Acting is something you do, not something you are. You play how you practice, so if you do not have a daily routine that sharpens your instrument each day, then you need to get one fast. The craft of acting (the tools) is developed over time through constant repetition. Professional actors work on their instruments every day like a full-time job – 8 hours plus a day. So what does that mean for remote acting (not on a set, location, or stage)? It means you need to carve out time to practice your craft, from wherever you are in the world – which presents endless exciting opportunities.
Every good acting teacher I know believes the same: The more you practice the necessary components of acting, the better your acting will be.
Block out 20 min of your day for voice work (the better actor you become, the more time you put in – no matter where or when you need to practice. Dedicate a time and place for this work. The more you practice your voice outside of proper class settings, the more choice, and control you will have as an actor (they are professionals after all).
Voice-over classes are also an excellent way to develop your acting skills. After all, how can you know what it’s truly like to perform in front of a microphone if you’ve never actually practiced before one? It may seem silly, but the truth is that there are many different ways in which voice-over training can help you become a better actor.
Start with the breath. Use your breath deliberately prior to speaking or singing – warm-up your breath. You cannot speak without breath; it’s impossible. If you breathe shallowly you will act shallow. If you speak deep, that becomes a deeper and more opportunity-rich instrument.
Select an emotion to work on with a monologue or scene – try this choice out in your acting work, each day. At least once in the morning and another at night (you can practice it in bed). You cannot act without mastery over the emotions, so why not learn to master them each day? How to master them is the question.
You must look at acting as preparation. You are only as good as your preparation. Script analysis is acting preparation – to understand the world of the story you will be immersed in. Read through your play or script and do your script analysis as Uta Hagen, Stella Adler, and more have taught us – practice scene study and script analysis work every day (yes, even if you are not shooting that scene for weeks).
The job of an actor is to “move people” on an emotional level. You cannot move anyone if you do not know how to move – do not have physical acting control and tools to work with to create a character physically.
Move your body every day—with dramatic intention and purpose. I do not mean that you need to be an accomplished dancer or go to the gym – what I mean is that dramatic movement (marching, walking, running… and on) loses its dramatic effect unless you practice it daily and turn it into a habit and part of your daily routine. Move with purpose and intention and you will create an instrument with a storehouse of physical choices.
There is a reason why acting teachers from Uta Hagen to Sanford Meisner teach actors to “listen”. Listening helps us get out of our own acting head, facilitates the truth, and creates the very moment we are living in. We need to know as acting is a craft that requires cause and effect, talking, and listening which Meisner perfected with many exercises like “repetition”.
When you are shooting an acting scene, the scene must play from top to bottom, all at once or in small chunks called “takes”. The same acting rules apply whether you are acting on a set, acting in location, or acting in your acting room. You prepare your choices, you block our movement and destinations, you step on set, forget the work, listen to your collaborators, and shoot the scene from beginning to end. The end is when the director says cut, not you.
All these processes are about preparation – script analysis, voice, movement, singing, and on… are all forms of preparation to help you create the best possible choices to create a flesh and blood human being from a page of text.
For all of the above acting tools to work together, actors must rehearse their acting tools every day. You cannot act without rehearsal or common sense. You cannot rehearse enough. You cannot choose the right choices without preparation.
I hear it all the time – an actor is studying with a coach, but thinks that they know what they are doing; I’ve heard actors say they don’t really need coaching because their acting teacher is great… They are wrong. Great acting teachers have been known to say that they themselves have a coach/mentor because as one of our great dramatic arts educators, Uta Hagen has taught us – as you continue your dramatic arts education as an actor, the more experienced you become – the more work it will take to continue growing and mastering your craft.
Refer to Charlize Theron – an Academy Award-winning South African and American actress. She is one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood, having earned $18 million in 2009. She works her butt off to be at this level.
This is a technique in and of itself – Auditioning, also known as the casting process. We will discuss this a bit deeper below. In short, this process includes, your work on short notice, how you communicate with the casting director, what your resume reflects, and how you handle yourself in front of a camera and room (yes, I said it).
The last acting tool is about how you use social media. Actors are now using social media to promote themselves as much as possible—from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to Tumblr, Pinterest, and Snapchat. Actors need to know or learn what they can post on each or which accounts are appropriate for what. It goes without saying that you need to do the same for not only yourself but also for your acting agents and managers.
Actors must also be able to talk about themselves (and whatever else they want) with people who are not in their profession (i.e., family, friends, neighbors, fans). Some actors are good at this, but many aren’t. The ability to talk about yourself in a personal yet professional manner is called “networking”.
Actors need to know how to handle money and pay their taxes just like every other American (and this includes what financial documents they need to keep and who should see those documents). While an acting class will not teach you how to balance your checkbook, so if you need it, hire a professional to help with your finances. Also, use YouTube as a resource – so much great content on there.
Actors are now using social media to promote themselves as much as possible—from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to Tumblr, Pinterest, and Snapchat. Learn how to use social media or have someone else do it for you.
An audition is where all the acting tools come together. You need to know your lines, understand who is directing and why they want you for their project, how to create a character from the script and bring it off the page to life in front of them, ask great questions during an audition so they can see “themselves” in you—this includes different kinds of actors getting inside a project (yes, I said it).
Actors must learn to tell the truth as Meisner said way back when. Even if we do not like hearing it about ourselves, we must be our own best critics and critique the work to get to the heart of the character and the story – the truth of the story being told.
As we do, we must learn and continue to learn the difference between constructive criticism and an ego-driven bad review. This is also a very useful distinction especially as we grow in our careers.
Actors need someone they can trust as their acting coach. It should be someone who believes in you, will work with you (i.e., not auditioning actors for their own projects).
Practice, practice, and more practice. It’s a mantra that many actors hear from their mentors at some point in their careers. But how do you actually go about practicing your craft? Well, the good news is there are lots of ways to improve your acting skills. One easy way to do so is by taking an online acting class with us! You may also want to try some different methods such as improve and monologue-writing exercises in order to hone your skills even more. If you have any questions about what else might work best for you, give our team a call today and we’ll be happy to chat through your options together!
We hope that by reading this article, you’ve learned about some of the basics of rehearsal. If there is any way we can help you along your path to becoming a better actor or actress, please don’t hesitate to reach out! We want nothing more than for our readership to get the most out of their dramatic art education experience possible.
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.