KISS: KEEP IT SIMPLE, SILLY

Don't Over-Complicate The Process. Use "AVAILABLE STIMULUS"

Sometimes the simple approach to the work is the most effective, the most accessible and the most appropriate.

WHAT IS "AVAILABLE STIMULUS"?

Available Stimulus is a term most often credited to Eric Morris and his approach to the craft. If you are not familiar with Eric's work, I strongly encourage you to visit www.ericmorris.com to learn more. He is a master teacher and I have grown so much as an actor, but even more as a person through my studies with him. I am forever grateful for his contribution to acting and to my life.

If you would like to read a bit about Available Stimulus, I recommend buying Eric's book IRREVERENT ACTING and look on pages 154-155. Here's an extract for your convenience.


[Available Stimulus] should be your first consideration when you are preparing to work, since it is the most "available" if it exists...What it means is relating to anything that actually exists in the environment...that would affect [the actor] the way [the actor] wants to be affected...It could be almost anything there: the other person or people, the place itself, a sound, and odor, the energy of the environment, and object in the room, a photograph on the table, the way someone is dressed, and so on. Available stimulus could be how you feel at this moment. If the emotional life is such that it parallels the demand of the material, then it is a viable [approach].

Here is the process.

First, Identify the obligations and responsibilities of the script.

Examples:

  • The other character says, "Stop looking at me so seductively." - you have an obligation to have that look in your eyes.

  • The Casting Director at the audition says, "You're alone in the snowy mountains after a plane crash. You're freezing. I need you to be cold." - you have an obligation to create the chill or do something that the Casting Director perceives to be someone who is truly cold, not just "acting" cold.

  • The Director gives you some insight before the scene starts shooting. The Director says, "Your character despises the other character and is disgusted by them." - you have an obligation to create this kind of a relationship.

Next, look around you and identify everything that is physically present, real and happening in the moment right in front of you, that effects you in the same way you need to be effected to fulfill the obligations and responsibilities of the script.

EXAMPLES EXPANDED WITH AVAILABLE STIMULUS:

  • The other character says, "Stop looking at me so seductively." - you have an obligation to have that look in your eyes.

  • AVAILABLE STIMULUS TECHNIQUE: If it just so happens that you are very attracted to the other actor and your mind allows you to sexually fantasize about them and that feels good for you, then you can simply use your organic natural feelings about the other actor and allow that to lead you. You simply live within your reality, your truth and allow the other actor (the Available Stimulus in this case) to impel in you the feelings needed for the moment in the script.


  • The Casting Director at the audition says, "You're alone in the snowy mountains after a plane crash. You're freezing. I need you to be cold." - you have an obligation to create the chill or do something that the Casting Director perceives to be someone who is truly cold, not just "acting" cold.

  • AVAILABLE STIMULUS TECHNIQUE: If it just so happens that the audition room you are in is actually freezing and the coldness in the room is actually making you shiver, then all you need to do to fulfill the obligations of the script is to actually allow the real temperature in the room to effect you. You don't need to act cold, because the room itself is making you cold. But, if the room is very hot, then you would not be able to use the actual room's temperature for the AVAILABLE STIMULUS technique - you'd have to find another way to bring the cold to life.


  • The Director gives you some insight before the scene starts shooting. The Director says, "Your character despises the other character and is disgusted by them." - you have an obligation to create this kind of a relationship.

  • AVAILABLE STIMULUS TECHNIQUE: If it just so happens that you find the other actor to be gross, they actually smell like sweat, they are always late, they forget their lines, they are crude, they are vulgar, they have bad breath, etc, then all you need to do is allow yourself to naturally be effected by the reality of the Available Stimulus - how you actually feel about them - to fulfill the obligations of the script.

I am well aware that this seems so simple and that many actors may ask the question, "Shouldn't I be basing what I do and how I feel by using the characters and the imaginary circumstances of the script? Isn't using the other actor and the Available Stimulus that has nothing to do with the story sort of cheating?"

To that I say this..."NONSENSE!!!"


You are permitted to use whatever approach works for you and feels comfortable and safe for you so long as it actually helps you do your job. And if the Available Stimulus is the fastest path to helping you do your job, there is no reason to look any farther than what is right in front of you. There is no reason to relive a past event or go on a guided imagination day dream to attain a result if the other actor and the realities of the existing environment trigger in you that which you desire. Don't over-complicate the process.

By simply allowing the Available Stimulus to encourage the desired response in you, you have a powerful and effective tool at your fingertips.

Available Stimulus can be any of the following things (and so much more) so long as they are actually present right there in front of you:

  • The other actor and your feelings for them

  • The set or location you are on

  • The costume you are wearing

  • The smell in the room

  • The temperate of the location

  • The sounds all around you

  • The taste of the food you're eating

  • The aches and pains of the joins and muscles in your body

  • An actual headache

  • An actual feeling of hunger or thirst

  • An actual feeling of having to go to the bathroom

  • The crew that is on set or in the wings

  • The Director and Director of Photography and your relationship with them

  • The list can go on and on and on and on.

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I hope this post has inspired you in some small way. I look forward to reading your comments.

Bye for now and Stay Safe My Fellow Travelers.

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