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Lessons for life

With a stellar reputation across the globe, acting coach Ivana Chubbuck tells Lizzie Franks about her famous method and why it gets results 

Ivana 2Ivana at her home in West Hollywood. Her book The Power of the Actor has been published in several countries.

“Would you go to a doctor who decided after university that they weren’t going to keep learning about the latest advances? No. You go to the person who keeps educating themselves. Education is the key to evolving as a human being.”

Ivana Chubbuck, one of the most sought-after acting coaches in the world, is understandably passionate about actors continuing to study their craft long after they have left drama school or landed their first gig.

“The people who continue to study continue to work. The people who stop, don’t,” she says. “I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s that simple.”
She founded the Ivana Chubbuck Studios in Los Angeles more than 20 years ago and is author of Los Angeles Times bestseller The Power of the Actor. She travels the world teaching the Chubbuck Technique and provides private coaching to the likes of Halle Berry and Brad Pitt.

When I arrive to interview Chubbuck at her home in West Hollywood, she is wrapping up a coaching session with Australian actor Travis Fimmel. Once best-known for a high-profile Calvin Klein advertising campaign, he is now the lead in critically acclaimed television drama Vikings, which has been renewed for a second season. “I credit all of my success to Ivana,” says Fimmel, who has known Chubbuck for 13 years. “I came to her because I wanted to work with the best, and everyone I respected told me she was the best.”

One of the most important aspects of Chubbuck’s 12-step acting technique involves ‘accessing your personal pain’. “No one wants to do that but, as an actor, you’ve got to,” says Fimmel. “There’s a lot of shit you have to dig up and Ivana makes that as easy as possible.”

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE SPRING 2013 EQUITY MAGAZINE

Chubbuck, who studied cultural anthropology, behavioural science and psychology at university, says her method isn’t just a way to act – it’s a way to live life.“I recently had a woman in one of my classes who was Harvard-educated,” she says. “After studying with me, she said my book should be a must-read for all psychology students. It’s not just about acting. It’s about human nature, and understanding that we don’t use the bad stuff to have a pity party – we use it to learn and grow and be better. It’s all about taking the pain of your life and, instead of self-destructing with it, using it to overcome obstacles and to win.”

When Chubbuck talks about “winning”, she says she means “the idea that you are not going to allow losing to be part of your mentality. No matter what your boyfriend says or your mother did. You make a conscious decision: I am going to attempt to win in spite of that.”

Chubbuck says the method isn’t “intense” but rather “cathartic”. “Most people take pain and self-destruct with it. Leaders, people who accomplish great things in the world, are the people who take the same pain and use it to impassion and fuel their ability to overcome and accomplish.

“A lot of teachers say, bring up your pain just to make it truthful – but what do you then do with all that pain? It sticks like glue. Actors are sometimes told the more pain they explore and stick on their bodies, hearts and souls, the better they’ll be. But that just gets depressing.”

Lyndelle Green, an Australian acting coach accredited to teach the Chubbuck Technique, says the method is “a quick way in for actors to get to the core of a character and understand the meaning of a script”. Green, who has hosted a number of oversubscribed Chubbuck workshops for the Equity Foundation, says she loves to teach the technique because “it is such a privilege to watch actors work through the process and come up with powerful performances”.

She spent six months studying at the Chubbuck studio in 2010. “This one technique stuck with me because I saw actors really quickly connect to the need of the character. It gives actors very practical skills that are easy to understand and put into place immediately.”

Chubbuck says because her technique “makes logical sense”, every student improves in some way. “There’s a process that involves exploring who you are via the character on the page. As you are trying to figure out the character, you are having revelations about yourself. That gives you revelations about the character which gives you more revelations about yourself. And this keeps growing.”

One of Chubbuck’s best-known students, Halle Berry, thanked her publicly for her Academy Award-winning performance in Monster’s Ball. “Her philosophy transcends what we once knew about the art and forces actors through their own catharsis to discover authentic ways of bringing the complexity of life to the screen and stage,” Berry said. “Under Ivana’s tutelage, the course of my career and depth of my work have changed dramatically.”

“I was really proud of Halle,” Chubbuck says. “She called me the next day and said, ‘It’s our Oscar because it’s your ideas on the screen.’ That’s the humbleness of some of the people I work with.”

Kim Krejus, artistic director of the 16th Street Actors Studio in Melbourne, describes Chubbuck as “one of the greatest acting teachers of our time”. Krejus is an accredited teacher of the Chubbuck Technique and has brought her to Australia to host a series of masterclasses. Next year, she is planning to take Chubbuck to New Zealand.

“She has a profound ability to understand what drives human beings and, because of this, can lead actors into revealing what lies beneath the surface of human behaviour,” says Krejus. “I believe she offers Australian and New Zealand actors the opportunity to be fearless, dynamic and insightful in the choices they make to reveal a character’s fundamental need.”

In spite of the endless praise she receives from her students and the fact that she consistently works with award-winning actors, Chubbuck says she is no guru. “Hollywood guru. I mean, come on! Too many people in my industry who are acting coaches want to be a guru and I think that’s the very reason that are not – because they are making it about their ego, and education has to be selfless. If I make it about me, I am not going to make it about you.”

Lizzie Franks is editor of The Equity Magazine

 

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