How’s that for the shortest article ever?
Since you’ve gone to the trouble of searching for an answer to this question, (or a similar one) I should probably expand on this.
Professional actors should (and do) train frequently, diversely and continuously throughout their careers, and you should too.
Now, if you’re anything like me, being told you should do something is a sure fire way to turn you right off doing it. So for the purpose of this article, I’m going to try and convince you of why you should want to continue training even though (or once) you are a professional actor.
All the reasons I have for you today fit under one big umbrella reason which should be more than reason enough for you to keep training as an actor: there is a direct correlation between actors who train frequently and actors who work frequently. As a general rule: more training = more work.
I heard a fantastic saying from a friend today who had picked it up from another source -the gist of it was this: Success for the actor who keeps training, keeps practising and keeps their focus on daily incremental improvement is two things: inevitable and undeniable.
Do you want your success to be inevitable and undeniable? Keep reading this page to reinforce for yourself the importance of continual training and some tips for which way to turn if you’re lacking inspiration.
Why Is It So Important for Professional Actors to Keep Training?
1. You’ll Get Bored Otherwise!
This maybe isn’t the most profound reason for you, but it’s true all the same. Work as an actor is rarely consistent, even for the most successful of us. Since this is the case, we need training and development to keep us occupied and keep us acting in the down times!
The fact of the matter is this: If you are only acting when you’re auditioning or working as an actor, you won’t be getting better. Your ability will either stay at its current level, or (what’s more likely) you’ll be getting rusty. It’s the tragedy of this industry that there is such an imbalance of supply and demand between jobs and actors, but since that is the case we need to seek our own means to get better at our art form and keep ourselves busy and inspired between jobs.
2. You’ll Actually Get Better At Acting
The best actors have a fine balance of self confidence and humility. We have to be able to back ourselves and put ourselves forward, but we must also be able to put ourselves in a position to be able to learn. Going ‘back to school’ does require a level of humility, but the rewards for this are huge. In an acting class environment there is the freedom and space to truly play without risk. This freedom is much harder to find on a professional set or rehearsal room. Sure, we must pursue freedom and curiosity within our roles, but there is an expectation of result placed upon us which we are not burdened by in the classroom. In the classroom we have permission to fail gloriously. Here’s a quote from James Clear to support this notion:
“Failure is most useful when you give your best effort.
If you fail with a lackluster effort, you haven’t learned much. Perhaps you could have succeeded with a proper focus.
But if your best effort fails, you have learned something valuable: this way doesn’t work.”
3. Iron Sharpens Iron
I’m sorry that I’ve just quoted something which is probably printed and hanging on the wall in every gym or martial arts dojo in the world. It’s a bit of a macho saying, but it’s commonly quoted for a reason. Training with people who are more experienced than you, (or at least on your level) will make you better at what you do, whatever that thing is.
I used to play soccer in high school. I was never particularly amazing, but I wasn’t terrible. I would usually play in the C team, but occasionally I would get to play up in the dizzy heights of the B team… cue Chariots of Fire theme music. As a C team player I would play average football. It was fine. It was nothing special. When I played for the B’s, I’d score goals. It was the strangest thing. I couldn’t make sense of it – I needed my Dad to explain it to me, and he expressed this notion we’re currently talking about. When I was playing for the C’s, I’d play for the C’s. But when I played for the B’s, I stepped up. I was a B-team player. Iron sharpens iron. The expectation, pressure, focus, professionalism, whatever it was for me about playing for the B’s made me a better soccer player.
The same is true for high quality acting classes. If you’re working at a professional level, seek to train with other actors at your level. If the thing stopping you from continuing training is a feeling that you’ve learnt all that you can from beginner acting classes, that’s fine! To a large extent, I agree with you! There isn’t much we can gain from being told, “You’re great!” One of my favourite passages from Bryan Cranston’s autobiography was him saying, “Whenever I was the best in my class, I’d find another class”. This quote echoes two points: find a class where you’re challenged and a little bit out of your depth, and keep training.
