Actor Vernacular

This is by no means exhaustive, but below are some words and phrases that you will want to be familiar with as an actor:

  • Given Circumstances.
  • Through-Line of Action.
  • Super-Objective – The overarching human need (“The need to find true love and security from a man because it was never felt during my childhood,” for example) that is pushing the character through the entire story.
  • Objective – The most immediate goal or need (what the character is DOING) that will help achieve the super-objective.
  • Tactic – Ways at which objectives are accomplished. For instance, to win the love of your scene partner (objective), you may need to flirt, cajole, tease, entertain, seduce, etc.
  • Drive – What propels the character through the scene. Another way of thinking about objective.
  • Motivation – The WHY behind the drive, objective, or super-objective.
  • Obstacle – What is hindering the character from achieving his objective. Obstacles are often internal (fear of failure, etc.).
  • Beat – A unit of the script or scene, determined by the actor, where one tactic starts then ends.
  • Moment to Moment – To remain fully present, engaged and listening, to create the illusion that what is happening is happening for the first time and is completely spontaneous.
  • Affective Memory/Emotional Recall – A an emotional preparation technique to reactivate the emotional/psychological experience of a past event you believe is experientially parallel to the emotional/psychological life of a character.
  • Thought Pause – When the actor uses a pause to get to the next thought/line of dialogue.
  • Moment Before – What has transpired before the scene being presented. Often, this “moment before energy/knowledge” is essential for the current scene.
  • Transition – Something that will need to occur in order to get to the next character thought. Sometimes found between beats.
  • Emphasis Pause – A pause used to emphasize a point.
  • R.I.P.D. – Rate, Inflection, Pitch, Dynamics – A quick way to spice up any piece of dialogue when things are feeling stale (credit Tom Todoroff).
  • Psychological Gesture.
  • Blocking – The movement necessary for the scene.
  • Marks – Exact places for the actor to be in (often marked by tape), so they can be in focus. As in, “hitting your marks.”
  • “Picture is Up.” – Means that things on the camera side are getting close to filming.
  • “Action” – When said by your director, this means that all is ready, and the scene can begin.
  • “Back to One,” “Going Again,” Resetting.” – When said (typically the 1st AD) by the crew, it means you are to go back to where the scene started, and begin again.
  • “Off-book” – You know the material so well, that you don’t need to look at the script. AKA, “memorized.”
  • “Sides” – The portion of the script used in auditions.
  • “Lines” – Your scripted dialogue.
  • “Cue” – The stimulus which prompts your action or line.
  • “Cue Line” – The line that another actor says before yours.
  • “Pick up your cue” – Take out the air between the cue line (or cue stimulus) and your next line.
  • “Improvise”  To make up dialogue rooted in the circumstances.

Other Resources:

Mighty Tripod Newsletter Sign-Up

Filling out this form will keep you updated on classes and new blog posts.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.