Tag Archives: Acting

Sharpen Your Acting: The Habits of an Actor

I made the jump earlier this year to follow my passion of acting head on. I had no idea what I was going to do or how I was to go about doing it, I just started moving. I eventually started researching the best schools in my area and came upon Stella Adler Los Angeles.

I made the move and got enrolled. The class was great. The only thing was, I only had enough money for one class.

Use Your Time Wisely

I came upon my first setback. I planned to only take one quarter off and find a better paying job (or an additional one) to help me pay for the rest of the classes I planned on taking. The job that I thought I had lined up didn’t come through like I had hoped and I felt stuck. I knew I had to do something to keep my skills sharp while outside of school. So I emailed my teacher and told him about my current situation. He then sent me a list of creative habits and books to read while I was away.

Why Doesn’t an Actor Act?

We pay all that money for training and acting school, and after we feel confident enough we go searching for work.Alan Nusbaum asked on his blog, “if a painter paints, how come an actor does not act?”It’s a great question because as actors sometimes we tend to forget all about the theater and student films and go straight to Hollywood for the paid gigs.

Here is the list of creative habits my teacher gave me to keep my craft sharp

1. Work time- find yourself a time to work that you protect. Know when you work best and take advantage of that time. Structure your day around that fact.

2. Pianists/ Musicians- They always accept the fact that for them to be better they must do their scale work . They must practice. Dancers are the same way. What are the scales for an actor?

  • Practice Script breakdown- get a play and break it down into its beats, units, etc.  See how fully you understand it. What is the plot? What’s the theme? Setting? Idea?
  • Practice cold reading- If you plan on becoming an actor, this skill is an important part of the audition. Grab a monologue and practice.
  • Poetry- My teacher had us doing poems. He would have us see the images before we would speak. I learned that in order to move an audience with the poem, I had to be moved myself. If it meant nothing to me, it wouldn’t mean anything to anyone else. So it forced me to start taking time to connect with things in real life. Just to be present and allow myself to become affected by things I come across. Different images and what not. Poetry is a deep form of self-expression and can better you as an actor.
  • Shakespeare-need I say more?
  • Reading history, philosophy, literature, political theory, religious texts, psychology, and studying other cultures. Acting is all about connecting with the text and bringing the life behind that text to life. What better to study than life and people itself. Not only your own but that of others as well.
  • Visiting art galleries and museums. Museums carry things of significance. Things relative to points in time, a peoples’ history and items pertaining to a their culture. Art has a way of carrying a peoples’ culture and history. It can represent their times  and evoke feelings.
  • Observation/ People watching. It’s the heart of our work and all art. Learn to see, putting yourself into the shoes of others.
  • Writing-anything. Journal, poetry, plays, screenplays, film. Get to know yourself.
  • Anything that can give you focus
  • Watching great work of both theater and film. Learn from your fellow actors

3. Take care of your body and voice- practice physical work and voice work everyday. Our body is our instrument.

4. Doing theater- It’s our place.

In addition, he gave me these words of advice:

Acting is a lifetime committment to learning

Discover what moves you, what do you want to fight for or express

If you are not learning you are standing still

Set goals for the parts you want to play

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The Value of Entertainment

What value do you provide?

What do you contribute to people? To the world?

What difference do you make?

These are the questions I run into as an actor. From others as well as from myself. With issues like world hunger, poverty, crime and global warming going on in the world, sometimes people find it hard to understand what I do for the cause as an actor, or for the world in general. Well, what does anyone do? I don’t act like it’s not there, but I don’t overly concern myself with issues on a great scale as that. I choose to focus on the moves I can make that contribute to the cause, and at the same time live my life and have fun.

I like to think of a career as a medium and a message like this. My message is simply to never stop growing, never stop learning, stay true to yourself and have fun. I strive to express this every minute of my life, through my actions, this blog, and through acting. I find striving to become a professional working actor very challenging. My growth as an actor runs parallel to my growth as an individual. It pushes me to work hard, build courage, discipline, and a whole lot of other qualities I find important. As a child, I was told that I shouldn’t, couldn’t and wouldn’t become an actor. It almost stopped me for a while. It’s been my dream since childhood so for me to deny that to myself  be untrue to my desires. I wouldn’t be true to myself or how I feel my life should be lived.

Value

What is value? I think value is highly subjective and always fluctuating, it’s not too stable or objective.  A bottle of water usually sells for around $1 around where I live in Riverside, CA. I went to a concert and found someone finding those same bottles of water for around $7. Normally, I would never think of buying water for around that price, but at that moment, it was of high value to me. The circumstances justified the price of water: I was drenched in sweat down to my socks, it was humid, and nobody was willing to share anything but weed and cigarettes. Answer.com defines value as

  • Monetary or material worth: the fluctuating value of gold and silver.
  • Worth in usefulness or importance to the possessor; utility or merit: the value of an education.
  • A principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable.
  • What Value do you provide?

    An actor is at most a poet and at least an entertainer-Marlon Brando

    I think this quote pretty much hits the nail on the head. At the least, an actor should provide entertainment and be entertaining. Does society NEED entertainment? I say no. In this new day and age, we have a lot of leisure and conveniences that make our experience of living more comfortable and convenient  but all we really need to live are our basics: food, clothing and shelter. But value isn’t solely based on needs and people usually have  a hard time distinguishing their needs from things that they would like to have or experience. Steve Pavlina states, “The simple answer is that you know you’re creating value when you can see tangible positive changes in the world as a result of your creative output.  So what tangible positive changes in the world does an actor create? At the least, an actor can inspire self-actualization and creativity. Just by an actor acting or a basketball player shooting hoops and making a living, I think it stands as a testimony that you can truly earn a living from your passion.

