The day before her sold-out master class in Tel Aviv, Ivana Chubbuck already knows that most of her notes to the 400 local actors in the room will be to pull back the intensity of their performances.
“Israelis experience a lack of quietness in their everyday lives, they learn that quietness achieves nothing. So what we see is a lot of very loud acting,” says Chubbuck over iced tea at Hotel 65 on Rothschild Boulevard.
“I think that’s great. We always say that you can’t make a performance. It’s much easier to tell someone to pull back than to draw them out.”
Chubbuck arrived late the night before from Los Angeles, her home base. No stranger to jet lag, she was up early, ready for a full day of meetings and preparations for her upcoming class.
Chubbuck is the founder and purveyor of the famed Chubbuck technique, a 12-step program for actors. She is the author of The Power of the Actor and works as a private coach to an endless list of Hollywood’s film stars. The foundation of her technique is that, regardless of culture or country, actors all deal with the same hurdles, how to take insecurity and otherness and wield them to accomplish goals.
“What makes people different is not the base. At our base we are all the same, we have the same fears, the same insecurities, the same issues with our parents and lovers,” she says.
Chubbuck was born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit.
One of seven children, Chubbuck knew early on that she wanted to try her hand at acting.
She is an incredibly charismatic woman, disarmingly honest and warm.
“I moved out to LA to act.
Actors always help each other out. That’s what actors do. I would meet with friends to work on lines and I noticed that people were doing their best work with me.” Slowly, word spread and Chubbuck began coaching actors. “Twenty-nine years ago, I gave up acting.
Directors continue to offer me roles to this day but I have zero desire to go back to acting,” she says.
Chubbuck’s technique is quickly learned, she explains.
“People can pick up my stuff very fast because it is very intuitive.
I want to de-victimize you.
Being a victim isn’t going to work for anyone. I believe in using all your terrible stuff, all the pain and trauma to overcome and win as a character.
Our job as artists is to change the world, to give hope. Everything can be overcome and when I show that as an actor, my audience can see that they can overcome too.”
She recalls a meeting, her first, with Sylvester Stallone.
“I knew that he had lost his son recently, which is an unimaginable loss. I asked him to pick any scene from the script and read it as if he were speaking to his lost son. At first he said he wasn’t sure he wanted to go there but after 10 minutes he looked at me and said, ‘I’m in.’” “To me, nothing is ever too personal. It’s always going to be personal. When Melville wrote Moby Dick, it was personal.
It can be very, very intensely personal but it can never be too personal. Audiences don’t like being lied to, so actors have to make it real. If you don’t have the courage to do that, you can’t be an actor.
It takes a lot of courage to act.”
From the Los Angeles scene, Chubbuck’s method sprawled out across the United States and eventually, throughout the world. Today, she has Chubbuck method teachers in dozens of countries and makes a habit of dropping in for master classes whenever she can.
“I coach people all over the world, directors, actors, writers, and a lot of the time their scripts are in languages I don’t understand. I can still laugh at the right moments and cry at the right moments, without speaking the language. You don’t need to understand the words to understand what’s going on.”
Chubbuck recently coached the actors of The Bridge in Norway and Denmark.
“They translated the scripts for me. In the end, I helped to rewrite them. It was incredible to see how two different actors performed the same content and took it to completely different places.”
Chubbuck’s visit to Israel was prompted by two factors, a meeting with local producer Ari Davidovich and a desire to escape the enforced down time surrounding Christmas in Los Angeles.
“I am happiest when I am teaching. I am not happy when I’m not teaching,” she smiles.
The next step for Chubbuck is to take the wisdom gleaned from working with actors into the business arena. Her new venture is a workshop series for business men and women, which applies Chubbuck’s ability to turn flaws into fuel to a different field. “It’s about empowerment, about spinning negative into positive,” she says.