#32 Create Depth In Performance

15 April 2021 - 10:28 BY Louw
Create Depth In Performance: Tool To Layer Your Bottom-Line


I have played a “bad guy” before and it’s so easy to fall into the stereotypical trap of what that looks like. 


Sometimes we receive a script and we see our character’s wants/needs within the story and think, “Cheez, that’s a bit hectic. Do people think like that?” 


We tend to choose needs or objectives (bottom-lines) with which we can’t personally relate but we try and play it anyway. When you rehearse you feel it’s not working, you feel out of it. If you watch it back, it looks forced and unrealistic. How do you combat this feeling? 


A tool to try (Tony Barr’s Exercise – Bottom-Line Positive Needs):

- Take a scene involving a great deal of anger and record it. 

- Do the scene in two ways:

-       1) Bottom-lining it with the need to punish the other person. Purely negative.

- Now, take a moment and find a positive need for your character for ex: Negative Bottom-Line was – “I want to hurt you because you hurt me.” Now, the positive need might be – “I want you to understand that you hurt me.”

-       2) Bottom-lining it with a need which you can personally identify. If possible, make it a positive need. For instance, in this scene, you could try and make the other person understand what you are saying, instead of punishing them. Make sure to establish for yourself WHY this need is important.


This exercise helps you push past the stereotypical characters and find “positive” needs or needs you can relate to so that you create a three-dimensional human character and not a character we see repeatedly. 


Forget about the expectation of BEING the villain. If you Bottom-Line for your character and it’s something you can relate to, and then you do whatever it takes to achieve that… you’ll add way more value to that character’s purpose within the script than the director could imagine. 


“If you’re suddenly doing something you don’t want to do for four years, just so you’ve got something to fall back on, by the time you come out you don’t have that 16-year-old drive any more and you’ll spend your life doing something you never wanted to do in the first place.” 

 ― Ewan McGregor


How did you find the technique/tool/advice? Did it work for you? What was different this time? Share with the tribe and let’s keep on creating beautiful, honest and memorable performances. Let’s execute our best selves! 

Kind regards 
Edwin van der Walt 

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