It is becoming more and more clear to me that on-camera work centers on the idea of access. The camera's proximity provides unprecedented access to the inner workings of your mind, and the most minute thoughts play out on your face (without you having to put them there as a bit of "business" the way you would in theater). A teacher once told me, "Emotion is the sweat produced by the work of pursuing your objective." If you put attention on creating an emotion, you're not trying to get something from your scene partner, you're trying to get something from yourself and it takes you out of the game.
Take your breathing. It happens naturally as part of the autonomic system of your body. As soon as you put attention onto breathing it becomes a chore, and all you can think about is making yourself take a breath at the right time. Putting attention on breathing disrupts the ease with which it comes out. Emotions are autonomic, too. Without working at all, the gears can be seen to be turning when someone looks into your eyes. The face can be read with more clarity because the eyes are blown up to four feet across on a screen, and the eyes are what tell us everything.
This is something I need to hammer into my new consciousness because a great deal of who I am as a person is going to play out onscreen autonomically, without my permission, and who I am needs to be something more vulnerable and less guarded if I'm to have success in this field.
My natural inclination is towards humility, self-deprecation, and "letting the work speak for itself", but these things are all keeping me from engaging the camera (and thus, the viewer) with intimacy. If you're up close but can't get inside, the whole enterprise is frustrated and the work becomes good, but not great.
Something else I've been thinking about is how to take ownership of myself and my career without being obnoxious or entitled; how to go after what I want and believe I deserve it; how to create an atmosphere around me that says, "I am in control, you can relax," rather than, "Do you like me?"
This is particularly hard in an industry town where everyone you meet seems to be in the same market as you and the prevailing attitude is that actors are a dime a dozen. How can you hold your head up high and feel pride?
I think you need to hold on to the things that inspire you personally. To believe in love and family and artistic passion and strive to make yourself better, to improve in such a way that you can say to yourself, "I am better than I was before; things are moving forward even if other areas of my life have stalled or are not on fire yet." If your passion is acting, keep acting and taking classes and digging into what mystery is right outside your grasp. If it's writing, keep churning out those drafts. Keep taking inspiration from the outside world to find the characters that speak through you.
I am having a wonderful week because I just got more involved with the artistic side of my time here as opposed to the staying afloat side which took precedence for two months. It's like a breath of fresh air to keep striving at what I want to be doing. I'm fortunate that I have this time, and I'm going to spend it very wisely.