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If you're serious about learning acting, there are 3 amazing Masterclasses you should check:

Oscar-winning actor Natalie Portman teaches her process for creating complex characters through psychology, voice, gesture, and movement.

Helen Mirren brings you behind the scenes to show you the secrets of her acting technique.

Come and listen as Sam L. Jackson teaches his first-ever acting class.

Lessons include topics like: creating characters, physical characterization, acting case studies, breaking down a script, character biographies, character voicing, body acting, emotional acting, developing characterization, acting practice, auditioning, acting career, Hollywood tips, the future of acting, theater acting, choosing roles, choosing your characters, hair and makeup, rehearsals and preparation, acting techniques, working with writers and directors, improvisation, green-screen acting, and active empathy.

How to quickly improve at acting

A few things off the top of my head that you can do towards studying acting/becoming an actor:

  • Check out your local community theater.
  • Attend a drama summer camp.
  • Read books and plays.
  • Read scripts (http://www.imsdb.com is just one site, there's a handful more) to movies you really like where there's a character role you could see yourself in.
  • Work on your memorization skills.
  • Learn, or keep progressing on, your talents/special skills (things you'll eventually list on your resume)

You can't learn acting just from reading books! You can supplement to the nth degree and this doesn't mean you shouldn't be reading books, but without any practical experience the books just won't help you. This is because the books will teach you things but until you have felt what they're referring to you won't know how to use the knowledge of the book correctly.

I would recommend reading some actor biographies like Jenna Fisher and Bryan Cranston. These will help you understand a little more concretely what a life as an actor MIGHT be for you.

The Actor's Life: A Survival Guide
472 reviews
The Actor's Life: A Survival Guide
  • Fischer, Jenna (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 252 Pages - 11/14/2017 (Publication Date) - BenBella Books (Publisher)
A Life in Parts
739 reviews
A Life in Parts
  • Audible Audiobook
  • Bryan Cranston (Author) - Bryan Cranston (Narrator)
  • English (Publication Language)

I also recommend this done by one of the co-founders of the Royal Shakespeare Company, John Barton, including some of the top Shakespearean actors ever, including Ian Mckellen, Judi Dench, Patrick Stewart, and others whose names are not so well known but should be. Even though the focus is for performing Shakespeare, I think this should be required viewing for every actor. It's long and definitely not something to just kick back and watch but it is so worth it.

Is acting something that anyone can be really good at?

It's like anything. There's always somebody who is pretty bad. There are people who will naturally be good or bad at the start with no training. We're all different and have different talents, and skills, and experiences.

But none of that fucking matters. If this is what you like to do and what you want to do, then just focus, work hard at it, make sure it's fun, and try to get better.

It's like any sport. Michael Jordan used to suck ass at basketball. He didn't even make varsity. But he was pissed off and determined and he worked at it and he became fucking great.

Now, with that being said, if you see somebody who sucks at basketball but is naturally amazing at football, you might try to point them in that direction. Because there are paths and potential possibilities here. Take this guy who sucks at basketball and if he continues basketball, he might play D3 college and then that's it.

End of the rope. He plays that, graduates, gets a real job, and hoops in his spare time. Whereas if he switches to football, and he's naturally a god at that, and now all of a sudden he's playing D1 ball and goes pro and becomes like a fucking Tom Brady or some shit... you see? It would have been disingenuous to push that guy more towards basketball.

But if that's his choice and what he wants, then hell, support that.

You can only improve if you want to improve. That comes with any skill. Not just acting. Utilize every resource for this skill that you can and stop doubting yourself. Give yourself time and don't have a negative mindset. You will improve greatly if you let yourself. I know that sounds like some blanket statement but if you really want it get it. It's your life to make. There are plenty of resources to look into and try.

It's great that you want to improve, but it's important that you are translating that into actual skills you want to acquire, rather than beat yourself up about it. To grow as an actor is to grow as a person and vice versa. Your emotional and creative life are vital to your acting. Can you be moved by a good poem? Can you breathe in what you're experiencing? Can you observe your own behavior and why you do what you do, and others? You want to have wit, physical flexibility, emotional availability, and a voice that reveals who you and your characters are.

A good place to start is reading some basic acting texts. I think Uta Hagen's are the most beginner friendly, but also a book that is escaping my mind, it has a very simple title, but it's by william h macy and it's about verbs if IRC (embarassing lapse of memory). Meisner/strasberg/michael chekhov would be useful. I think the most helpful books would be freeing the natural voice, and how to study the alexander technique.

