The Moment Before

By Mark Stolzenberg

mark_stolzenberg_acting_articlesThe “moment before” is a technical acting term which refers to what is going on in your character’s life just before the Director says, “action”.

The “Moment Before” is a crucial part of the “Preparation Process” to perform a scene. It includes events, emotions, thoughts, images, dialogue, conflicts, interactions, physical conditions and more which the actor is going through in the minutes and seconds before the director cues you to “action”. Do not wait for the director to say, “action” to start your scene. You must be in character before the “action” cue and when the director says “action”, he should be interrupting you in your scene not starting you up

A well prepared “moment before” will catapult you in to your scene like a spring board and will guarantee that you are focused and totally in character.


Actors can be creative with their choices for “the moment before”. Your choices for your images and thoughts in “the moment before” can augment your emotional life, intensity, focus, conflict, and precision in your scene.

For example, if you are doing a scene in which your wife says that she is leaving you and you are supposed to be upset and emotionally devastated, your “moment before” might be thinking about how beautiful she looks, how much you love her and why, and images from your honeymoon. Then when she says,”I’m leaving you”, it will hurt more, and be more conflicting and traumatic.

I constantly drill my students on the choices that they are making (if any) for their “moment before”. It is crucial for film acting scenes because in movies, scenes are often shot out of sequence and therefore out of context. There are many tricks of the trade and creative ways to explore your “moment before”. Take my class and discover them.