We’ve all been told that training is key to improving as an actor and getting a foot in the door of the industry. But acting classes are also a huge investment of our time, energy, and let’s face it… money. We want to know that we’re making a worthwhile investment. I want to help you get the most out of the training you have chosen to pursue, whether that be drama school or part-time classes. If you’re considering enrolling in acting classes, or have already started the journey of training, this guide is here for you.
What You’ll Learn…
By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear understanding of how to make the most out of your training as an actor. Deep diving into the process of training can be an amazing learning experience and help you to lay the foundations for the rest of your career, so here are my top tips:
1. Arrive Early and Prepared
This one might sound obvious. But arriving early and always being prepared for class can be a habit that’s easy to let slip, especially when you have to learn lines every week, do character research and juggle a million other work and family commitments. It can be tempting to arrive at class just in the nick of time, rather than giving yourself a moment to warm up and look over your homework.
There’s nothing worse than being up in front of the class and realising you are under-prepared. While it can be tempting to skip the homework or do it at the last minute, you won’t be doing yourself any favours.
Try to set a habit of arriving 15 minutes early. It’ll get easier the more you do it and if you’re lucky, you might find that habits catch on and your classmates start to arrive earlier as well. Then you can spend that extra time pulling someone aside to run lines or refreshing your work from the previous class.
2. Make Use of Your Resources
Acting studios and drama schools often have a range of resources that people often don’t make use of. These resources could be physical rehearsal spaces, music equipment, filming gear such as cameras or lighting, acting books, or online libraries of monologues and scenes. When you have all of these resources, make sure to use them and develop your craft outside of class.
If your studio has the option for it, look at finding a friend to film some self-tapes with, using one of the cameras. Or even just find a scene and rehearse it together.
And remember, people are the best resource of all. If you have access to casting directors, teachers and industry professionals, they have knowledge that’s worth learning. Make sure to ask questions and get to know the professionals you’re in touch with (without taking up too much of their time, of course).
3. Write. It. All. Down.
Most drama schools require students to keep a journal for their classes. But even if you’re taking part-time classes, you should be writing things down. In the moment, you often think you’ll remember everything you learnt, but chances are you will forget 90% of it the next morning. That’s why it’s best to write down the quotes, tips, exercises and film recommendations you are given in class. Keeping a journal also means you can look back on the classes and remember what you learnt.
4. Collaborate, Don’t Compare
Actors often get in the habit of seeing fellow actors as their competition, even in a class. It can be difficult when you’re fed the idea that everyone has a “casting type” and there are only limited opportunities for that type. Don’t let yourself believe that the people you are learning alongside are your competition. It doesn’t matter if there are eight other tall, blonde, musical theatre actresses in the class – you’re all running your own race.
Try to reframe competition as collaboration. In a class, you are surrounded by like-minded people who are pursuing the same goal – what a gift! These are some of the best people to collaborate with and learn from. If you find yourself getting stuck in the hamster wheel of comparison, try to find an opportunity to collaborate with that person. Why not rehearse a scene or go and see a theatre show together?
If you view everyone as a collaborator, instead of a competitor, you’ll give yourself a more sustainable mindset. It’s so much better to lift each other up, rather than drag each other down.
5. Focus On the Process Not the Outcome
We can all get in the habit of becoming overly fixated on an outcome, to the extent that we forget about being in the moment. Sure – that credit, or show, or Oscar would be amazing, I won’t deny that for a second. But obsessing over an outcome can get in the way of your training experience.
The great thing about training is that it’s a process of discovery. By exploring skills like voice, movement, screen, theatre and improvisation, you end up learning a lot about yourself as an artist. Rather than adopting a mindset of “this class will help me book this show”, try to immerse yourself in learning just for the sake of it.
At the end of the day, if you’re training as an actor purely for one outcome, you’re not setting yourself up for something sustainable. The key to it all is finding joy in the process.
6. Get Comfy With Criticism
I get it – we all want to be told that we’re talented and have what it takes to make a career in this industry. Don’t get me wrong – positive affirmation is great but getting comfortable with constructive criticism is key to making the most out of your training.
The intention of criticism should always be constructive. Remember that the teachers who critique your work are doing so because they want you to succeed. This doesn’t mean you should be crippled by criticism, or go down a total shame spiral at the hint of negative feedback. While the feedback can be hard to hear, it is often the harshest teachers who help actors to do their strongest work.
7. Be a Sponge
Think of yourself as a sponge, absorbing everything you learn. Keep an open mind and commit fully to the exercises you do in class. Even if sliding along on the floor pretending to be a fish makes you feel ridiculous (and it will) you might end up discovering something new.
Once you have absorbed everything, you can rinse out what doesn’t work for you, and hold onto what does. Realistically, not every technique will work for every actor and that’s okay. Some actors hate substitution, while some others can’t get enough of it!
Don’t feel like you’re getting something wrong if a certain technique doesn’t click for you. As long as you’re keeping an open mind and giving everything a go, you’ll find the right techniques to add to your creative “tool kit”.
8. Master the Art of Failing
Most people are scared of failing – and fair enough. But being led by that fear while you’re training as an actor is a trap. We often enter acting classes determined to prove to everyone how talented we are.
We’ve all seen actors getting up in a class and trying to “win” the exercise or do it perfectly. We’ve all probably been that actor too. The problem is obvious – it’s not meant to be about “winning”. The sooner you become comfortable with the idea of failing an exercise, the freer you become to explore and play.
Be willing to explore the parts of acting that you see as your “weakness” too. Some actors freeze up at the suggestion of improv. If that’s you – instead of avoiding improv like the plague, try to throw yourself into it and be okay with the prospect of failing (easier said than done, I know).
9. Keep on Learning
Training as an actor isn’t necessarily a process that has to end once you finish a one or three-year program. If acting is the art of being human, then there’s always more to learn. Many successful actors embrace the process of lifelong training.
If you finish an acting program and let yourself think you’re done with learning, you might end up missing out. There are so many different skills that can feed the process of acting, including music, dance, improv, clowning, writing and so many more. So, stay open to always learning!
If you’ve committed to training as an actor, that’s already a wonderful thing. It’s an exciting process and you’ll learn a lot about yourself along the way. So, throw yourself in the deep end, make use of the connections and resources you have available and keep a positive mindset. Enjoy the process because there’s nothing else quite like it.