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Information about the scene objective within acting
What do I want? One of the first things we usually learn to ask ourselves– –when approaching a scene is, “what do I want?” Or, put another way, “what is my objective?” So, then you look at the script and you try to find out– –what your character wants to accomplish in the scene. And this might seem simple enough. But this is, in my view, one of the more complex, confusing– –and misunderstood concepts in acting. One problem is that sometimes we think– –that the idea of the objective is to try to get what we want in a scene at all costs. And, so, we do improvisational exercises to try to practice “winning the scene”.
But the playwright has already decided what happens at the end of the scene. We don’t have to worry about that. The point is not to necessarily get what you want. How could it be since it’s ultimately out of your hands? What we do have to concern ourselves with– –is to live truthfully, moment to moment, on the way there. Another problem is, how do we make the objective specific enough– –so that we truly understand what it would mean to achieve it? One key element is that what you want is never a general and material thing– –but rather a change in the other person that might then in turn lead to the thing.
For example, let’s say the scene is about a person asking someone for a loan. You might then say that the objective in the scene is to get the money. But that’s quite general and vague. If you instead formulate it as a change that you want to happen– –in the other person, so that they might give you the loan– –then maybe the objective is– –to make them sympathize with you, or to sell them on your great idea.
And to be even more specific: if the goal is to sell them on your great idea– –then maybe what you really want is for them to get excited. And then you can think about what that excitement might look like. Maybe it’s their eyes lighting up and their heads nodding up and down. So now this is your objective. Or if you go the route of wanting their sympathy– –you can think about what that might look like– –and maybe you realize that it’s giving you a hug. So now that’s your objective. And I can guarantee you that both of those things– –is way more fun and engaging and interesting to act– –and to watch, than getting the money.
Now, back to the idea of winning the scene. If you’re too concerned with getting what you want– –you might start to ignore everything that doesn’t seem to support you achieving your goal. Or you try to manipulate your way around it– –instead of letting everything that happens in the moment inform your performance. If what you want is for the other person to be excited by your great idea– –and their response is to laugh at you– –then maybe your answer to that is storming out of the room. Great. What’s wrong with that? Or you enter the scene looking for sympathy– –but something happens and instead you end up comforting the other person.
So instead of thinking about the objective as something to achieve– –think of it as a point of view– –or something that gives you a sense of direction into the scene. Answer whatever happens truthfully. Not to get what you want, but from the point of view of what you want. All this goes back to what your job as an actor really is. To live truthfully. Not to live strategically or manipulatively in order to achieve a certain goal.
In this video, Johan examines the idea of scene objectives and why understanding this concept is one of the trickier parts of acting.

A common misunderstanding is that the point of the objective is to try, at all costs, to “get what you want”. But as what ultimately happens in the scene is already decided before you begin, your job is only about living truthfully on the way there. Instead, think of the objective as something that gives you a point of view and a direction into the scene.

For the objective to work it needs to be specific enough so that we truly understand what achieving it would look like. Formulate your objective so that what you want is not a material or practical thing but rather an emotional change in the other person.

And from this point of view, answer truthfully to whatever happens in the moment.

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Introduction to Acting

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