Acting using Affective Memory – Marie Cooper

Acting using Affective Memory

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Drawing on Emotion for Acting

I find film far more challenging than theatre and today was particularly difficult as we were filming a funeral scene for the short film Duelo. I was playing Clemence, the mother to Stephen and Tristan. To authentically feel genuine loss of a person close to Clemence character, I felt that I needed to draw on a particular memory. 

It took considerable concentration to draw the memory to the surface, as it’s something I otherwise do my best not to think about and keep my feelings buried.  It’s a memory that opens a door on feelings of loss for someone I miss immensely.

I guess I do follow a similar process to draw on emotion on the stage but I rehearse lots without so deeply feeling the feels, and then only deep dive to ‘perform’ in the moment, once a night on stage, once the director has let us fly free, the crew are behind the scenes and the audience are behind the wall. Every moment is just a moment. It is lived and then it is gone.

Affective Memory – Theatre vs Film

I guess the best way to describe the comparison with theatre and film is, that in theatre, I open the box of a sensitive emotion and peak in . Oh! There is that time that I felt that feeling I want to feel, let’s go with that, in the moment, and then close the box. The scene is over and the play proceeds. That feeling is back in the box, until the next evening.

In film, the same scene is replayed. The scene needs to be filmed from different camera angles, from the alternative perspectives of the characters, maybe to change lighting, sound, scenery, costumes etc. It can mean replaying the same sense and emotional memory over and over.

So today, I tore back the tape, opened the box, ripped the tissue paper, rummaged through the packaging and found another box inside and after a couple of takes I felt I needed to open the second box. Ripped the tissue paper, rummaged through the packaging and found another box inside and opened that and tore back the tape…

Recharge, Recover and Reset

It was hard work. Exhausting. In a sense, writing this is my release for the emotion of the day. Clearing my mind and resetting for a new day. I am putting all of the boxes gently back together and closing them. Smiling because I still have all those beautiful memories inside of boxes, lovingly and carefully wrapped in tissue paper so that they will not get lost or broken.

Tomorrow is my day off. I’m putting my feet up. Spending time with family and hopefully getting some writing done. I’ll pop details of the project and the wonderful people I had the priviledge of working with onto my portfolio page as soon as I can.

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