Last year, many of us found ourselves in different situations than anticipated, due to COVID-19 country restrictions. Instead of being in Tamsui, Taiwan, working on animation, my husband Hans and I ended up in YWAM Dunham, Quebec, Canada. He took the School of Digital Filmmaking and I took the School of Acting for the Screen, thinking that the course could help me with character animation once we got back to Taiwan.
I came into this intensive acting course, plus the following weeks of internship, with no experience whatsoever in acting. The six months surprised me, by becoming a journey of discovering more about God and about myself. Who would have thought of that as the outcome of embodying different imaginary characters?
Immersion and Impulse
In any acting school, you will learn techniques developed by Sanford Meisner. A key phrase of Meisner is that, “Acting is living truthfully under imaginary circumstances.” I found the more I used the gift of imagination God had endowed me with, the more I convinced myself that I was a character in the film. Really, physically doing things in the imaginary world such as eating soup, putting buttons on the head of a snowman to make his smile, or doing the laundry as a blind woman; all these true things immersed me into that imaginary life. By also letting my individuality show in the character I was portraying, that made my character appear more authentic, and not some flat cardboard character. It was then I found that I could carry the audience in with me into the imaginary story world and make them feel with me.
Listening and making the other person more important than yourself is a biblical principle. It is also essential to being able to immerse yourself as an actor into the imaginary world. Meisner developed an exercise called Repetition to train us actors to truly listen to the other. The actors repeat words back to each other, and eventually one of them will feel an impulse to change the words, because it feels more truthful to them. Impulse—it is how we as actors can very organically and truthfully play out the scene. Our impulses reveal who we really are as a person, and that will unlock our own unique personality. It’s that connection established with the other actor that is the source of life, and that allows one to truthfully live in the imaginary world.
“It was then I found that I could carry the audience in with me into the imaginary story world and make them feel with me.”
There is something I experienced called the creative state, where an actor opens himself up to being vulnerable and responding accordingly. Vulnerability allows an emotional fluidity, and I found it is truly exciting as an actor to work that way.
I also learned that I must not judge my character, if I am to truthfully play that role. God did a work in my heart with my being able to embrace a broken character and live truthfully as her. I gained maturity as a follower of Jesus as I prepared for that role.
God is the ultimate storyteller and lover of our souls. In acting, I get to experience more stories than my own personal experience—and hopefully learn and become more mature and able to show Jesus to others—not only in film, but also through my life.
- Jie En