There is one immortal, self-reflective question that we all constantly ask ourselves: how can I make myself better? The answer is rarely a simple one, let alone evident—but it’s there.
Acting is no different. One can always be better; that door never closes. Acting is, at its core, an art form, with the objective being to personify emotionality into something tangible. It’s about taking that “…” and creating drama. And in order to do that you need to get out there and freaking act.
So how do you do it? Which is the best road to success? Well that’s the million-dollar question, ain’t it? Luckily, your friendly neighborhood writer has assembled a few pointers that will help you on your way!
1. Acting Classes
Acting is a like a muscle: if you don’t work it out, it’ll melt into gross slop. As an actor, you need to exercise and train, and that doesn’t mean sitting on the couch sipping gin & tonics while reading Harold Pinter plays. Go out into the world and really interact with people. Get to know human functions on an intuitive level. One way to do that is by participating in acting classes.
Acting class is the same as trade school in that one goes there to learn and become better at a craft. Classes force actors to interpret texts and stretch their emotive range, bouncing their material off the other classmates. Monologues are great, but compelling dialogues? That’s why movies are made.
Let’s take a step back and be honest with each other for a second, okay? Some actors have a bit of a, for lack of a better word, ego. “Acting classes? Pft, I’ve had all the training I need. What more do I have to learn?” There is no such thing as too much training. Buddy, even Brad Pitt takes lessons. Granted he has a private acting instructor, but still…he receives coaching. You always need to flex those muscles.
Remember folks: leave that ego at the door. In the immortal words of Katherine Hepburn, “Acting is the most minor of gifts, and not a very high-class way to earn a living. After all, Shirley Temple could do it at the age of four.”
2. Casting Director Workshops
Casting Director workshops are often great ways to meet – and subsequently show off to – Casting Directors. These are the people in the business who get you past the door and onto the stage, and being on their good side is a coveted position.
These CD workshops can be very delicate environments and, like everything else, there is a right and wrong way to approach them.
WRONG: Enroll in every CD workshop under the sun. The “if they’re selling, I’m buying” mentality is exactly what not to do. If you’re taking five different workshops, you won’t be able to really concentrate and develop a proper relationship with the CD in charge. Make your class choices more focused and determined. To just sign up for everything is a waste of time and money, and it reeks of desperation.
RIGHT: Do your research and be selective. Don’t stretch yourself too thin with these classes, and really take the time to acquire a legitimate rapport with a Casting Director. Create a list of projects (film and television) that you love and want to be part of, and then find that Casting Director. If he or she is holding a workshop, congratulations! You just found your calling.
Most importantly, always follow up your workshop with a lovely “Thank You” note to the Casting Director, especially if your performance received rave reviews. Create that connection with your acting, and do whatever it takes to keep it alive.
(NOTE: Looking for workshops near you? Your best friend Google has all the answers!)
3. Try the Theater
If being a successful actor in the entertainment industry were easy, more people would be doing it. My mother would be able to rattle off twenty, thirty names instead of the usual two (“George Clooney and George Clooney’s hair”). This business is tough. Actors need to explore every outlet to work and be noticed…and that’s where the theater comes into play.
NEW YORK ACTORS: The Los Angeles theater circuit does not have the same level of panache as it does in New York. Feel free to skip the following paragraph.
Theater acting is an excellent way to hone your skills as an actor. There are no cameras, no multiple takes…just you and the audience. On stage an actor builds confidence and style, because there is no editor in a dark room somewhere cutting your performance together into something “film ready.” Your fate lies in the hands of one person: you.
Acting on stage also provides actors with more direct opportunities to give back to the community. Whether performing for children, the elderly, or at the Geffen Playhouse, theater acting is a far more intimate experience than being projected onto a screen. You as an actor have the ability to truly connect with the audience. Your performance has the potential to affect someone out there in the dark, cool theater in a positive, visceral way. There is a very personal, private connection made between the actor on stage and the audience in the theater that is often absent from the cinema.
Every time an actor acts before an audience, whether live or on screen, he or she creates the potential for progression. There is always a young boy or girl out there in the black theater, watching intently, analyzing and absorbing every one of your moves. How will you affect this person? Will you create a fallacy, some sort of façade that hides your true self? Or will you be sincere and pure, portraying something emotionally honest that captivates the audience?
As an actor you have the power to affect those around you. You are an influence, an inspiration. The question remains: what will you do with that power?
Light, camera, action.