Do you hear that? It’s music indeed, and it’s in your head right now. What is it? Perhaps it’s your inner score guiding you through each moment of your life. And how do you use this towards your career? Listen to it. It may sound wacky, but if you score your life, it can fuel your ability to do what actors should do: Tell Stories.
If you’re like me, someone who grew up driven by the heartbreaking and motivating music behind the movies, then you understand how this tool might work. I’m calling it a tool because I believe it’s another asset to helping you connect to a piece of work you’re trying to bring to life. Think about movies. There are many things about the films we love that cause us to watch something again and again. For me, a big part of why I kept watching, were the scores. Think about that moment at the end of Back to the Future, when Doc comes back to Marty and says they need to go to the future, and then the Delorean zooms off into the distance and that music begins to play as the credits roll; I cry thinking about it now.
I recently attended a concert at Lincoln Center featuring the music of Danny Elfman from the films of Tim Burton. It was an incredible night. Obviously Danny Elfman is one of my top composers who constantly pops up on my mp3 player (yes I still use an mp3 player, call the Doc on my ass). Whether it’s the eerie/heartbreaking score from Edward Scissorhands or the inter-galactic ass-kicking that is Men in Black, his music inspires me each day as an actor and writer.
Seeing and hearing the incredible orchestra play the suites from so many of Tim Burton’s iconic films live actually made me cry. And it wasn’t just because of how haunting and beautiful the music was, but because it transported me back to moments of magic; moments when watching a movie became the most important thing in any given moment of my life and childhood. That’s the magic behind films and the scores that accompany them. There has to be magic, just like in any film or project you perform in or create. If there is no magic, no spark, you are lying to your audience.
Here is an exercise for you to try the next time you feel a lack of inspiration: score a long walk. It’s pretty simple. Put some tracks on from the scores of some of your favorite films, and maybe even some ones you aren’t that familiar with, and take a long walk while listening. Think about what each track informs you about the world that exists within. Is it a moment of calm or distress? Maybe it’s a love anthem or terrifying attempt to escape a killer (yes I’ve got too many horror scores on there for my own good). You’ll see as you walk that the music you are listening to will inform how you move, how you think, and it will take you out of whatever blocks you have in your mind as an actor or any kind of artist and into a world where the adventure and what comes next is the key. Basically, it allows you to just let go and get out of your head. Let the music lead the way. Just live in the world.
Sometimes as actors, we get blocked and these blocks prevent us from doing two things. First it prevents us from portraying truth. We get so stuck with memorizing lines, looking a certain way, or thinking about what’s for lunch over at the craft service table (or is that just me?) that you just aren’t in the moment. And the second thing that you aren’t able to do is what we as actors should always aim for in each and every job we book; have fun. If you aren’t enjoying they journey (rejection included) then hop off the bus and hitchhike back to Blandsville U.S.A. (A place where cupcakes are illegal and singing in the streets will land you in the David Bowie Prison with a Mick Jagger look-alike warden who hates Orange is the New Black and makes you watch the later cast of All That and not the original one).
Like I stated earlier, taking people on an adventure is one of the great gifts we as artists of all kinds can give to the world. If you can let a great score guide you creatively to that place you’ve been trying to get to, then you’re golden! If you’re like most of us, you’re just trying to figure out who you are and what your purpose is in this world (and isn’t that what all human beings are trying to do?). Connect to these imagined worlds with heart and let the music lead the way towards success and truth. Maestro, do your thing!