“Practice makes perfect”
Maybe for beer pong, but when it comes to acting, or anything creative for that matter, practice does not make perfect. But it does make progress. This one’s for all the perfectionists out there (represent!)
Don’t ‘act your pants off ‘
Ever noticed how the harder you try, and the more you push, the worse your acting gets? This is true for almost all creative pursuits, the more you push, the worse the result tends to be. Creativity just doesn’t seem to work that way. This is not to say you shouldn’t do any work – in fact you might need to work harder. Instead of working really hard during performance, you need to work hard before and after performance. This means preparation, warm ups, cool downs, research, consuming content and getting into the classroom. And every individual will need a different balance of preparation, and a different way of working. I encourage you to experiment with this.
Are you the type of actor who needs to read the script 55 times, and then break down every scene, and map your characters arc out on a whiteboard? Or are you the type of actor who needs to google every word in the script, write down an inner monologue next to every line of dialogue, and practice in the mirror? Or are you the type of actor who needs to do an interpretive dance of each scene, drink tea and meditate over scene objectives?
Try different systems of learning, different techniques, at different times of the day and week – find your method.
Carefree, not careless
How incredibly amazing does it feel when acting seems to just happen effortlessly. The words just flow through and out of you, and the thoughts land as they may, and the emotions bubble and rise to the surface to support you. Also notice how easily all of this falls away when you get stuck in your head, when you overthink it, and start pushing your way through a scene instead of floating through it. It’s important to develop a way of working that is carefree, but not careless.
Carefree is working without inhibition, willingly taking risks, letting the chips fall as they may, and having fun whilst doing it. Careless is procrastinating, not supporting your work with preparation and giving up before you’ve even began. Sometimes when we try to let go of all the hard work and be spontaneous, we become careless. But what we need to be is carefree. And ironically, it’s not always easy to do. But it can be learnt and trained. Practice things like meditation, yoga, and rigorous physical exercise – it can be something technical that engages the mind, such as martial arts, and it can also be running/riding long distances. Positive affirmations, mantras, goal setting and other similar exercises can also promote a carefree attitude. Another thing you can do is surround yourself with other carefree creatives, and you’ll find it eventually rubs off! They’re also most likely wonderful friends to have anyways.
It’s essentially a form of mindfulness, working moment to moment, instead of being caught up in the past (prep/training/habits) or the future (results/fame/financial gain).
Developing a progress mindset
We need to get out of the habit of thinking about a career in results, milestones and a rigid path that we must stick to…
“Miley Cyrus began her career on Disney Channel, therefore I have to get on Disney Channel before I turn 22 and then release an album…”
“Judi Dench began her career on stage in London, so I have to move there and work with the RSC before I turn 30 and then move to an Academy Award Winning film…”
Just because someone ‘made it’ by doing X,Y and Z, doesn’t mean it will work the same way for you. In fact, it definitely won’t work the same way for you! Accept that, and move on.
Your path is your path, and you will have no idea where it’s going to take you until you get there. Stop thinking about your career as a recipe for success, and obsessing over minute details of your appearance, your accent, your opinions. I’ve seen actors dye their hair blonde because they want to emulate Jennifer Lawrence when she auditioned for Silver Linings Playbook and think if they do the same, they’ll get similar roles. Jennifer Lawrence got the role in Silver Linings Playbook because she’s Jennifer Lawrence, (talented, hardworking, fun to be around and right for that character) not because of her blonde hair. It is ridiculous the lengths some actors go to in order to make shortcuts in their career (losing weight, changing their hair, moving cities 4x times, dating a C-list actor, sleeping with a B-lit director, etc. And yet they won’t exert the same effort in training, working hard, research, seeing theatre, seeing films, developing meaningful relationships, making their own work, and supporting their friends. Don’t get me wrong, there are strategic options that one should take in building an acting career. But there is always something to be said for focusing on progress, and not perfection. You all know this: life is a journey, a path, an experience. Don’t lose sight of that.
How to practice your acting
- Sign up for acting class. This can be ongoing weekly classes, a 5 day masterclass, 6 months of part time training, or 3 years of full time training. Never stop training. If this isn’t an option for you, you can train with us in our online scene club. Learn more.
- Experience the world around you. Be curious, ask more questions, listen more, meet new people outside of your circles, and try something new.
- Work on a monologue every month. We preach this almost every day, and it’s why we created our online drama club – to help actors to work on scripts every single month, to keep those muscles warm and flexible.
- Work on your voice. Do daily voice warm ups. If you have no idea where to begin, sign up for voice class or coaching – get some training in that area and then continue to work on it yourself.
- Work on your physicality. Do daily physical warm ups. Again, no idea where to begin, get some guidance. Also make sure you keep active, healthy body = healthy mind = happy actor.
- Read plays. Read 1 play a week. Out loud if you can!
- Read books. Always have a book with you, it can be about whatever you want. Reading is the best form of learning, and it is so invigorating for your brain to experience stories, lives and ideas that are not your own.
- Watch films. You want to be an actor, yeah? Then watch how it’s done.
- See Theatre. Watch some of the greats, and also watch Independent theatre. There are lessons to be learnt from both.
- Watch interviews. Youtube is an amazing resource. Absorb interviews with actors and creatives whom you admire, and learn from them.
Well, that’s all from me. Go forth, practice your acting, and make some progress.