To find out what’s at stake for your character, try asking yourself this: “what will my character lose if s/he doesn’t get what s/he needs?”
A great example of stakes can be found in Argo, the Oscar-winning film of 2012.
The film is based on a true story about a real Mission Impossible-type assignment given to CIA agent Tony Mendez (played by Ben Affleck.) He is an expert at getting people out of dangerous countries. His mission is to save six American Embassy workers who are hiding in Iran after the fall of the Shah. Just the description of the story can make you feel the stakes! But if Ben Affleck hadn’t created a performance with a ton of risk – and stakes- he wouldn’t have won the Oscar for Best Picture. Go back and watch his performance…it’s all there!
Remember: If you want the casting director to keep watching your reel, you have to make them feel that there is something at risk or in danger of being lost. This allows you (the actor) and your audience (the CD) to invest in the scene and experience it moment to moment.
Sometimes the “stakes” you put into the scene come directly from you the actor. Make your performance personal. Lay your heart out on the table in your audition: risk it all…and get that part!
Next up: Keeping your stakes: what are you willing to risk?
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