What You Need To Create an Unforgettable Performance

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Bernard Hiller Acting Classes

What You Need To Create an Unforgettable Performance

“The Better The Technique, The Better The Actor.”

Find An Emotional Objective!

The reason a scene starts is because you have two strong needs that have to be satisfied, NOW, by the other person. The other person, in the scene, is very important to you in some way. You enter the scene with a hunger that needs to be urgently resolved by the other person, Right Now! There is something very specific that you NEED the other person to DO (physically) and specifically, you NEED the other person to SAY (exact words). The needs you choose must make you EMOTIONAL if you did or did not get them. BE SPECIFIC!

Ask yourself, “Is what I need from the other person so important that it’s making me vulnerable?” You must only go after primal instincts, such as LOVE, SEX, MONEY or POWER. People are willing to die for these things. Now, the more difficult it is for you to attain these needs, the better the scene. ALL SCENES ARE LIKE EMERGENCY MOMENTS – PLAYED OUT CALMLY! 

Imagine you’re running into an emergency room because someone you love is there. When you called the hospital, to get information, and asked what’s going on, they wouldn’t give any information. So, you go to the hospital and up to the doctor, and you say, “Doctor? What’s going on?”, but underneath your heart is pounding, you’re confused, you’re terrified. That emotional, physical, and psychological state you’re in – is perfect for acting. Uncertainty, fear, loss of control, and the gravity of the situation drive the best scenes.

The Moment Right Before

Where are you coming from? The character has had a life up to this point. You can’t just start from nothing? All scenes start in the middle. You must come into every scene loaded, with a physical, emotional, and verbal need.

Obstacles – Yours and Theirs

Know that when you enter the scene – the other person feels and thinks totally opposite from you. That’s your outer or external obstacle. You have to convince them, in every way possible, to give you what you need. The situation must feel like it’s never happened before. The greater the obstacle, the better the performance.

You must also have an internal or personal obstacle as well. Such as a feeling of loss and confusion. You should feel as if you never know what to do or say. A powerful acting choice is not being as good at the task or role people are expecting you to play. For example A lover, lawyer, doctor, teacher, mother – any role you can think of, and you’re just not any good at it. But, of course, you’re hiding the fact that you’re not competent with a sense of over-confidence. Those inner struggles are captivating to watch.

The other person is not interested, in any way, in giving you what you want or need. You want them to love you and say loving things to you, but they don’t like you at all. Without inner or outer obstacles, there is no scene. Always ask yourself, “Where is the conflict in the scene?” “What am I trying to overcome?”


These are different ways in which you are trying to get what you want in a scene. What are your ways? Are you using sex, intellect, humor, sadness, anger? Are you a manipulator or trying to guilt others?

Observe a teenager trying to borrow the car from his parents, and you will learn all about tactics. The more interesting the tactics, the more compelling your performance will be. Tactics keep changing all the time.


You must know why you need what you need in the scene, but never the how. Don’t ever plan on how you’re going to do it. If you plan the how, you will give a superficial performance. Find your emotional why, and it will be exciting to watch because you don’t know what you’re going to do and how you’re going get it done. Your WHY is the burning desire to do something. The WHY must engage your heart, never your head. Having an emotional why makes you give an unforgettable performance!

The Stakes

So, what you have to lose motivates the scene. When the stakes are very high, every moment means something. You must be able to lose big, to win big. The higher the stakes, the more interest the audience has in your scene. The loss must be very personal to you. High stakes give excitement to any scene. If the scene is not so exciting, it is because the stakes are not high enough.


Personalize your emotional objective and the scene. It must be something you can understand or be able to relate to. The more personal you make it, the more meaningful it will be to others.

Words Are Not The Truth

What you say is never the whole truth. Find the true meaning of your lines. Such as, “I never want to see you again?” could mean, “I cannot live without you.” Getting to the fifth level of truth will reveal what is really going on. Be sure to read that section. 

I always tell my actors, “Never play the scene that’s written. Play the scene the writer should have written but didn’t. Remember, the plot plays itself.”

It’s important to remember, that what your partner is saying is 25% true. This way they are affecting you.  We only argue and fight for something because it’s meaningful and truthful to us.


Remember, you’re playing a human being, not a character. Find your historical and emotional connection to every word you say. Create a history. Why are you saying or acting this way now? What is the history of you and of the other person in the scene? Did you answer the 25 questions in the previous chapter? If so, then just BE that person. You don’t have to ACT anymore. Audiences are dying for the real thing, which can only happen when you are in the state of being.

The Arc

Where is the ARC in the scene? You must start in one place emotionally and end somewhere else. There are also physical arcs as well. Perhaps, you start off tense, and then you become calm. For this to work, you must flow from one thing to another, seamlessly, to keep the scene interesting. 

The Event

You must figure out, “What is the event?What is happening in the scene that has never happened before or never quite like this? Find the uniqueness of this moment, and we won’t be able to stop watching.

Inside – Outside Acting

On the outside, you show one thing, but on the inside, you feel totally different.

Like a pressure cooker or a volcano, calm on the outside and boiling on the inside. The inside wants to express itself, but it doesn’t. That is what people do every day. They learn to hide their true feelings and emotions, and our job is to act like people, not actors.


React with your instincts! Your body is a beacon of responses. Let your gut lead you, and don’t be logical because no one ever is. Instincts create accidental moments in a scene, that are the most remembered moments, in film history.

Point of View

It’s very important that you promote your character’s point of view. You accept and understand what your character wants, acts and believes in. You never judge your character because every person in the world always thinks that what they are doing is “right” at the moment they are doing it. Your job is to promote their point of view in the most positive way possible. You must actually fall in love with your character’s needs and wishes. 


You must physicalize what your feeling at all times. Actors must also be in action. What are you doing when that person enters your space? What would you be doing if that person didn’t come into your room? Activities reveal to the audience how you are really feeling and thinking because the body never lies!

Acting Is Reacting

Everything you do is a reaction to the other person – what they say and do. Take your partner’s behavior and dialogue extremely personally. When you’re just concerned about your own performance or what you are saying – you’re disconnected from the scene. Also, find the trigger words in the scene – these are the words that set you off. React to everything you can. Uta Hagen said, “What will help you’re reactions is to expect the other person to say and do the opposite of what they actually doing. You react strongly in life when someone says or does something you didn’t expect.” Stella Adler – “Listen with your blood!” 

Not Knowing What To Say

You always have two thoughts, that the character is thinking, come at you at the same time. For example, someone says to you “You want to go out?” and your thinking “Yes!” and “No…”, and at the last moment you choose one. When you’re lost and unsure how you’re going to answer, that creates interest and tension. 


How are you trying to win in the scene? We love to watch winners, not victims.   The better actor is also the one that drives the scene and tries to achieve his goals, even under the most impossible of circumstances.

I  always tell my actors:

“There is power in silence. Some of the most impactful moments, in our lives, are in the silence.”

Acting actually happens when you’re not talking.

“Don’t speak unless you can improve on the silence!”

To learn more tips like this and to practice them with other actors join our online acting classes.