• James Stranahan

Techniques That Will Help You Memorize Your Lines Faster

Everyone loves to watch bloopers and laugh at the outtakes. To be sure, there have been some hilarious screwups, and at the end of many movies, cast and crew will roast each other for the retakes that had to be done. That’s when the film is finished, however, and everyone is feeling accomplished. An actor who forgets their line - over and over again - is a completely different matter when the movie is being filmed. No one wants to be the person who couldn’t remember a line and who cost everyone time and money.

With all the memorization that actors do, it’s assumed by movie outsiders that they possess some uncanny ability to remember large amounts of information. The answer is somewhere in the middle. I’ve worked with actors that, most definitely, had a photographic memory and could easily remember everything they needed to say. Oh that we could all be like them! Most actors, including me, fall somewhere in the middle: we have to come up with our own ways of memorizing lines so that when the director yells, “Action!” we can enter right on cue.

Here are a few of the more effective ways to remember your lines. As you progress in your acting career, you’ll doubtlessly come up with the way that works best for you.

  1. Let the words get into your mind first. Leave the interpretation for later. This is similar to musicians who first learn the notes of a piece and get them into their fingers, then learn musicality and technique. Just repeat your lines without any emotion, making sure they really sink into your mind. Once you’ve got them and can say them without any hesitation, you can then live in the moment and have the inflection, accent, and emotion arise naturally by listening.

  2. Write them on notecards, in Google docs, and anywhere else that’s handy. There’s something about writing them down that activates a key area of your brain, making it easier to memorize them. Then it will be just like you did in high school when you had to memorize a presentation: you’ll walk around your home with your paper or notecards, repeating lines until you don’t have to look at your notes anymore.

  3. Memorize one line, repeat it, memorize the next one, repeat both lines, then add the next one. It’s a way to slowly build your memory while reinforcing what you’ve already memorized. It can be a bit maddening for some actors, but the plus is that you’re constantly solidifying what you’ve already memorized.

  4. Make memorization of anything a daily practice. If you are in between roles, you can still prevent your memory from getting a little rusty by memorizing poems, grocery lists, Shakespeare soliloquies - anything that makes you keep information in your mind. Heck, turn off GPS and instead memorize the directions for where you’re going. If you get lost, it might make a funny story for one of your auditions.

  5. Be intentional about memorizing. It definitely helps to set aside specific times each day for working on your lines. Even better is when you rehearse smaller parts of them during the rest of the day. That way, the lines are always fresh in your mind, and there won’t have been so much elapsed time since you last worked with them.

Every actor will always come up with their own system for memorizing lines. Choose whatever is best for you, so if you like to work on them while sitting in your shower and wearing a Santa hat, more power to you! See you in Hollywood!

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