4 Reasons the Struggle is worth it: Learning from Mistakes in Acting

Ever wonder what it’s like to be a beginner actor? Sure, you may have seen some of your favorite actors in movies and TV shows, but how did they get started?

We all know that everyone has to start somewhere. They had their first steps onto the stage, their first rehearsal with other actors, and even their very first lines uttered. There was a point at which your favorite actor was just as wide-eyed and awe-struck by this strange new world of acting as anyone else.

And not unlike any other beginning actor out there (or anyone starting anything), they made mistakes too–sometimes big ones! The difference is: Unlike most people who are new at anything, they have the desire and drive to do the work it takes to correct their mistakes and get better. Here are four reasons why the “struggle” is worth it, especially for actors:

4 reasons why beginning actors mistakes are worth it.

You learn to take criticism: You can’t do anything without making mistakes, and you certainly cannot expect to be perfect. Learning how to hear constructive criticism about your work is a valuable skill for any actor (or anyone) who wants their craft to improve. By taking that feedback and using it as fuel for improvement instead of an excuse not to try, you’re already on your way to becoming a better actor.

You learn how to work with others: There are plenty of jokes about actors who think they’re “divas,” or “the center of the universe.” But there’s nothing worse than being around someone like that for too long–especially when it comes time to rehearse and work on a show or film. The sooner you learn how to be part of a team and work together for the good of the project, the better off you’ll be.

You learn about yourself: This one is probably the most important thing an actor can learn from making mistakes–especially early on in their career. As you start taking more and more risks and trying new things, you’ll begin to see what your strengths and weaknesses are. This is invaluable information that can help you make better choices about the roles you take on in the future.

You learn how to deal with failure: As an actor (or anyone), you’re going to experience a lot of failure in your career. There will be auditions that you almost get, parts that go to your competition, and even shows or films where the whole thing falls apart. The only option is to keep going–and learn how not to repeat those same mistakes next time around.

Learn more about how to write a solo show, how to produce it, and how to get started from an expert with over 40 years of experience on and off-Broadway – Performance Projects with Mel Shapiro.

Learn from Mel Shapiro and get guidance on beginning actors mistake.

1. Stage Fright

Young Actress witnessing beginning actors mistake.

Performance anxiety can prevent you from doing what you enjoy and can affect your career.

There are some actors out there who claim they never feel any nerves or stage fright, the implication being that if you do, perhaps you are somehow inadequate. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that is utter bullshit. Henry Fonda, famed Oscar, Tony, Grammy, and Golden Globe award winner is said to have suffered throughout his entire career from such intense stage fright that he would routinely throw up just off stage a few moments before his first entrance. It’s not that experienced actors don’t get stage fright, it’s that they develop the tools to overcome it.

Some of the most talented and successful people in film history have suffered or even struggled with stage fright. Sir Laurence Olivier, one of the most celebrated actors in history, once said that if playing Hamlet didn’t give him nightmares and cold sweats, he wasn’t doing his job right. Even Meryl Streep—arguably the greatest actress alive today—has admitted to dealing with extreme stage fright during her career; she’s even said that one of the ways she gets through it is to drink a lot of vodka before performances.

So, if some of the greatest actors in history still experience stage fright, how can anyone new to acting possibly avoid it? The answer is: They can’t. But by facing their fears and diving headfirst into this strange and wonderful world, they made mistakes too–sometimes big ones! The difference is: Unlike most people who are new at anything, they had the desire and drive to do the work it takes to correct their mistakes and get better. Here are four reasons why the “struggle” is worth it, especially for actors.

2. The Audience

 Audience witnessing beginning Actors mistakes.

Acting is like walking on stilts; it is hard as hell at first, but the further you go, the easier it gets.

For many, once they’ve overcome stage fright, the pendulum swings too far the other way and they forget there are people out there trying to hear and see them perform. The fix: avoid turning fully upstage or speaking directly to another actor if it means turning your body away from the house or camera. Good directors will help their actors make the right choices in the blocking process, but you can serve yourself and your show by making sure you cheat your body and face out to the audience to ensure you are seen and heard. Think of the audience as another actor who is trying to understand what you’re saying just as much as they are enjoying watching you perform.

By keeping these things in mind, you can help ensure that your mistakes don’t overshadow all the hard work and progress you’ve made as an actor. As long as you’re always learning and growing, those early mistakes won’t seem quite so glaring in retrospect.

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The list of actors who struggled early on is very long, including names like Marlon Brando, Katharine Hepburn, and Marilyn Monroe. All three are now considered among the greatest in history. Despite having very little experience when they started out, their desire to keep improving–and not give up after one or two mistakes–ultimately led them to become the very best at their craft. As a result, they left behind some wonderful and memorable performances that we still watch today, and will continue to do so for decades and even centuries after those original mistakes were made.

