Acting Coach Ivana Chubbuck Talks Exclusively Before She Arrives in Athens

Ivana Chubbuck is the founder and director of the Ivana Chubbuck Studio and creator of the cutting edge and widely adopted Chubbuck Technique. There are 16 ongoing classes at the Ivana Chubbuck Studio in Hollywood, ranging from introductory to master classes. The Studio maintains a focus on producing and nurturing working actors in a rigorous professional environment. It is Ivana’s mission to empower her students with the tools to become successful and to make dynamic, empowered choices in their work.

Some of the actors Ivana has worked with during her 30-plus year career include Academy Award winners and nominees: Halle Berry,  James Franco, Brad Pitt, Jake Gyllenhaal, Elisabeth Shue, Terence Howard, Catherine Keener, Terence Howard,  Charlize Theron, Jon Voight,  and Djimon Honsou.

She’s also worked with:  Jim Carrey, Chris Pine, Eva Mendes, Ryan Reynolds, Jessica Biel, Beyonce Knowles, Siena Miller, Gerard Butler, Kate Bosworth, and many others.

In Athens
On December 21 from 13:00 till 17:00, Greek actors will be able to get a taste of how it is like to work with Hollywood’s most renown acting coach at the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation. In the line of Act and Re- Act: Master Classes which is a new initiative on the fields of Education and Arts, Cacoyannis Foundation will host Chubbuck for a unique lecture, including film clips, and group exercises that will help in more thoroughly understanding the Chubbuck Technique — a technique most of contemporary cinema stars work with.  All you’ll need is a notebook and pen. To learn more about the vent and rsvp click here.

The Chubbuck bible
In October of 2004 Penguin Books published Ivana’s book, The Power of the Actor. The book became an instant success, spending weeks on the Los Angeles Times top ten Bestsellers List. For more than a year it was the number one selling book about acting at Barnes and Noble. Currently her book is being adopted for use as a textbook in many colleges and universities across the country, as well as having been translated into a number of languages around the world, including Spanish, Hebrew, Romanian, Italian, Danish and soon to be  Portuguese.

The book has changed the lives of thousands of actors and it is considered the bible for teaching acting students script analysis and character development.

Ivana has also been a guest master teacher at The Juilliard School of Drama in New York, teaching a selected group of premiere fourth year students. She has also taught workshops around the world, including: Australia, Denmark, The Netherlands, London, Israel, Canada, etc.

Ivana Chubbuck was honored by The Russian International Film Festival (she is of Russian decent) with a lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the film industry alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, William Friedkin, and Francis Ford Coppola. She has worked with the directors and the stars of three movies that got selected into Sundance Film festival, that’s 3 out of 12 selections — and there were thousands of submissions.  

From the inside
Chubbuck is known for her talent for reading people, all their utterances and body language, in their finest unaware detail. Her teaching is based on deep, full-body listening. Her deep, almost creepily empathic, intuition sees right through the person she has opposite her. She reads her students like a text. She takes in what you say and how you say it. She watches your eyes, you shoulders, your hands. Even when she has an idle conversation with you, it’s never idle.  “The words say one thing but behaviour never lies,” she says.  She expounds, there’s no right or wrong in acting, just less effective or more effective choices.  Ultimately, it’s about discovering and exploring the truth of being a human being.  Her techn    cique draws from behavioral science and psychology.  “If you’re going to recreate real human behavior, you have to go to the source of being human,” she says.

She is also known for her passion. She has a forceful way about her, fierce and aggressive, and she’s physical and raw in her teachings. Her acting classes bear a lot of similarities to self-empowerment seminars. She cannot put up with victims or moaners. She’s a doer and she demands from her students to be doers as well. Every actor, she says, must know what the character’s objective is in a scene—to win someone’s love, respect, sympathy, compassion, power—and then must have determination even ruthlessness about achieving and thereby WINNING the objective.

How did all this started in the first place? What drove you to become an acting trainer?

I found that I loved being the nurturing force behind a performance much more than being the one in front of the camera (or on the stage).  My students growth, awards, stardom, or what have you, is what makes me swell with pride in the same way a mother sees her children’s advances.