    What difference do you make?

    You can make a difference anytime in a day. However, since a career takes up a majority of your time, I think it stands that you should try to make a difference through your career. An actor is part of an ensemble. Usually, the director has a large amount of control, but the actor is responsible for his own choices. Like corporations with mission statements, movies have an objective most of the time. It may be simply to entertain or to inspire, to inform, to move the audience and etc. As an actor, I think it’s important to make sure you know the motives or objective of projects that you may be working on and make sure that it resonates with your values.

    You can stimulate change directly or indirectly. I remember reading Denzel Washington talk about how a man came up to him and told him how his role in Man on Fire helped him to stop smoking. He helped. Keyword: helped. Change usually happens gradually. I don’t know too many individuals that have up and created change primarily by themselves. The thing is, you never know how you’ll affect someone, for better or for worst, so it’s best to be conscious on what type of energy, message or image you’re putting out there or getting yourself involved with.

    What do you contribute to people? To the world?

    As I’ve stated previously, the least that entertainment contributes to society is entertainment. Entertainment might make you laugh, might ease the pain of whatever you’re going through. A film like Patch Adams showed me the healing power of laughter. Not everyone is stuck on their basic needs. When our basic needs are provided for, we begin to think on a higher level and experience greater joy in life. We begin to question life, innovate, seek greater understanding, creatively express ourselves and expand our potential. At the same time, entertainers have the money to donate to large causes and sometimes, even the time and energy to go along with it.But there is no limit to the impact arts and entertainment can have on an individual or a people. I’ve learned a great deal from Eminem (which is a whole ‘nother post in itself). Most lessons I’ve gotten from him have been by observation. Through music, I’ve learned a lot as well and at the very least, it’s been the catalyst for a lot of the things I learned. Look at Michael Jackson, he didn’t really affect me, but it appears he’s touched a whole lot of lives, influenced careers and made music that much better for some people.

    Project: My First Student Film

    So I’ve been sending my resume and headshots out like crazy. My resume isn’t much, one play, one class, one special skill, but you’ve got to play the hand you’re given. I sent out to maybe around 10 student films and got two responses. The first is for an RCC student film Rituals to the Revelation which I just barely got the script for. I’m doing a little flashback scene, nothing big seeing how late I was on the notice, but hey things change. The director is telling me it’s one of RCC’s biggest projects running at thirty minutes long. This will mark my first student film so I’m pretty happy.

     

    In Your Choice Lies Your Talent

    Your talent is in your choice.” -Stella Adler

    There are many different acting techniques out there. I chose to study the Stella Adler technique for my own personal reasons. Her technique is imagination based as opposed to Lee Strasberg’s technique which delves more into the actor’s own personal history.

    My technique teacher told us always to work step by step and to work deep and specifically. He said that if we work step by step and specifically, than we would become actors. Most techniques that I know of involve the usual set of questions

    Who am I?

    Where am I?

    What am doing? What am I fighting for? What’s my objective?

    Why am I doing this? What’s my motivation?

    If I’m going to play a killer I’ve got to ask myself,  “what’s my motivation?” If it’s not strong enough, the intensity is not there. But if I’ve got a compelling motive, then I can kill. I had to make a similar choice back when I was attending Cal Poly Pomona and majoring in Economics. My vision was to create a business, but my motive was lousy. Sure, I could have strong-willed my way through but after a lot of thought I found I wasn’t even doing it for myself. It wasn’t strong enough to propel me through the hard times and all the stress and challenges I would surely face.

    Sure these seem like simple questions, but they’re really hard to answer. In each answer lies your talent. Each answer is what will compel you to act.

    It helps to really know yourself. Know what moves you as a person. If you answer these questions in any old way you may not be doing justice to the script or character.

    These questions seem so simple, yet, we can’t forget to take into account, how many people never answer these questions in real life? These questions, and others provide the technique by which some actors build their craft. Yet, these same questions go unanswered in life. Is it any wonder so many actors find it hard to make compelling choices?

    Decisions

    Choices are prevalent in life. They make or break us, as in acting. Do you ask yourself the tough, necessary questions that form the foundation of life? Did you or someone else answer them?

    Let’s make it a habit to make our own choices and make them our best choices. In our choices lie our talent.

    Why So Many Starving Actors?

    I’ve always wondered why there were so many starving actors out there. The numbers used to keep me from pursuing a career in acting. I used to think it was a whole ‘nother world. Complete with different principles and rules. After some observation and insight, I don’t think that anymore.

    Actors are no different from anyone else

    They do or they don’t set goals. Their goals may not be clearly stated. There are numerous reasons.

    Persistence

    In Audition, Michael Shurtleff says actors fail not because lack of talent but because

    1. They don’t work hard enough

    2. They aren’t disciplined

    3. They are literal rather than truly imaginative

    4. They are victimized by their limitations and prejudices.

    5. They are ruled by their negative side.

    6. They are not persistent.

    Of course there are numerous other reasons. Nonetheless, they’re some of the same reasons that anyone would fail at anything in life. Why is it that I hear of actors being late to set? In an industry so competitive and jobs seemingly scarce?

    My technique teacher told me acting is more hard work than talent. So my aim is to find the hard work and build my capacity to do it.

    The Negative is Always Written

    In the script or play, the negative is always written. It’s up to the actor to find the beauty, the positive.

    As it is in life. The negative is always there. Nobody wants to be around the person that is negative all the time. Everyone wants to be around the person that can find the humor in the situation, the beauty.

    When you’re making your choices during a reading don’t be so literal. Anyone off the street can read what is there but it’s up to the actor to find what is different.