According to Constantin Stanislavski, one of the most fundamental building blocks that an actor must have as part of their craft is the ability to relax, focus and concentrate. This is true both on stage and in film, but in film it can be even more challenging. What can the actor do when there are lights, the crew, constant technical considerations and not to mention that massive camera right in front of your face? A good actor is able to understand what needs to be done for the camera and yet at the same time they must be able to focus and concentrate on the character’s environment, all the while remaining relaxed and deeply involved in that intimate world.
One of the basic and practical solutions meant to help the actor improve this skill is what Stanislavski called “Circles of Attention”. In practice, there are three circles of attention, the first one being the smallest and the other two increasing in size. The small circle of attention includes only the actor and any objects in their immediate vicinity. The medium circle is an expanded area that includes other actors and/or objects. The large circle of attention includes everything seen on a stage or set. It becomes more difficult for the actor to concentrate as the circles expand to the medium and large versions. In addition, the actor should digest as many intricate details of objects and of the place as they can. Stanislavski instructed that the actor should reverse to the smaller circles when focus is lost and begin again. The purpose of this exercise is to strengthen the actor’s ability to experience “public solitude”. This principle can also be enhanced through incorporating sense memory and affective memory.
For film and television actors, public solitude is one of the things which makes a great on camera actor. The camera provides a very significant concentration challenge. Stanislavski’s concept can help us stay involved in our immediate surroundings, hold onto ourselves in public solitude and cancel out the self consciousness that the camera can so easily agitate. If the actor can utilize the principles of “Circles of Attention” self-consciousness evaporates, the body becomes relaxed and the mind can begin to focus much more effectively on the imaginary world of the character. The actor must know how to allow his or her soul to be revealed and not get self-conscious with the camera, lights, crew crowded around in eager anticipation of that magic that only a trained artist can create.