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Take Five and Count

by Jim Powell


     A condition called "mental block" has one time or another plagued all of us, especially when we try to give a speech before a large group.

     It’s no different when a performer presents a message to the camera and stumbles and stammers his or her way through the presentation making mistakes in the same spot, on the same word or words.

     Sometimes, even proven and professional actors suffer this problem occasionally. What do they do? Take Five and Count.

     A mental block is more likely to form when the actor is trying too hard. Unnerving situations such as the actor’s perception of too many takes, repeated logistics and set problems (weather, noise, etc.) causing ruined takes, or major script changes, can cause the actor to become confused . Regardless of the reason, an actor’s mental block can cost you lost production time. A possible simple solution is to Take Five minutes and Count backwards.


     This exercise will help the actor defeat the block. Have the actor:

          1. Break from the set for five minutes; go to a quiet place.

          2. Close his eyes, take several deep breaths, visualizing a relaxing scene.

          3. Count backward from twenty, slowing his pace from five to one, breathing with each count.

          4. After he stops counting, pause for a few seconds to relax his mind still thinking about the relaxing scene.

          5. Count from one back to five, increasing the pace as he counts, then opening his eyes.


     The actor should feel more relaxed and confident of his presentation. He has cleansed his mind of distractions.

     When the actor comes back to the set, tell him to try a dry run and practice. However, do a "sneak roll" with the tally light off. You just might record the "hero" take first time out.

     What happened? The pressure of the session problems caused the actor to try too hard. With more pressure, the less likelihood that clear thoughts will be delivered from the brain. By Taking Five and releasing the pressure and anxiety, the actor’s subconscious and conscious portions of the mind can once again work easily delivering the performance. The short rest refreshes the actor. He’s ready for the "hero" take.

     Possibly, you may not be able to take the time to tell the actor about this technique at the time the mental block occurs. Simply give him the five minutes to refresh. He’ll do the rest.

This article is from "The Business of Talent" Issue 2

by Jim Powell

Copyright Jim Powell, 1993, 1998

All Rights Reserved

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