REVIEW: The Actor’s Mindset: Acting as a Craft, Discipline, and Business — Craig Archibald (BOOK)
“In life, when two people are talking, two key things are going on. Both people are doing something, and both need to see something in the other person’s eyes. This is particularly true when there’s a lot at stake,” writes Craig Archibald. “…Let’s take our cheating boyfriend off the phone and put him face to face with his girlfriend. The boyfriend has an action — seducing the girlfriend into believing his lie that he didn’t sleep with her best friend. What he needs to see in her eyes is that she believes him. For her, the action is to deduce whether he’s telling the truth. What she needs to see in his eyes is honesty.”
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While he may be laying the groundwork for a sociopath’s continued journey as an incredibly good faker, in context one will understand this as one of many brilliant passages in Mr. Archibald’s new book, The Actor’s Mindset: Acting as a Craft, Discipline, and Business. And rather than focusing on psychology 101, or the aforementioned guidebook to deception, the celebrated, veteran acting coach is talking about the comprehension of story layers.
Why? Because said comprehension is critical to being a good actor, which as evidenced by the title is what his new book is all about. It follows a school of thought similar to that of playwright David Mamet, concerning each actor’s duty through their character to ‘communicate’ the play and/or story to the audience through their respective lens. Indeed, what Mr. Archibald reaffirms by way of The Actor’s Mindset is that anyone who truly understands what acting is understands actors are craftsmen. Sentiments akin to Jennifer Lawrence be damned, true acting takes work, plus a comprehensive understanding of narrative beats to truly ace on screen, on the stage, or in the audition room.
Sometimes the read almost comes across as something akin to a series of precepts. Archibald is generous not only about diving into the actual aesthetical processes of the actor, but in providing a fully dimensional, three hundred-and-sixty degree meditation on the actor’s journey from both an internalized and externalized point of view. The kind of outlook he articulates on these fronts is something that is even relevant for universal application to one’s endeavors. One quote arguably displays the latter best: “Your fellow artists provide inspiration you can put directly into your own work. Dive into the visual arts: painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, ceramics, pottery. Revel in the performing arts: dance, singing, music.
Find your muse in the applied arts: fashion, architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, woodcraft, jewelry design. Disappear into literature: novels, poetry, plays, short stories. Celebrate your life by baking, winemaking, cooking, chocolatiering! And of course, take inspiration from your fellow actors and the films, television shows, and stage plays they work in. Creativity and artistry take many forms. Channel the stimulation and energy they provide into your own work.”
Inspiration. What a rare word to hear these days, particularly relating to the fields of industry and entertainment. Mr. Archibald is both kind and wise to use it…