Tag Archives: advice

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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Lessons From Eminem

I think Eminem’s achievements speak for themselves and it’s safe to say that he’s one of the greatest rappers to ever do it. When it comes to his craft, I don’t know too many that can match him. So what are the keys to his success?

Habits

I write a rhyme a day

So it’s no wonder your whole album

Is sounding like a whole bunch of shit that I would say

Eminem, still to this day, is ALWAYS writing (so I’ve heard). He doesn’t stop. Back in the days he and Proof would go back and forth just kicking rhymes to each other. Not too many rappers do this. Heck, some brag about not even writing AT ALL anymore, which is not always a good thing (ahem-Young Jeezy)!

They say it takes around 10,000 hours to master something. I’m sure Eminem is near his 10,000th hour, if not past it. Whatever your craft, there’s probably a core habit that it’s established around. How often do you practice it?

Perseverance

If you’re a hip hop head and you’ve spent enough time on YouTube, you’ve probably come across Eminem’s early battles. Yeah he did pretty great at the one of the rap olympics but did you see the others? Em vs. Juice, Em vs. Rhymefest, and I don’t know all the others. Em came up in hip hop the old-fashioned way: through battling. In battling you don’t always win, even if you come in with some prepared lines. Add in the fact that he was white and almost EVERY mc would use that against him. But he made it through. He battled time and time again, regardless of losses, regardless of the all the disrespect that came at the time for being a white rapper in the game after Vanilla Ice fucked it up for almost everyone after him. He kept pushing all the way to his last battle where he got disqualified for a curse. That was the moment where he was spotted by Dr. Dre.

Authenticity

Remember Em’s Infinite cd? No? Maybe? This was his first cd, before The Slim Shady LP. The one you’ve either gotta get from Amazon, Ebay or by downloading, unless you were lucky enough to get one of the originals that he pressed up. A lot of people aren’t too familiar with it. When he talks about it he says

“Obviously, I was young and influenced by other artists, and I got a lot of feedback saying that I sounded like Nas and AZ. ‘Infinite’ was me trying to figure out how I wanted my rap style to be, how I wanted to sound on the mic and present myself. It was a growing stage. I felt like ‘Infinite’ was like a demo that just got pressed up.”

It sounds nothing at all like the Eminem you hear today. In fact, his rhyme style and patterns sound a lot like that of AZ. After Infinite he had The Slim Shady Ep-which you may have never heard either- on which he sounded a bit like Jay-z. It sold even more poorly than his prior cd. Eminem didn’t blow until he released The Slim Shady Lp, on which he sounds like himself.

‘Weaknesses’ Into Strengths

Have you heard his dis track towards Mariah Carey, titled “The Warning?” Not only does he go all out on Mariah but he puts all his dirt out there as well

Listen, girly. Surely you don’t want me to talk about how I nutted early ’cause I ejaculated prematurely and bus all over your belly, and you almost started hurling and said I was gross, go get a towel you’re stomachs curling, or maybe you do?
But if i’m embarrassing me, i’m embarrassing you and don’t you dare say it isn’t true

The Warning-Eminem

Most of Eminem’s dirt is out there. When it’s time to battle him, you’ll either have to be mad creative or use some dumb mess that’s been said before that everyone already knows. I’ve seen him do this time and time again. You can see it in his 8-mile film on the last battle of his. During the battle even before Papa Doc  has a chance to diss Eminem in regards to his race, economic background, his childhood, him getting beat up or anything that would be seen as a negative in the hip hop culture, Eminem pulls his skeletons out the closet with  a smile on his face.

When it’s time for battle, Eminem has his perceived weaknesses exposed. He wears them with pride and they become part of his armor.

We talk a lot about weaknesses, but like problems, perhaps they’re really blessings in disguise. Like Kanye said, “All that I’m not makes me all that I am.”

Discipline

Eminem had once stated that he would stay up nights to read the dictionary in order to expand his vocabulary.

Who wants to read the dictionary?!

There are parts of every job that we don’t like as much as others, but you’ve got to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing and strong-will your way through those tasks.

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.