Telling a story using one's own body, voice, and face, when you come right down to it.
Invariably involves expressing emotions.
The extent to which an emotion needs to be felt in order to be properly expressed to the audience is, put simply, an argument.
Or rather, several arguments, all jockeying for position into the limelight and trying to be heard over the others.
I'm still forming my opinion as to the various aspects. But if I had to draw a line in the sand, I'd be story-prioritizing. If you're not telling the story, the emotion and expression are wasted.
If I had to say why this was the case, it's because I've found that my related emotions and expressions didn't necessarily fit the story.
Working a while back on a battle scene, I got a note about a lack of "intensity." Which was absolutely right. I was treating a battle scene the way I treat a battle. And my treatment of battle is somewhat casual. Oh, I'm not wandering around a firefight, pausing to scratch myself between dispatching opponents or anything. But I do have a certain amount of pragmatism that causes me to focus on the task at hand in a crisis and not worry too much about anything else.
While that attitude served me well enough in combat, it makes for poor storytelling. Pragmatism came off as lackadaisical in front of the camera. So I took the note and rolled with it, giving a much better performance.
Did my emotions necessarily change? Not really. If anything my internal monologue did. Going from something like this:
"Contact! Shit, missed. Squirrely little...Contact! Damn. It's hot out here. Enough.. dammit. Well, this is a shitstorm. Wonder what chow is tonight? Damn, that fucker's fast. Tacos? Mmmm... tacos."
to this after taking the intensity note.
"CONTACT FRONT! Fuck! Whereishewhereishewhereishe? DIE! DIEMOTHERFUCKERDIE! Shitfuckdamn. Howthefuckmanyarethere.. MOTHERFUCKERDIE!"
No real change in my emotions themselves. But a conscious shift in what I was *presenting* got the good take in the can.
Putting a pin in acting, moving on for a sec to PTSD.
While there's a lot we don't know about PTSD, one of the things we do know is that it behaves like an unhealed wound. To get PTSD, you need trauma and time, minus recovery.
Normally, humans are pretty resilient critters. We experience trauma, we recover, and suffer no real lingering effects.
PTSD kicks in when that recovery is either inadequate, doesn't happen, or otherwise fails. And the trauma remains long after the inciting incident.
Sometimes it's recurrent, like a cut when you pop the stitches out on a regular basis.
Sometimes it's long-running, like a broken bone that wasn't set correctly, and now the limb won't work the way it's supposed to.
Putting another pin in that, and moving on to some conjecture.
Trying to be blunt while not casting aspersions and probably failing both, I'll say this:
One, there's a fair share of actors that are, in technical terms, fucked in the head.
Two, there's another fair share of actors that treat theater as therapy you can occasionally get paid to take.
I won't speak of the extent other than to say that both exist.
The other night, a friend showed me some archival footage of Lee Strasberg directing a guided memory exercise.
Coming from someone who's never had PTSD but seen his fair share of it? The man looked like he was reopening an emotional wound with dirty fingernails and a bottle of red wine.
Long story short, digging around in people's psyches because of some asshole's idea of emotional truth (whatever the fuck that is) is creepifying.
The thought of doing that as a workplace practice is creepifying.
Tell the story. Stay healthy everywhere else.
If your theory or method or practice or whatever you use lets you do that, fine.
If it doesn't, stop doing that shit before someone else gets fucked up further with it.