Most importantly, stop being so down on yourself. It's hard to be creative while you're telling yourself you aren't. Same thing with good acting. How can you be available to a spontaneous response when you're thinking about how you suck? Learning to listen, inside and out are important. Remembering how to have breathing be a whole self process is important. You should be proud of not wanting to be a bad actor. Most people aren't even aware they are.

Can you learn acting without going to school?

Can you teach yourself acting?

As an actor myself I like to ask questions and learn the most I can. One of those questions was, "Do I NEED acting classes?" An actor I met responded with... you don't NEED acting classes. Most of the time, those who cast actors usually cast you for you.

They like your personality and what you bring. He added, it's always good to learn a thing a two, but don't stress acting classes. This was a famous actor who blessed me with his wisdom.

You can. Some people are naturals or they have the self-awareness to micro-correct themselves and teach themselves. But, you won't know if you are a natural or someone who can correctly teach themselves until you get in a class and find out in the heat of it. Learn and study and practice all you can until you can afford classes.

Classes are still good if you are one the these. There is always something you don't know and they build you professionally. They teach you tough skin, taking direction, and basically learning how to deliver in situations that aren't ideal. So, yeah, learn on your own and stay teachable.

You're going to learn bad habits in or out of classes, so don't let that stop you. The more you understand about the philosophy of acting before you get into classes, the better. Just stay plyable and be willing to be wrong as well as being willing to be right.

Can you be too old to pursue acting?

Last year at 24 I decided to pursue acting. It was something I wanted to do since I was young, but was never fully encouraged to do it (plus my parents would of never of been able to afford drama school). A lot of things stopped me from doing it as I got older, from judgemental peers to family trauma, but then I realised I could use what i went through emotionally and mentally and use it in acting.

Anyway I signed up for an evening creative acting class, for adults for 3 months. That led me to do a method acting class for a year, which I'm on now. Both are just once a week, but I know with the course I'm on now we'll eventually go in a few more times in the week as we do more work.

One thing I suggest is to join some acting groups on Facebook, I'm surprised with the amount of work that's posted! Last year I did a music video, now I'm looking to more voice work as I've got a brace (in all fairness that could help me with teenage roles, ha!).

Honestly doing a short course may just be all you need. Just network, be open to anything. Do stuff for free and be willing to travel. I go to the Birmingham School of Acting and it's amazing! I know it's more tough in the UK but again I think it's better to throw yourself out there. I've also gone into film making myself, so don't be afraid to approach indie film groups too.

Why is it so easy to notice bad acting?

I think it was Hitchcock who said most of acting happens in the eyes; it's nonverbal.

Since then I have paid attention to actors I think are skilled, and I gave watched their eyes. He was right. There is a boatload of information communicated by good actors through their eyes. Between one line and the next, sometimes you may see several emotions and thoughts flicker though their eyes. You just can't add that to the dialogue in a script. Sometimes you just have to shake your head in a 'wow' moment, amazed at what complexity an actor can bring to a scene.

The other thing to keep in mind is that there are tons of really good actors out there. They aren't all stars. There are lots of opportunities to see quality acting but often they are in character driven roles.

The eyes reveal the heart of the character.

It's also about whether the actor can actually "act as an character". Worst actors are the ones who are not portraying a character but rather being just themselves. For example: Arnold Schwarzenegger will always be Arnold no matter what movie he plays in. He is not acting as a character, he is just Arnold.

Watch several movies with Nicolas Cage, you will notice he is always Nicolas Cage, looks and behaves just like himself. You can say he acts the same way, but he is just really himself, doesn't act. Good actors don't bring their own personality / style to the role, rather try to be as close as you can get to 100% just being the character / not themselves.

The best actors are these who can play two or even three roles in the same feature unnoticed. For example Chia-Hui Liu and Michael Parks in Kill Bill. They both played double roles. Master acting.

Bad actors play the role, instead of the person. For example, if someone was given the role of police officer, they play a police officer. That is wrong. What you should do, is play a person who just so happens to be a police officer.

If you want to see good examples of bad acting, watch that Marvel S.H.I.E.L.D tv show or DCs The Flash. Basically, do the opposite of what they do and you will be fine.

I think a big problem is that they cast attractive young people who have just come out of acting school, instead of casting people who are actually good at their craft. That's why you get a bunch of young 20 year olds playing parts of head scientists (the flash) who can't act for shit.