4. It’s Inspiring
I’ve actually just come from a practise session with my training buddy. Currently, (for what it’s worth in relevance to this article) my continued training looks like weekly self tape practise with a friend. We’ll chat and check in for 10-15 minutes, then we work for 45 minutes each. Once a week, two hours of our time. That’s how I’m continuing to practise, and that will vary as time goes on. I’m excited about doing classes with different coaches in the future, but for the moment this structure suits my lifestyle best. It doesn’t sound like much – 2 hours once a week – but my friend and I have been doing this for around 18 months now, and today I was SO inspired by his work. The inspiration hit me like a tonne of bricks. He has improved his skills and craft dramatically in a relatively short period of time. His work is effortless. It’s electric, and exciting to watch. We both started working together when we were both, ‘professional’ actors, and yet we both have and still have so far to go. Watching his work today on an incredibly challenging scene filled me with awe and a passion for acting which I haven’t felt for a little while. I’m very grateful for the experience.
Continued training in acting is a way to keep the fire and passion of your dreams alive! There are plenty of factors about life and the industry which may challenge you or bring you down. Often these are factors which are outside your control. Take the power back and focus on what you can control; get in the room with a friend, a script and a camera and do some acting which fills you with joy and excites you.
5. It’s Humbling
We’ve spoken already of the fine balance between self confidence and humility needed from the actor. Training when you’ve surpassed a beginners level of experience as an actor can be invaluable in that it can allow you to tap back into a ‘beginners mindset’. I’m sure I’m sounding like a Stagemilk broken record talking again about beginner’s mindset, but it’s simply so important.
“It is impossible to learn what you think you already know” is a fantastic quote from Stoic philosopher Epictetus who sums up the importance of a beginners mindset pretty nicely. If you’re at the stage where you feel you know everything there is to know about acting, then great. That’s all you’ll know. But I’d hazard a guess that there are still quite a few methods, practises and approaches to the craft of acting which you are yet to test and consider. In trying these options, you may end up returning to your current process. But at least you’ve tried them. It’s your equivalent of channelling Thomas Edison and stating, “I’ve not failed, I’ve found 1000 ways not to make a light bulb”.
In testing things, trying things and throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks, you’ll continually be finessing your own process and craft and simply just be getting even better at what you do.
Now I’ll throw the microphone back to you by trying to anticipate your rebuttal to my claims here.
“But acting classes are expensive!”
Hey, I hear you. With the cost of acting classes on top of headshots, showreels, equip membership fees and any other acting related expenditure, we can make a real dent in our finances while funding our careers. Still, this unfortunate factor should not prohibit you from continuing to train, you just need to think outside the box (or look more closely at what’s inside the box).
Your options are numerous. Either instigate your own training arena with your network or scour the institutions available to you to see what they are offering within your price range. Very often acting schools will offer discounted drop-in classes or auditing passes for particular acting coaches. At the very least, you have a mountain of information at your fingertips on the internet to help keep you inspired and working. Get creative, set yourself a monthly challenge to get on camera every day or something!
“I’ve reached the end of the road with acting classes, they’re all the same!”
Ok, sure. At some point we do need to broaden our horizons and seek other resources for our development as actors. The brilliant thing about acting is that there are very few experiences which won’t contribute to our craft. If you’re just simply done with acting classes, go and learn something new! Do voice classes, learn a new language, learn horse riding, fencing, boxing, learn how to sing or dance, learn how to act in a new medium, do screen acting, get on stage, do a musical, become a mime! Anything you learn while you keep acting in the back of your mind is going to make you a better and more experienced actor.
If choosing a new skill to add to your toolbox seems like a daunting task, why don’t you try working in reverse. Picture the actor you wish to become, say five or ten years down the line. What do they have/ do that you currently don’t? What skills do they have which you still need to work on? Rather than picking something at random, choose to play to your strengths and train in an area which will give you even more confidence in your career as an actor.
At the End of the Day
At the end of the day, everything you experience in life is of potential benefit to you as an actor. You will always be learning and growing, whether you like it or not. All that’s needed from you is for you to consciously apply yourself. Make a commitment to getting 1% better every single day, and the payoff in a short amount of time will be momentous.
Should you keep training even though you’re a professional actor already? Yeah. You bet cha’. That’s not a burden, it’s a privilege. It’s a privilege to be working towards a goal where you get to continually learn throughout your entire life. Enjoy that.