alive. Cut it up and it will die. It is, you see, more than the sum of the atoms of which it is composed.

This same principle applies to acting, particularly comedy. If you make people laugh, or cry, you may find it impossible to understand exactly why you are having such a strong effect on them. If you try too hard to work out why you are getting such results you may be in danger of destroying the thing that makes it work. Comedians and comics who get all serious and try to theorise about what they do suddenly cease to be funny. You may be able to think of a few names of them.

Sometimes it’s best to simply accept that you do things that give an audience pleasure and not to worry about how it is happening. Don’t dissect the skylark to see the source of its song.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Enhance your Watchability

The secrets of making people like looking at you are encapsulated in our Words of Wisdom this week: Enhance your Watchability. What are the factors that give some people that elusive star quality? Dazzling good looks are certainly a help, if you are lucky enough to have them, but plenty of big stars are far from being beautiful or handsome, and some are what is most kindly described as ‘interesting.’ So why are they good to look at? Inner confidence is a big factor and this you can work on by congratulating yourself and remembering every little thing you achieve, however small, and marking up every little thing you learn today that you didn’t know yesterday. That will help and you will find that self confidence is cumulative. But, technically, what can you do to make people want to watch you? How can you acquire a little of that star quality stardust pzazz?
Here are five things that help. 1. Be still. Avoid fidgety movements, particularly moving your hands to your face. These little displacement activities are signs that you are submitting to stress and displaying them reduces your dominance, so be still. 2. Use strong gaze. Our eyes give out our most powerful non verbal signals. Hold gaze a little longer than you normally do and you will feel a mix of emotions. You will feel daring and powerful but exposed. The person you’re looking at and the third parties in the audience will read these emotions. You will become a little bit dangerous. Drop your gaze and you will turn them off. You will feel safe, but dull. 3. Raise your voice and add presence to it. Project your voice to indicate the importance of what you are saying. Don’t swallow your words as if they were insignificant. Remember that your voice is a musical instrument, not only when you are singing but also when you are speaking. Get accustomed to using a range of tone, rhythm, pitch and emphasis. It will become automatic to add expression to what you are saying. It won’t seem stagy or artificial. 4. Display physical energy. If your body is physically energised this transmits to an audience, even when you are stationary. Physical energy adds excitement, so make all your movements decisive and purposeful. Make your head movements definite and strong. 5. This is a rather mysterious one, but it works. Think of a wonderful secret you might have. Imagine you have it. Hold this wonderful inner secret and you will look amazing. Strange but true. Practice these five things and you may be sure you will … Enhance your Watchability.