What to do if you feel like giving up

I'm in the same exact boat. I love acting. I literally spend my entire day working on characters, finding auditions, reading books, etc. and I never get bored of it. My friends are very supportive. My family is very against it. I understand where they're coming from: they want the best for their children and they see how little money actors make. But what helps keep me from giving up is confirming with myself that I'd rather be broke but pursuing something I love than settle into a 9-5 that I never wanted in the first place because I was too afraid of making my family upset.

It's your life, and at the end of the day the only one who has to live with it is you. I say, go after your dream. One of my favorite Disney quotes (I believe from Fox and the Hound, not sure though) is "sometimes the right path is not the easiest one" and I think that definitely applies here. I feel like I'm speaking to myself right now lol. At the end of the day, you only get one life to live, and I say live it to the fullest and give your dreams a shot. Best of luck!

Can you learn acting just by watching movie performances?

I’m gonna be the one who will say yes— you can, to a point.

I learn by imitation, so a lot of things I do for my on camera work are basically just mimicking certain traits or tricks of various actors in different roles.

You can never learn the technical parts of on-camera acting from just watching unless you’re on set doing it. I do take in person class as well, which keeps me comfortable in front of an “audience” (which will be the Crew on a film/tv set)

You can’t learn everything from just a watching, but I do believe you can learn quite a bit.

How to memorize your lines quickly

I memorize as much as possible immediately, then when I take a shower I don't let myself leave the shower until I've correctly said each monologue 5 times. Moments where you're totally by yourself (which for me, I find in the bathroom) are great to rehearse and force yourself to think about your lines.

One thing that helps me is to find the inner storyline or structure of the monologue, and break it down into its component sections. The places where the monologue transitions from one idea to another are usually the most troublesome spots; being aware of those transitions helps to prevent me from getting lost.

Beyond that, I use the brute force method: I learn the first line; when I can say that line ten times without a mistake, I add the second line; when I can say those two lines ten times without a mistake, I add the third line, etc. Once I've got the whole thing more or less memorized, I alternate between doing the monologue with nuances and gestures and speeding through it robotically.

Other memorization tips:

  • I make my lines into a song because for some reason, I remember songs better?

  • I also play an audio I took on my phone (if you have an iPhone, the "Voice Memo" works fine) over & over & over again. Like... while I'm working out, cooking dinner, cleaning, hell doing homework!

  • Also, writing out my lines on paper and saying them aloud??? Tedious, but it works for me!!

  • Finally, I just kind of try to think less about the words in the moment, and focus how my character is feeling. How am I feeling in this situation? The more I "feel" what my character is going through, the easier it is to recall lines associated with those feelings.

How to make your sound stronger and more interesting?

How not to sound flat and monotonous?

This is definitely a weakness I need to work on as well.

Here’s some suggestions you could try.

Watch your body posture - have your feet planted in the centre of the stage. Don’t be rigid but not so flimsy either. I was told by my coaches I would move my hands and arms frequently out of nervousness.

Just find a spot where you can stand up straight comfortably, as if your moving around during your performance it affects the tone at which you speak.

Speak from your diaphragm - From my observation most people are not really to conscious of how they speak and do this on autopilot.

In our increasingly technological world we live in, we don’t engage in frequent good quality conversation.

In this case being aware of your breathing and really working your diaphragm rather than speaking from your chest which most of us do, I’m guilty of this.

By working on this, your speech should be more clear and project more. Speaking from your chest causes you to rush and mumble your speech. Be conscious of your breathing.

Side note (breath from your nose, keep your mouth closed, and rest the tongue at the roof of your pallet when resting if you don’t already - this is more for just general posture, but it relates to speech. Search Orthotropics in your own time.

Read aloud - Again going back to the technological world we live in, people are hardly reading physical books anymore. Is it tedious? Does it take us back to school?

Yes, it feels that way but only because we’re on our smartphones so damn much. Before all of this existed, it could be universally agreed that reading books was genuinely a fun thing to do.

Try and train yourself back into those habits, you don’t have a to read a novel but give yourself a goal of a book a week to read and increase it from there.

Read some paragraphs out aloud so you can be conscious of the way you sound when you read the text aloud. Record yourself. If there are some new words that are unfamiliar to you, research them, find out the definition, practice pronouncing them.

I was trying to get my way around pronouncing ‘adieu’ and ‘melancholy’ today.

Look after yourself - Drink enough water. Have a water bottle with you on hand whenever you can and just keep hydrated. Tea with lemon and honey in morning, soften up your vocal chords.

