Last Night’s Technique Class: Substitution

Holy crap! Last night we worked on substitution which is essentially drawing upon past experiences in your own personal life to create authentic emotion from within. Remember, we don’t play emotions. It has to come from something within you. Not external.

One thing that really, and I mean REALLY stood out to me was the final exercise. Susan, our instructor dimmed the lights and set three boxes next to each other with a blanket on top. She said, this is the funeral of someone you love.

It was crazy. I made my own substitution…which I’m not going to share, because as an artist, it is yours and once you reveal it, sometimes it can take away the magic. The second I stepped up to the box, I felt a rush of emotion so strong that tear started to flow down my face almost immediately. I wasn’t acting. I didn’t want to cry, and I tried to hold back the tears. I tried to speak — my voice was so high, I couldn’t complete a sentence. It was real emotion from within — and that is the power of a substitution. The moment was so real, I had to leave the classroom to reset my reality. It was incredible.

This got me thinking. What if I had such strong substitutions for so many circumstances that I could draw upon and create life instantaneously. Shame, humiliation, anger, lust, frustration, sadness. Aaron Speiser was once on set for a major feature film and was helping to coach the actors. They were passing around a piece of paper that probably didn’t mean anything to them. Then, Aaron said, substitute the paper with your child, and everyone is telling you that it doesn’t belong to you.

Wow. Don’t let your substitutions be so literal. You can make a piece of paper into your child. That sparks true life and human behavior.

This is the power of substitutions. And here is a short clip of one of my favorite quotes of all time by Bruce Lee.



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