As one of my favorite teachers once told me: “Acting is like walking on stilts; it’s hard as hell at first, but the further you go, the easier it gets.” So keep on practicing, learning, and growing; the struggle is most definitely worth it.

If you’re ready to take the next step towards a great career as an actor, try out some great acting workshops or great acting classes today!

 Learn from Mel Shapiro and get guidance on beginning actors mistake.

3. Voice and Speech

Teacher discussing beginning actors mistake.

The power, control, and subtlety of voice and speech can convey the nuances of character.

Another common mistake beginners make–and one that is, unfortunately, becoming more common as more and more young actors go for a certain mumbling “naturalism” that is in fact pretty phony itself–is neglecting volume and diction. If you’re performing for television or film and you are fitted with a body mic, you don’t have to worry about volume. But you still need to speak clearly and enunciate your words. And if you’re performing on stage, you absolutely need to make sure that, even during the “quiet” scenes, the people in the back row can hear you clearly. The more often actors forget these two very simple rules, the more they are likely to get into bad habits that can be very difficult to break later on.

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By keeping these things in mind, you can help ensure that your mistakes don’t overshadow all the hard work and progress you’ve made as an actor. As long as you’re always learning and growing, those early mistakes won’t seem quite so glaring in retrospect. So keep practicing, learning, and growing; the struggle is most definitely worth it.

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4. Breaking Character

Actors discussing about beginning actors mistake

The joy of acting is walking the knife’s edge between glory and failure.

The joy of acting is walking the knife’s edge between glory and failure. It’s an adrenaline rush like no other, and that’s part of why we love it. So it’s inevitable that at some point, we all slip into the abyss. We forget a line, we miss an entrance, we forget a key prop. These things happen.

The danger for a lot of newer actors is that anything that goes even slightly askew can send them careening off the tracks and derail their entire performance and perhaps the entire show. You simply cannot break character no matter what goes wrong. Unless someone has a heart attack or something – then, sure, you can break character. But even then, you better have a damn good reason why your character would suddenly forget all of their training and react with genuine shock instead of just doing whatever they were supposed to do that caused the heart attack in the first place. This is an easy trap to fall into when actors are new or still don’t have a lot of experience, and it’s one that can be very difficult to get out of.

By keeping these things in mind, you can help ensure that your mistakes don’t overshadow all the hard work and progress you’ve made as an actor. As long as you’re always learning and growing, those early mistakes won’t seem quite so glaring in retrospect. So keep practicing, learning, and growing; the struggle is most definitely worth it.

If you’re interested in acting classes or want more information on acting careers, contact our team for help with your acting goals! We’ll be happy to discuss the benefits of an acting career and how we can work together to make them happen.

To help prevent making common beginner errors in acting, here are four reasons why the struggle of learning from mistakes can be worth it for beginning actors: Breaking Character, The joy of acting is walking the knife’s edge between glory and failure. It’s an adrenaline rush like no other, and that’s part of why we love it. So it’s inevitable that at some point, we all slip into the abyss. We forget a line, we miss an entrance, we forget a key prop. These things happen. Speaking Clearly and Concisely. This goes hand in hand with not breaking character. Just as it’s important to stay in character no matter what, you also need to make sure that your dialogue is clear and concise – for both the audience and your fellow actors.

If we want this industry to be something we love and enjoy, then we need to make sure it’s a safe space for all people involved. That means holding ourselves accountable when our words or actions might harm someone. As an actor, you have a lot of power – both on and off the stage. And with that power comes a responsibility to use it in a way that is beneficial for everyone, not just yourself. So be mindful of the words you choose and the actions you take; they have the potential to hurt or to heal.

If you’re ready to take the next step towards a great career as an actor, try out some great acting workshops or great acting classes today!

Learn from Mel Shapiro and get guidance on beginning actors mistake.

 

Summary

As an actor, you make mistakes. It’s inevitable. But that doesn’t mean your acting career is doomed before it even begins. To help prevent making common beginner errors in acting, here are four reasons why the struggle of learning from mistakes can be worth it for beginning actors:

  1. Breaking Character
  2. Speaking Clearly and Concisely
  3. Respecting Other Actors and Crew
  4. Taking Responsibility for Your Words and Actions

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About Author

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Jeremiah O`Brian
Master Teacher  | USC School of Dramatic Arts

Jeremiah O’Brian is a faculty member at the USC School of Dramatic Arts. His exceptionally diverse background – from gritty nuts-and-bolts firefighting to film and theatre credits and accolades – is bolstered by his several graduate degrees.

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