Again, if you want, search into Orthotropics in your own time. It covers being conscious of the way you chew, using as much of your jaw muscles. Have chewing gum on hand.

Get enough rest and...keep a book by your bedside so you can READ when you get up!

It won’t be overnight, but IF you consistently practice and hold yourself accountable to actually working on your weaknesses, you will notice an improvement in these areas.

Linear progression.

Have you started reading a book of your choice? (and reading out paragraphs aloud and recording it)

We all start somewhere.

Instead use that as fuel to give yourself a wake up call of, ‘yes I understand that I will be working with actors who are younger than me, and have gained more experience due to an earlier start in their acting career’

‘Now I can look at this as a setback, or as a means to say to myself I need to put in as much effort, if not more effort than my peers in order to match their skill level or even exceed it and be the best possible actor I can be.’

It’s all on you, just push yourself and use the factor of your age as a positive incentive to get the wheels in motion for your acting career.

Better late than never!

What to do about toxic acting classes?

Identify them and find a better class ASAP!

I was trying outdifferent acting studios a year ago. There was this one studio that had very cocky and narcissistic teachers. Like there was this one teacher in particular who tells everyone’s work sucks/terrible/“so bad”, then he saves it by saying, “that’s why you’re in class, right? I’ll fix it. This is how you do it.” And some students are so naive, encouraging him to berate their work, so they’d learn better. Wtf.

The funny thing is, this guy ups his own “achievements”. I looked him up, and he literally has ONE short film under his belt on IMDB. I’ve never heard of any of those “teachers’”names.

The studio itself felt very cult-y. I went there for a while, then moved on to a better studio, and I told them about that studio. Apparently no one takes that studio seriously, because they’ve heard those before. Can’t believe I stuck with them that long, it’s wasted time. All I learned there was the technical side. I know how to act, I graduated theatre.

Another thing is, after the very first class, they asked us to review and rate the studio 5 stars on Google. Lol. After one class. We don’t even know if we’ll feel the same way after the second class. So basically, we gotta BS things, saying we “love” it, and we “learned a lot”. Lol. They’d check it as you head out the door. I didn’t rate, nor review, because it’s ingenuine for me to say good things, especially if we’d only been there for 1 hour.

I almost signed up for a class with a guy in Denver and he called me before the class started I guess to get me hyped up for it or whatever but I could tell over the phone that he was a pompous ass.

What's better for professional acting training. New York City or London?

Drama Centre London hands-down. If you can get accepted and afford it. It's a full-time degree granting program that gives you experience in using what you're taught in full-length plays in-house plus makes an effort to get you and your classmates who were accepted through a highly selective vetting process in the first place seen by the London industry through an apparently well-attended showcase.

This is versus Esper's which is a part-time conservatory that will admit just about anybody with some cash and a pulse and costs just as much as most American collegiate drama programs when you factor in cost of living in New York and lack of financial aid and which offers none of the same kinds of perks nor performance experience as Drama Centre.

I think you have a mistaken notion about the training at Drama Centre as well. It isn't just classical theatre and even if it were, going there wouldn't limit you to only that as evidenced by three of their recent graduates booking series regular roles on American tv pilots just this year. Actually, to even be accredited, UK programs must offer contemporary theatre and on-camera as well as voiceover training as part of the curriculum. In fact, their accreditation standards are partially governed by their professional actors union to offer as best they can the skillsets a professional actor needs in the real world market.

You will also learn a variety of acting techniques from which you can pick and choose in forming your own process at Drama Centre while Esper only teaches Meisner technique which is by no means right for everyone. Meisner was actually an important part of my own drama school training, but I'm certainly glad it wasn't the only thing I was taught ...

I would also suggest that you apply to more UK schools if you can because as I understand it, the acceptance rates are in the low single digits and people often try for years to gain a place without much success, so it's best to widen your net. Also, if you think finances will be a concern, maybe look into some UK drama schools outside of London like RCS and RWCMD where they don't share London's crazy cost of living although they still conduct well-attended industry showcases in London at the end of the training.

My scene study framework

Here's a compilation of things I've gathered over the years. Use what you will. I have this all typed neatly in a word document which I have printed out and always in my briefcase.

I. Play Analysis

  1. Theme:
  2. Central Conflict:
  3. Key Events in Rising Action:
  4. Climax:
  5. Denouement:

II. Scene Analysis

A. Given Circumstances: (Whom What, Where, When)- A clear description of what has happened to the character you are playing in the scene just before your scene begins. This description should include emotional-mental state =, and the physical description of the character just before the scene begins. Evidence from the script should be offered where support is needed.

