Sunday, May 8, 2011

Performance Anxiety - Epic Fail

I'm still trying to process what happened yesterday, it feels really surreal.

For two months I've been looking forward to my first real film role. Shooting started this past week. I had shot a few scenes already this week but they were mostly MOS with no dialogue, reactions only. One particular scene pushed me to my limits in using my emotions and I nailed that (see Pushing the Limits). But yesterday I shot my first scenes where I had dialogue and that's where it all fell apart.

From the word "action!", performance anxiety took over. My mouth started to get dry, my heart was racing and I felt slightly confused and completely disconnected from what was going on in the room. I managed to deliver my lines but that's about it.  No magic, just lines. No feeling, just lines. No reacting, just lines. Amateurish, downright bad acting.

The extremely patient director worked with me take after take.  But as soon as the cameras were rolling, it all went out the window. I kept getting more and more frustrated and flustered with each take, which just made the issue worse. He tried everything to get something good from me, but it just never came. We ended up with "good enough" and for the sake of time, moved on.

I had a few hours before my next scene so I did my best to pull myself together. I was determined to nail this one. But again, when the cameras were rolling and those words had to come out of my mouth, it was nothing but bad line delivery. Rushing, unnatural body movement, disconnection. Bad acting.  I felt completely out of control of everything going on.  It was so painful. We eventually got something that would work but I felt even worse that I blew it again.

Our last scene of the night went slightly better. At least I managed to channel some real emotion but it still felt a little awkward and likely looked that way too.  The camera doesn't lie. 
After we wrapped, I gathered my things, avoided saying good-bye to the director out of embarassment and practically ran to my car. I wanted out of there so bad. All I could think about was going home to my family, where I'm always good enough. They are my rock no matter what happens, no matter how bad I screw up, they still love me.

I didn't sleep much last night.  Between waking up from nightmares over what happened and contemplating never acting again, it was rough. I've resisted railing on myself all day but it's been hard. I let down the director, I let down my extremely talented castmates, but most of all I let down myself.

I don't know where this anxiety came from. It was the same feeling I had at the big audition recently where I blew it (see Getting Past a Bad Audition).  It certainly wasn't lack of preparation.  I rehearsed the scenes over and over and had real emotion and felt connected each time. But when it was go-time, I choked.

It's likely a variety of factors - inexperience, feeling like I didn't deserve to be there, pressure to give the "perfect" performance, making this role the end all, be all... I could analyze it to death but I'm not sure that would help. 

I've prayed a lot between then and now. I know that God is leading me somewhere with this. He's always used my most painful experiences for my greatest growth. It just depends on what I choose to do with it. It can beat me down and make me quit. Or it can push me to new places and guide me to the experiences I need to grow. If you don't grow through what you're going through, then you'll keep going through it until you do.

I don't have a game plan yet for overcoming performance anxiety. But I'm confident that I'll be led to my next step, whatever that may be.  Honestly, I think exposure, experience and being prayerful about it will lead to eventually getting past it.

Time will tell. For the most part, acting beats me down on a regular basis. But I keep getting back up and that's where the strength and the greatest lessons lie. It has grown me as a person in more ways than I ever thought possible. 

So for now, I'm going to keep on keeping on.


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