THE LAW OF PROXIMITY

YOUR PROXIMITY TO THE STIMULUS THAT IS TRIGGERING A RESPONSE IN YOU HAS A DIRECT EFFECT ON THE INTENSITY OF YOUR EXPERIENCE.

This is one of those concepts or principles that people are subconsciously aware of, but most actors rarely think about how this law can be leveraged in their work on stage or in front of the camera. The concepts is simple:


YOUR PROXIMITY TO THE STIMULUS THAT IS TRIGGERING A RESPONSE IN YOU HAS A DIRECT EFFECT ON THE INTENSITY OF YOUR EXPERIENCE.


Sometimes, the closer you are to the stimulus, the more intense your response will be and sometimes the exact opposite it true. What doesn't change is that your physical proximity (how close or far away you are) to the stimulus is in direct relationship to how your body responds to that stimulus. Let's explore the Law of Proximity and determine how to best use it in your work and then let's figure out when we need to make an adjustment to the law in order to fulfill our acting responsibilities.


Compare your natural response to these 2 scenarios:

  1. You are walking down a dark street at night and a stranger runs up to you and presses a gun firmly against your head and screams in your ear, "Gimme your money MOTHER F&CK#%."

  2. You are walking down a dark street at night and a stranger stands at the opposite end of the street and points a gun at you from a distance and screams, "Gimme your money MOTHER F&CK#%."

Which of these 2 scenarios do you believe would trigger in you a more intense response? Most would say #1. It makes sense. The gun is against your head and you have a higher chance of things going horribly wrong verses when the gunman is farther away, you may still feel the experience, but there's more of a chance that you can escape, so the intensity of your experience is less. I hope you agree with the logic, but if you do not, it's important to understand why because everybody's body is different and in order to use the Law of Proximity as a craft technique in your work, you need to understand why you have the opinion you do right now.


Let's look at another scenario.

  1. A dear friend of yours that you have not seen in years is standing right in front of you with their arms open awaiting your embrace and they say, "I've missed you so much."

  2. A dear friend of yours that you have not seen in years is standing at the end of your driveway, about 30 feet away, with their arms open awaiting your embrace and they say, "I've missed you so much."

Again, which of these 2 scenarios do you believe would trigger in you a more intense experience in the moment of the embrace? Some might say #1 while others would chose #2. Some may also be thinking that the intensity would grow as this friend rushes towards them. Once again, we are proving the Law of Proximity, that our natural responses to external stimulus are effected differently depending upon the physical distance we are from that external stimulus.


Let's look at a third scenario.

  1. You are headed to an audition for a major motion picture with a famous Director. This is the big break you've been working towards your entire career.

  2. You are at the audition for a major motion picture with a famous Director. This is the big break you've been working towards your entire career. They have just called your name and you are now walking into the audition room. You see the famous Director standing and waiting to shake your hand.

Which of these 2 scenarios would trigger more of an emotional response in you? Again, most would say #2 in this example, but I understand why many might also say that the anticipation leading up to the actual introduction might be more intense. The important point here is that YOU must understand how YOUR body functions and responds to the proximity of the thing stimulating the response in you. There is not 1 right or wrong answer here. It's all just a matter of learning your body.

Let's assume your mother has recently passed away (I am so sorry for your imagined loss) and you are graveside now in front of her coffin. What happens to your emotions as they lower the coffin into the ground? Well, that depends on your relationship with your mother of course. Some may feel the pain and sadness more intensely when they can touch the coffin, while others may feel the intensity grow as their mother gets farther and farther away from them. Knowing how YOUR body functions is the critical part here so that you can use the Law of Proximity to help you fulfill the obligations of the piece.


Now, let's connect the dots. Let's say you're at an audition and you've just given an emotionally charged interpretation of the material and the Casting Director says,

"That was amazing. Let's try it again, keeping the same intentions and intensity, but bring it down a notch. Try to be less emotional, less volatile, less theatrical, more appropriate for the camera, but still keep the focus and power." It's not unrealistic to think that this may be the literal comment you might here. OK, so now...


WHAT DO YOU DO???


How do you actually accomplish what's being asked of you? Most actors that do not have a foundation in craft simply do the scene again but just do it less loud, less volatile, with less energy. And typically, the result is a loss of focus, a loss of intention, a loss of connection. And it does not really land well in the audition room. That's because what the actor is doing is arbitrary. It's a general lessening of everything which makes the experience just feel "off" or "dull".


However, a craft trained actor may have been using a specific craft tool as their starting point. Perhaps they used Prototypes or Mantras or Endowments or Psychological Gestures or perhaps they used an Emotion Memory experience. (By the way, if you want to learn about all these craft tools and many others, please consider joining the TOOLBOX) So this actor, on the 2nd take, could use the Law of Proximity and through their senses and imagination, they could adjust their proximity to the thing impelling the response in them in order to reduce, but not lose the intensity and the intention.

Specifically, let's say the actor was using the scenario where their close friend was right in front of them hugging them with all their might. In this case, the actor may simply use their imagination and senses to place that friend at the end of the driveway and not pressed up against their body.


Or if they were using an actual life experience, let's say it was the funeral of a Grandparent, perhaps on the 2nd take, instead of being actively involved in the re-experiencing of the funeral, they could recreate it on an imagined TV screen in front of them. In this way, they become an outside observer of the experience as opposed to an active participant. In most cases, this proximity distancing would greatly reduce the overall emotional experience.


Once again though, it's so important for you to know how YOUR body works and which craft tools you can use to fulfill your theatrical responsibilities; and with this, you will be able to determine how to increase or decrease the intensity level of your experience with the tool by adjusting how near or far away you are from the thing that is impelling the response in you.


The Law of Proximity - a powerful acting craft tool to help actors adjust and modulate the intensity of how the external stimulus effect them so that actors can deliver, with pin point precision, incredibly specific and varied emotional and behavioral levels.


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

Bye for now,

See you inside the Toolbox.

Email: actorsapproachtoolbox@gmail.com

Website: http://www.actorsapproach.com

Linktree: https://linktr.ee/actorsapproachcrafttoolbox

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