From The Power of the Actor: The Chubbuck Technique

The Chubbuck Technique teaches actors how to use their emotions not as an end result, but as a way to empower a goal. The obstacles in the character’s life life are not meant to be accepted but overcome, in heroic proportions. In other words, it teaches actors how to win.

According to Chubbuck, an actor must identify their character’s primal need, goal or OBJECTIVE. With this objective in mind, the actor must then find the appropriate personal pain that can effectively drive this objective. When the appropriate personal pain (which is to say, a pain that is powerful enough to inspire an actor to fearlessly commit to doing whatever it takes to win their objective) is paired with an objective, it connects the actor to their character’s predicament, making winning the objective real and necessary for them as a person, not just as an actor playing a part.

“The better you know yourself, the better an actor you’ll be. You need to understand what makes you tick, profoundly and deeply.”
– Ivana Chubbuck

What follows are the twelve tools that help an actor dig into his or her character’s (or personal) psyche, allowing for discovery and a way to channel all those wonderful demons we all have.

  1. OVERALL OBJECTIVE: What does your character want from life more than anything? Finding what your character wants throughout the entire script.
  2. SCENE OBJECTIVE: What your character wants over the course of an entire scene, which supports the character’s OVERALL OBJECTIVE.
  3. OBSTACLES: Determining the physical, emotional and mental hurdles that make it difficult for your character to achieve his or her OBJECTIVE.
  4. SUBSTITUTIONS: Endowing the other actor in the scene with a person from your real life – that makes sense to your OVERALL OBJECTIVE and your SCENE OBJECTIVE. For instance, if your character’s SCENE OBJECTIVE is, “I need to get you to love me,” then you find someone from your present life that really makes you need that love – urgently, desperately and completely. This way you have all the diverse layers that a real need from a real person will give you.
  5. INNER OBJECTS: The pictures you see in your mind when speaking or hearing about a person, place, thing or event.
  6. BEATS AND ACTIONS: A BEAT is a thought. Every time there’s a change in thought, there’s a BEAT change. ACTIONS are the mini-OBJECTIVES that are attached to each BEAT that support the SCENE’S OBJECTIVE and therefore, the OVERALL OBJECTIVE.
  7. MOMENT BEFORE: The event that happens before you begin the scene (or before the director yells, “Action!”), which gives you a place to move from, both physically and emotionally.
  8. PLACE AND FOURTH WALL: Using PLACE and THE FOURTH WALL means that you endow your character’s physical reality, which, in most cases, is realized on a stage, sound stage, set, classroom, or on location, with attributes from a PLACE from your real life. Using PLACE and the FOURTH WALL creates privacy, intimacy, history, meaning, safety and reality. The PLACE/FOURTH WALL must support and make sense with the choices you’ve made for the other tools.
  9. DOINGS: The handling of props, which produces behavior. Brushing your hair while speaking, tying your shoes, drinking, eating, using a knife to chop, etc., are examples of DOINGS.
  10. INNER MONOLOGUE: The dialogue that’s going on inside your head that you don’t speak out loud. Those thoughts that are vulgar, inappropriate, self-indulgent, self-deprecating, paranoid and generally not politically correct. Those thoughts you can’t speak out loud because there would be some form of repercussions.
  11. PREVIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES: Your character’s history. The accumulation of life experiences that determines why and how they operate in the world. And then personalizing the character’s PREVIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES to that of your own so you can truly and soulfully understand the character’s behavior and become and live the role.
  12. LET IT GO: While The Chubbuck Technique does use an actor’s intellect, it is not a set of intellectual exercises. This technique is the way to create human behavior so real that it produces the grittiness and rawness of really living a role. In order for you to duplicate the natural flow of life and be spontaneous you have to get out of your head. To achieve this you have to trust the work you’ve done with the previous11 tools and LET IT GO.



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