Wake up. Check your phone. Shower. Eat. Go work your casual job in a cafe down the road. Finish work. Go home. Eat. Watch Netflix.
Does your day look a little bit like this every now and then? If you’re looking for some guidance on how to live your best ‘acting’ life, well you’ve come to the right spot.
10,000 hours. That is what it takes to become successful at something – whether that’s playing the violin, tennis, woodwork or horse riding, it takes hours and hours of work and practice to get good at anything. But for some reason, actors seem to think this rule doesn’t apply to them. Instead they spend most of their time waiting for the phone to ring, or on Instagram, thinking that Instafame is a viable shortcut to an acting career. That may have worked once or twice, but it’s certainly not going to lead to a fulfilling, sustainable acting career. Rant over. Here’s the work that actors should be doing every day…
Vocal Warm Up
An actor’s body is her instrument, and her voice is an integral part of that instrument. So it needs to be worked and tuned every single day. Not only on the days you have an audition, every day. A cellist doesn’t just practice for 20 minutes before she goes on stage once a month. And so an actor should never just do a warm up because they’re doing some acting that day.
Build a vocal warm up into your daily routine. It might suck at first, getting up earlier, finding space, making time etc. And it might also get pretty boring – which is why you need to make it hold importance for you. Get some voice books, do a class, get some private coaching – if you’ve got no idea where to start, seek something out to help you begin. I can tell you now the best, and busiest actors are doing a vocal warm up every morning.
Homework: Do a 20 minute vocal warm up every morning.
Click here to watch our video guides on vocal warm ups.
Physical Warm Up
Just as an actor’s voice is an integral part of her instrument, as is her body. Don’t let your instrument go flabby. Whilst you’re up early and doing your vocal warm up, tack a physical warm up onto the end – or combine them if you like, I’m not averse to an occasional multitask… You can always stretch your ribs, whilst humming, or shake your body out whilst siren-ing. Whatever works for you. You can also include Yoga as part of a physical warm up, so if you’re a fan, sign up for classes, or take yourself through a couple sequences at home. The idea is to get the blood flowing, energise the muscles and oxygenate the body. And again, if you don’t know where to begin – seek out more information. The internet is an amazing place…
Homework: Do a 20 minute physical warm up every morning.
Click here for our guides on physical warm ups.
We’ve banged on about reading plays time and time again on StageMilk, and I’ll keep banging on about it until I see more actors reading every day.
I meet so many actors who haven’t picked up a book or play in months. Much of the trouble with the modern world is that we’re taking our cues and learning from the Newsfeed, instead of from books and evidence-based facts. We look to social media for ideas, and to keep up to date. It’s curated to show us the most entertaining and controversial opinions of the last 30 seconds, instead of the truth, instead of what is probably more important. It’s terrifying.
So put your nose in a book every day. I don’t really mind what you read about; whether it’s acting books, self help books, plays, biographies of comedians, economics, fantasy fiction. Reading improves your vocabulary, presents you with different ideas and opinions, and encourages curiosity. Which is why it’s such a great resource for actors. I will also allow online reading here – articles, and podcasts. As long as you’re steering clear of E! News, and leaning more towards The Guardian and StageMilk acting resources…
Homework: Read a play every week, and a novel every 2 weeks.
Films, documentaries, theatre, real world people – there is more content than ever available at our fingertips, and yet I meet many actors who stick to what they know and like. E.g. Rick and Morty, Disney Channel, The Bachelor… Whilst yes, there is always a place for trashy TV, I myself enjoy it from time to time when I need to just switch off and not think for a little bit. But we’ve only got a small amount of time here on this earth, and only so much time to absorb stories, so why the heck aren’t you making the most of it? Expand your horizons, make a commitment to yourself – watch something new, something that isn’t a blockbuster hit, or something old that flew under the radar. Take notes if you want – what did you like about the story arc, what did you like about that actor’s performance, how about the cinematography, do some research into the director, the producer, the writer. Don’t just consume content – absorb it, learn from it, have an opinion on it. You’re going to find yourself (hopefully) working with some incredible creative people, directors who have spent their entire lives studying film, cinematographers who have been working on films for over 30 years – it’s about time you submerge yourself into your own creative industry.
Homework: Watch 1 documentary every week, 1 new/challenging/different film every week, and 1 play every 2 weeks.
Get thee to a classroom. Always, always, always be in a constant state of learning. Talk to any Award winning, successful actor and they’ll tell you that they themselves haven’t figured out acting yet! Acting is not something you do for 6 weeks, 6 months, or even 3 years and then master. It is a constant learning curve, and for me, that’s what I love about it. There’s no such thing as perfection, and it’s all subjective. Which means that if you haven’t been acting in a while, then you should get yourself into a classroom. It can just be one a night a week for a few months, or it can be a more intensive short course – whatever you feel like you need, and whatever is within your budget. If you’re not auditioning lots, and you’re not booking roles – chances are you’ll be out of practice. And when that audition finally rolls around, you’ll be nervous as hell, and probably pretty rusty. So, keep up the momentum, do some scene work, pick up scripts, practice your acting – and it’s going to be impossible for you NOT to get better at it!
Homework: Sign up for an acting class. OR put down one self-tape every month.
OR Join our monthly online scene club – work on scripts every month, attend online Q&A’s with industry experts, read plays, get access to exclusive StageMilk learning material, and receive personal feedback on the work you submit! Learn more.
These days, it’s pretty easy to get distracted – by your phone mainly – so I think that making these practices a habit is necessary. It’s not enough to make a commitment one week and give it up the week after. Write it down, stick at it for at least 6 weeks, and hold yourself accountable.
Always strive to improve and perfect your craft. If you’re working on it daily, building momentum and learning – then the universe will do its part to bring about more opportunities for you.