In 1995, I was just out of acting school - having attended in order to learn vocal technique to augment my stage presence as a speaker. Speaking and acting have some interesting similarities in terms of how a conversation is established between performer and audience, most often in live theatre. At the time I was in school, I was unlike my classmates in that I had little desire to be an actor, and no ambition whatsoever to do auditions, etc. I just wanted to be a better communicator. So as not to get swept up into the world of acting, I made an agreement with myself that any fame or fortune that would befall me in the acting world would come TO me, not happen as a result of me going to It. Right in line with that, just after graduation, I was approached by a local 17-year-old director named Gabriel Judet-Weinshel. Gabriel had written a film called "The Last Supper" about a man who learns that he is living his last day. The Person, as this man is called (a sort of Everyperson character) has to reconcile his entire life between sunrise and sundown. Quite a concept for a teenager to develop as much as Gabriel had. I played The Person, and we shot over five days in Seattle. Very few people saw the film, as it wasn't widely released, but what was significant about it was that Gabe and I worked together brilliantly. He looked at me on the last shoot day and said, "I am going to make movies for the rest of my life. When I cast my first feature, I am going to cast you in it."
Fast forward to 2011. Its a decade and a half later. I get a phone call. It was Gabriel, now age 30-something. He was in New York, having done exactly what he said he would have done: he had spent his life making movies. He was indeed casting his first feature and he asked me to co-star. My IMDB profile needs a little love, so that was just another reason to say yes to this project. I play, surprise surprise, an eccentric, out-of-work juggler....go figure...who helps a detective figure out a murder mystery and the reasons behind a bizarre set of circumstances in which he sees duplicates - twins - of himself around a city, not all of them benevolent. We shot the film over twenty-one days in New York, and just this past week after a few years had gone by, we reshot one of the scenes which was to have required a number of special effects to make it look the way Gabriel wanted.
The film will be finished later this fall, and if the gods of film have their way, it will be on the festival circuit next year. It was fascinating to be in front again of the camera and experience communication in a different way than I am used to with my keynotes and my spoken word appearances. You don't get the non-verbal cues that you get from conversation or from an audience. You also don't get the verbal cues either. You don't get anything actually: its all generative in your imagination and in how accurately you play the moment. There are good lessons here for when we don't get back what we hope for from the person to whom we are speaking. What happens in the moment? Do we let that crush us? Sure, we are all insecure fragile creatures but we can also - in moments of need - retreat to our imagination and put another of our abilities to the best possible use: our ability to imagine and envision.
If we envision a reality other than the one we are currently in (this is a uniquely human attribute...no other species in the animal kingdom does this) then we can live as if. As if we are getting the response we want. As if our point is well taken. As if the recipient is on board with us. Often in moments in front of audiences, especially for new speakers, being AS IF is a great method for getting through tight moments. Instead of reacting to the response we received, we can react to the response in a moment that we WANTED to have received. Is it out of integrity to do this? It doesn't matter: it is performance. And performance as reality creation is an inherent part of any communication. We use our words and tone in specific ways to bring out responses. This is performance too.
If it gets you by to the next scene, I vote to use whatever takes, go for it, and make it happen. Use whatever technique works to make the overall speech or presentation a success. When acting, I am thinking about the fullness of the reality of the situation, even if the camera doesn't respond in the way I want it to. I can make the result seem like it did.