The name Ivana Chubbuck might not be familiar to the general public, but there are a growing number of Australian actors who are clamouring to work with this American icon.
The name Ivana Chubbuck might not be familiar to the general public, but there are a growing number of Australian actors who are clamouring to work with this American icon. Boasting a host of A-list stars amongst her students, the Chubbuck Technique is fast becoming the next big thing in Australia. Ahead of her visit to Melbourne in January 2012, I spoke with Chubbuck about how her technique can assist Australian actors to break through into a successful acting career.
So just who is Ivana Chubbuck and what makes her style of teaching so unique? Chubbuck founded the Ivana Chubbuck Studios in Los Angeles. Having carved out a successful career as an actress she realised her true love was working away from the spotlight and so began her path to greater fulfillment as a teacher. Along the way she studied behavioural science, psychology and cultural anthropology. It was this immense understanding and love of human behaviour, coupled with her years of acting training and performance that propelled her teaching method into a new stratosphere.
Chubbuck’s Studio caters to students of all levels of experience and ability and prides itself on transcending them from merely good actors to extraordinary performers. Her book, The Power of the Actor – The Chubbuck Technique – is hailed as the 12-Step Acting Technique That Will Take you From Script To a Living, Breathing, Dynamic Character. It is used as a textbook in colleges and universities across the United States and has been translated into several different languages across the globe.
Chubbuck’s list of students include Halle Berry, Brad Pitt, Kate Hudson, James Franco, Charlize Theron, Jake Gyllenhaal and Jon Voight to name just a few. To Australian actors who have not yet made the climb to the ranks of such brilliance, at first glance it would appear that the Chubbuck Technique was merely polishing the surface of these already accomplished giants. But as Chubbuck points out, most of the stars on her list started out as nobodies. Many of them came to her poor, broke, living in cars and struggling to make ends meet, but it was through working with Chubbuck and applying her technique with consistent hard work and practice, that propelled them to the star status of today.
Chubbuck’s way of working is specific and based on behavioural science and psychology. She is fascinated by human behaviour and how this relates to a character. Her key questions when approaching a script focus on determining what the character wants out of life and how this relates to me (the actor)? Chubbuck emphasizes that “there is always a reason for human behavior. If you find it as an actor and bring it into your work you will transform your performance and the experience of the audience. The ultimate goal is for the audience, director or casting director to be so compelled that they want to go on the journey with you. It’s not magical – it’s creating a passionate place, taking personal struggles and using them in your acting.”
As Chubbuck further explains: “a lot of acting schools spend a lot of time focusing on emotion but they don’t know what to do with it. The Chubbuck technique goes beyond merely identifying pain. It propels the actor to use their emotional pain to fuel and overcome their character’s obstacles to ultimately reach their objective. The cathartic nature of this process is a powerful tool for the actor to achieve greatness. It is adrenaline inspiring and hopeful. You can accomplish anything not in spite of the pain, but because of it.”
The secret to a successful acting career is not some magical trick, good timing or luck. As Chubbuck prescribes: “It is about working hard and taking risks. Fear negates art, so if you make fearful choices you stay in the box. If you think outside the box and push the envelope, you will become a multi-faceted performer.” It is Chubbuck’s belief that people who bring the most of themselves to the role, who can be universally related to, who take risks and are fearless in their work, these are the actors who become stars.
Chubbuck is quick to point out that success, as an actor is “not about beauty or inherent talent. You have to work hard, with tenacity and drive. This is the bottom line in business.”
So what does Chubbuck suggest for actors to help move them from being simply good performers to great performers? The formula is simple:
- Work hard.
- Participate in a weekly scene study class.
- Take chances in class and push the envelope.
It sounds logical enough but for many Australian actors who believe attending a weekend workshop qualifies them as being a ‘trained actor’ understanding the formula for success is an entirely different ball game. So let’s break it down into a more meaningful and manageable analysis.
The number one key to success is hard work. Hard work equals training, studying and rehearsals. Every week! Understanding this concept is the same as losing and maintaining a healthy weight. I can wish/think myself thin all I want but the fat will never shift. I have to exercise and watch my diet for the rest of my life. In the same way, waiting by the phone for your agent to call with a gig, is as fruitless as wishing your thighs away. You have to put in the work. As Chubbuck laments, “Laziness is an actor’s worst attribute. If you want to win you have to be driven and pursue your career with vigour in a practical sense.”
The second key to success is participation in a weekly scene class. As Chubbuck loves to quote to her students back home: “God has more important things to worry about than whether you got the role!” So get off your knees and get to class! Working hard means continuing to work on your craft, but more so if you are ‘between jobs’. It is this continued and persistent polishing of your acting skills that pays dividends in the long run.
The third key to success is about taking risks as a performer. Use class to experiment and push yourself beyond your safety zone. That way when you audition or perform you know it works because you’ve fallen on your face in class, rather than in front of the director or producer.
Chubbuck encourages actors to find a teacher that surprises and inspires them to go beyond what they thought they were capable of. In doing so, the actor will achieve a level of performance that will exceed their expectations transforming them from merely good actors to extraordinary actors.
It is difficult not to get swept away on a euphoric ride when in the company of Chubbuck but her technique is not for everyone and ultimately every actor has to find what works for them. However, there is no denying that her rules of succes
s apply no matter what style of acting you adopt. Chubbuck’s philosophy is simple: –
If your dream is to be an actor:
- Work hard
- Take classes
- Find the fearlessness inside you
- Never give up!
Chubbuck is returning to Melbourne for the third consecutive year to give a Masterclass at 16th Street Studios from 2nd – 7th January 2012. Actors also have the opportunity to audit (observe) the classes enabling them to gain an immense understanding of the technique, which they can apply to their work. For more information visit www.16thstreet.com.au.