Creating Character Creates Confidence

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton's 'Alice In Wonderland'

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton's 'Alice In Wonderland'

YouTube is full of fantastic amateur films, where people invent stories or portray outlandish spoofs of seminal TV or cinema moments. What it reveals is that digital technology is extremely democratic, and that playing a ‘character’ is hugely liberating.

Having run numerous camera and drama workshops for students and adults, I know that using digital technology creatively, can unlock certain individuals and reveal a confidence that was previously lacking. So how can we use audio-visual equipment not only to create and share information, but also to build confidence and communication skills?

Perhaps the answer lies in ‘character’, in not having to be oneself. From the moment we master language, we make up stories and pretend to be other people. However, as we get older, we become more self-conscious, especially in our teenage years, which is why drama is so important. It gives us licence to play, to explore and experiment, and above all it enables us to escape from being ‘me’. Moreover, it requires imagination, empathy and communication, important life skills that need to be developed if we are to have a successful ‘knowledge economy’, at the centre of which sits digital technology.

When playing a character, one has the chance to step outside of oneself, and explore the situation and motivation of someone else. The character might be fictitious, or a real person (historical or contemporary). What is important is that we understand how to create a character, and set them within a clear scenario, and like a lot of tasks, it’s all in the preparation.

Any drama teacher will understand the theories developed by Stanislavski, which set out a process for creating a character. In simple terms, you begin by considering the background of the character, and how this has moulded who they are today. Thereafter, there is a list of questions that need to be answered: Who am I? Where am I? What do I want? Why do I want it? How am I going to achieve it?

Next consider, is your character high or low status, and how does this impact on how they communicate, physically and verbally with others?

This process not only encourages a real engagement with the character, it also builds confidence as it gives the ‘actor/student’ a framework within which to carry out role-play or other communication assignments. Once you have researched and understood the motivation of your character, it is far easier to improvise, trust to your imagination, and use the appropriate language to communicate your ideas and objectives.

It’s at this point that I would get out the camera and record the performance. Although people often freeze when a lens is pointing straight at them, actively playing a ‘character’ is far more liberating, and whereas we all usually hate seeing or hearing ourselves, watching our ‘character’ is one step removed and an experience we are usually happy and confident to share with others.

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Many thanks for you patience.
Kind regards,
Mike - Media4ed.

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