S.M.T. and Audition Training
Allow me to use the Combat Soldier analogy to explain the importance of proper training for the audition.
Soldiers have to go through combat training where they’re placed in simulated battle scenarios, they’re put out in a field with obstacle courses, heavy equipment, chaos and noise, and sometimes live rounds are firing over their heads. When a soldier is faced with a life or death situation, their primitive fight/flight responses takes over. Without this training they would run, hide, paralyze with fear or just shoot whatever moves. Combat training is what allows the soldier to conquer, or at least survive, on the real battlefield. Some soldiers can tell you exactly when that “training took over”.
Now, the audition is not a life or death situation, although some actors behave like it is, the same primitive responses occurs. When overly nervous, you can get tunnel-vision; your breathing becomes shallow which affects your voice, you get into your head and disconnect to your body. When your are overly nervous, your mind will go to what it’s most familiar with, which is not so much what you rehearsed, but rather the way in which you rehearsed. That’s why you will often focus too much on the words and forget being in the moment.
SMT, along with audition training, is to the actor what combat training is to the soldier. So, even when you are most nervous, the proper training will take over.
SMT is not intended to replace any acting method or technique you may already study and practice. It's is a learning accelerator that will give you more time to apply your preferred method or technique. When you routinely perform these exercises, incorporate the study guide and tips, you will develop a quick-study process that allows you to act on your instincts and stay in the moment when you’re auditioning.
The Importance of Proper Execution of the SMT Process
The objective to the SMT process is to allow your subconscious mind to absorb the dialogue and comprehend the context of the script as fast as possible. About 90% of our mind is subconscious, which means that we are not consciously aware of most of the information what we take into our minds. When we use typical memorization process for written dialogue, we utilize our conscious intellect to analyze, interpret and learn the dialogue. Once we have done all of our "conscious" analysis, we then have to take the time to apply our choices (through a repetitive practice) and create emotional and physical associations with the words and phrases. We then have to perform the dialogue as if we were saying the words for the very first time. This process DOES work, but it takes a lot of time and rehearsing before we can make our delivery appear organic.
Very Important: When you perform the S.M.T. process, DO NOT take any more than 10 - 15 second breaks between the exercises. Resist the temptation to pause and analyze your character choices, motivation or the logic of the scene; just go through the exercises one after the other. Trust the exercises. What makes the memorization work is the engagement of the subconscious body-mind in the learning process. If you rely too much on the analytical conscious mind, it will actually slow you down or even confuse you.
Remember: SMT is about getting the lines down first, then "playing" with your choices.
The SMT process is allows you to utilize more of the subconscious aspects of learning. In other words, it doesn't allow our conscious process to get in the way. That's why we require you to go straight through the SMT process without pausing too long or too often to think about the dialogue. Once you have reached the last step, "Performance Off-Book" you should have the words and the basic story elements burned into your subconscious, so whatever choices you make thereafter are easier because you're not locked into preconceived ideas. You will also find a greater sense of spontaneity in your performance and the ability to adjust with new directions and situations.
SMT is as close to improvisation you can get with a script; that's what makes it work.
SMT is a spontaneous learning model. When our students practice SMT in our workshops, they have to perform off-book in front of the class at least two times. They're not allowed to stage or block the action described in the script while they're memorizing. When they go to perform, we give only minimal direction for their movement. This way they have to trust their memory and instincts as they perform. Most actors often say they make great discoveries as they're performing in the moment. Some beginners may say, "I don't feel like I have time to feel the emotions of my character". Yes, that is true when first starting out, but after practice, they begin to connect with their character and the situation as they go through each beat and moment in their scene.
When you first start with SMT it can be a little overwhelming which is understandable, after all, you're learning lines in a fashion you may not be used to. It's a lot like working out at the gym for the first time; it will take some time for you to adjust and with practice you will get into shape.
Forming your own SMT Practice Group
First let me make this very clear; YOU SHOULD BE ENROLLED IN AN ACTING CLASS if you want to learn acting!
SMT is NOT a substitute for any acting method, technique or approach a qualified acting coach can provide. However, if you are not enrolled (for whatever reason) in an acting class, then an SMT Practice Group can provide you with something to keep you in from getting "rusty" until you find your way back to a class. If you are enrolled in an acting class, you and your scene partner and/or classmates can get together on their own time to prepare for their class work using SMT.
Over the years, I've known a lot of actors who would try to form some kind of study group to save on the cost of acting classes. These groups would often fall apart due various reasons; a lack of leadership, difference in opinion regarding approach, and if one person takes the lead, then it becomes an acting class and they're the coach which changes things ...and people bail. An SMT Practice Group can solve that problem.
If you start an SMT Practice Group, the DVD will be your teacher and the Mocksides TM web site will provide you with some tools and support. The group's focus should be only on memorization training. Keep in mind the group should only be as big as time will allow for every scene or monologue to be worked.
SMT Frequently Asked Questions
What if I have a scene, but no scene partner to practice with?
When first starting out, you should do the SMT with your character's lines only. You can record your cue lines in a tape recorder BEFORE you begin SMT for when you perform it off-book, but there is no substitute for having a friend read with you, even if they're not an actor. When you become more proficient with the SMT process, you can try memorizing everyone's line, as long as it is only one or two pages. When you do exercises B and C, just read the cue lines flat, but perform the exercises properly for your lines. Some of our students use this approach.
What if I have a long scene and lot of dialogue?
With TV and Film scripts, seldom are there any scenes that are more 5 or 6 pages long, but if that is the case (usually with stage plays), then break it down to manageable and logical segments. Go through all the steps and perform the first segment off-book. Then repeat the SMT process with the second segment, then perform off-book again with both the first and second segments. Repeat the SMT process for the third segment, then perform all three off-book.
If you have a long scene or multiple scenes, chances are you were given enough time to prepare, so take breaks between each script segment and pace yourself.
If a I get new script handed to me at the casting office, should I do SMT?
Not advised. The SMT exercises could be very distracting to other actors in the casting office, especially when performing exercises B, C, & D. If they just hand you a script when you arrive, they're not expecting you to have it memorized, they're expecting a cold read (script in hand). Keep in mind, SMT is a conditioner that with practice will allow you to absorb a script faster so even your cold reads will improve.
Can I use SMT for Monologues?
Absolutely! Our DVD covers script breakdowns for commercial copy and scenes, but we do not have any breakdown for monologues. However, the SMT exercises are still the best way to memorize monologues.
You can even use the SMT exercise for speeches.