Acting 101: The Beginning
"Start from where you are and you will never be dishonest."
Acting as an art form can be incredibly rewarding. Good acting takes time, great acting takes talent, professional acting takes both. Whether you are curious about acting, are already a working actor, or studying it in school, it is important to always remember the basics.
Successful acting means telling a story truthfully under imaginary circumstances. This was the theory developed the great Sanford Meisner. The most effective performances result from an actor responding authentically to their surroundings and "getting out of their own head".
Another technique you may have heard of is "method acting" (i.e. Daniel Day-Lewis, Marlon Brando, etc.), which is essentially "becoming" the character. Personally, I think that's baloney but hey, it worked for them!
While all styles of acting are worth looking into, I prefer Meisner's technique over others for several reasons (my own opinion):
1. It is the quickest and least damaging technique for an actor to "get there".
2. When done correctly you can't go wrong.
If an actor is responding truthfully to their circumstances, co-actors, and environment, it sets the stage for a believable telling of the story. And that is the ultimate goal: to tell the story.
Nobody aspires to be a decent actor. We all want to be one of the greats; who wouldn't want to be considered an expert or icon in their field? Acting takes courage. Not only because it's one of the most difficult careers in the entertainment industry but because an actor needs to make themselves emotionally available. When I was in school at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts we spent the majority of the first semester crying. You don't need to spend months digging through all of your baggage to be a good actor but it definitely helped strip us of our defenses so we could get down to the work with a clean slate and open eyes. This might sound dramatic but, you know, that's kind of the point. You work on yourself first so that you can give a part of yourself with every performance.
You are your instrument. Like a musician, an actor needs to know how to manipulate their body, breath, and emotions to achieve the desired affect. And just like an instrument an actor needs to take care of their body. This can be exhausting for some (it was for me) but ultimately an actor needs to remain healthy and capable of performing for hours on end. This doesn't mean having a toned body but it does mean being healthy and happy.
Lastly, one way a lot of actors sabotage their careers is because they don't look at it like a business. You are your business. You will only ever be as successful as you want to be. It may not seem like it but an actor has more control over their career than they may think.
This is only the beginning. Every Tuesday I will share more and more about what I know and what I have learned from my education, working professionally as an actor, and being behind the camera running my own business. For more updates sign up for our newsletter below, which will contain industry news, movie reviews, short film spotlights, networking tips, and much more. See you next week!