B. Intention or Objective: A description of the character’s overall motivation, what he/she wants throughout the scene- the characters Super-Objective in the scene.

C. Obstacle: A clear description of what is bloking the character from achieving his objective.

D. The Score: Mark your script indicating beats, objectives, tactics, and obstacles.

E. Result: A brief statement of the outcome or resolution of the scene

III. Character Analysis

A. Physical Description: A full description of the character, justifying the characteristics where necessary with textual references. This information includes information on the character’s age, what he/she looks like, what he/she must wear in the scenes. It also includes more active dimensions such as how thee character walks, moves, sits, gestures, talks, etc.

B. Emotional Profile: A full emotional profile of the character including habitual disposition and specific moods in the scene

C. Relationships: What is his/her relationship to the other character’s in the scene and to the central conflict in the scene.

D. Back Story: Create a statement of the most important and influential details about the character’s past history based on the given circumstances but enhanced by your own imagination.

E. Secret: Unshared- Shared-

GOTE: Basic information about the character Name Sex Age Marital status and history: Educational level: Economic/Social status: Goal: What do I really want? When do I wantit? Other: From whom (in the play) do I want it?Who in the play can help me? Who in the playcan hurt me? Who is an obstacle? Why? Whatare my deepest fears? Tactics: How can I get it? How (and whom)can I threaten? How (and whom) can I induce? Expectations: Why do I expect to get it? Whydoes it excite me? What will I do when I get it? Briefly describe the setting for your scene.

What to do if you can't afford acting classes but you want them

This job does require an ongoing investment, so you need to address your financial situation. This might not be the best sub for specific advice on that point, and in some ways what's done is done--$600/month in student loans for a degree that isn't earning you an income is a tough position to be in, but there isn't too much you can do about it now.

If you can sell your car, pay off the loan, and buy a cheap beater, that's one way to quickly save some money. $125/month for insurance is also incredibly high, unless you have a really bad driving record (not asking you to share that detail here, but you should be able to find much better if you shop around a bit and get the minimum required coverage).

In the end, though, you need a job that makes you more money and keeps you flexible, or you need to start living in your car (I have two actor friends doing this right now--one actually has a super small RV, the other a van, and both claim to be content). It's a problem every actor has to solve, and there are solutions. You might need to get more creative than looking at who's hiring in your area.

Guess what happened when I had to go back to a 9-5 bc my bank account was tanking? A few months in, I booked my first recurring on show you'd definitely know the name of. 7 episodes. I think it was because I was calm and part of me had been like, "If acting happens, it happens.

Right now I gotta eat and pay rent." It's almost like how when you stop looking for a boyfriend you get one. So many actors have to do what we're doing in NYC. We have to act, so act and say you have a doctor's appointment, pet emergencies work well, friends in town from Singapore for the day, food poisoning is great, and of course use your PTOs. I used my PTO to shoot our days on set.

Also write your own stuff (I wrote my own play that won a few awards and made it into a film which is getting me noticed at different festivals.) Oddly enough, you might find yourself hustling more with a 9-5. Creatives need a schedule. It helps. During downtime at work ideas will come to you. The only bummer is plays and I've booked some but that's daytime rehearsal so I can't do them. If they are adjustable that's dope. Break a leg!

What inspired me to become an actor

Since I work professionally now, have a steady paycheck, and am somewhat established in my career (done with college and grad school, have professional work experience), it is easier for me to pursue other avenues like acting.

It also makes it easier that I'm in the Atlanta-area with a lot of creatives and film people attracted by Georgia's film industry. Thus, it is a bit easier to collaborate and work with people.

However, I must confess that I'm nowhere at the level I need to be at. I have way more learning and growing to do before I really feel that I'm as successful of an actor as what I do professionally.

In short:

  • Realizing that I had it in me to be an actor. I have been comfortable with public speaking and presentation since I was young.
  • Wanting to try something new and meet new people and seeing how happy a former coworker of mine was in being an actor in the Georgia film industry. I have met a lot of interesting people through the acting world.
  • realizing that there are lot of people with horrible acting skills and bad personalities who have become famous in the acting world because they worked hard and put themselves out there more than others. It made me realize that if they could do it (and maybe they are not even worthy of their fame), then I definitely need to do it.
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