How quickly did you find your stride as a teacher of acting?

I believe that a great teacher never stops learning. Understanding anything, especially in the arts, is an infinite journey. I continue to explore and grow as I teach.  If I ever stop, I will lose my effectiveness as a teacher.  Therefore, as excellence is what I strive for, “my stride” will be the bar that I continue to raise in order to be the best.  And when that happens, to be even better.  It is my obligation as an educator.

How did you decide to teach a masterclass in Athens?

I love the art of acting, and where better to teach acting than where classical theater was born.  Without theater, and all that the early Greeks brought to this art-form, we wouldn’t have cinema.  Movies are, after all, theater conceptualized in a different medium. AND, interestingly enough, The play that first got me enthralled with theater was Oedipus Rex, written by Sophocles.  So bringing my technique to Greece is bringing it all back to the root of my passion.

What’s your general philosophy of teaching? Tell us a bit about your famous Ivana Chubbuck Technique.

Most techniques espouse that the end result in a great performance is to solely find the truth and to really feel the characters pain and trauma.  I don’t think that’s enough.  I mean, who wants to see someone immersed in their pain? The result is often self-pity.  We don’t like to be around those kinds of people for free, why would be want to pay money to see them perform?!  In my technique, I take personal pain and trauma, not as an end in itself, but rather as a fuel to impassion the need to overcome and win.  This is the recipe for a truly dynamic character.  My technique makes the performer try to succeed in spite of, and because of huge obstacles that the character faces.  This gives the performance catharsis.  It also allows the audience to feel hope, as they are watching a character who shares the same pain as the audience member, actually do something about it (rather than wallow in it) and ultimately win with it.  To CONSTRUCT is always better than to destruct – and so much more enjoyable to the audience and the actor.

How are your classes are structured? How much time is spent on doing actual scenes, and how much on overall philosophy?

It’s all scene work.  First we take the character, and figure out why and what he/she needs out of life.   How that character manifests those needs, regarding information garnered from their behaviors and dialogue.  Then we figure out how that relates personally to the human being who is playing the role.  In this way, instead of playing the character, the actor BECOMES the character.

In one of your previous interviews you quoted one of your students, Rob Schneider, who said that your sessions are like therapy but without the cure. Tell us a bit about this parallelism. What’s same? What’s different? And what about the cure?

Therapy helps the patient to be able to cope with their feelings and to allow them to have a life unencumbered by their past traumas.  In acting, those same traumas are used as colors to paint a compelling picture on the canvas that is theater or film.  Thus, acting, using my technique, allows the actor (writer, or director) to CREATE with the pain, not just complain or sit with the pain.  Which is much more satisfying for everyone.

What’s your goal when working with an actor?

To push them beyond what they believe is their limitations.  All great art is created by thinking outside the box, to never say that you’ve done all you can do.  There’s always more to explore and discover about the character, and therefore yourself.  To create something that isn’t merely good, but to create something that is spectacular!

In a previous interview of yours on Hally Berry you said “I asked her if she was ready to push the envelope,” what did you mean by that? How did Berry manage to push that envelope and win an Oscar?

I asked her to truly deal with and use in her work her darkest and scariest fears.  Using this is frightening for an actor, as it forces them to deal with it, not only as the character, but in real life as well.   Halle’s a fearless actor, and “went there” creating a gritty and raw portrayal of a woman in heightened emotional jeopardy.   It’s difficult to deny a performance that is coming from such a deep place, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts acknowledged this by giving her the Oscar.

What does it take to make it in today’s Hollywood?

Two things: 1 A strong work ethic, 2 taking risks in the choices you make as an actor.

Can a good acting coach take a so-so actor, and change him into a star?

Yes.  Just because you start “so-so” doesn’t mean you have to remain that way.   With hard work, study, and fearless choices an actor can become great.

Have you worked with Greek actors? What’s your opinion?

Greek people are very expressive and passionate.  This is an excellent combination in making an amazing actor!


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