Acting Tips: Top 5 Acting Tips
Tip #1 - Know Your Lines - Yes You!
Sounds silly, right? Well, if it doesn't sound silly, it should! This is the first thing that every amateur actor on the planet screws up and it's guaranteed to stop your acting career dead in its tracks. Learning your lines is the bare minimum work you have to do as an actor or actress. If you don't want to, can't or won't learn your lines, you will never work in any meaningful sense.
You have to memorize your lines until you can say them verbatim by rote. You cannot change lines. You cannot "wing it" on set. I've heard every possible variation on the excuses amateur actors make for not knowing their lines and almost all of them are based on second hand information taken out of context from some interview they've seen with a famous actor or actress. If you're a new actor, you have to exhibit an incredibly high level of expertise on set, because the crew already expects that you have no idea of what you're doing.
If you want to prove them right, don't have your lines down perfectly. A good tip to know when you have your lines down is when you can stop in the middle and start a paragraph or two later without missing a beat. I say this because that will happen on a soundstage...over and over and over again. If you can't "pick up" a scene anywhere in the scene, you're not ready to work.
If you're struggling to remember a line, you're not ready to work. If you have to think more about what you're going to say next that being in the moment, you're not ready to work. Again, it's the bare minimum, so get those lines down!
Tip #2 - Practice
Perhaps another silly one? I actually don't think so. Going to an acting class twice a week is not sufficient work to prepare you for a professional acting career. The truth of the matter is that the experience you need to be getting is only readily availble after you start working. The obvious problem there is that you can't start working until you know how to work. But, if you can't start working because you don't know how, how do you learn, right?
Well, not to sound self-serving, but reading Acting For Film And Television is your first, best step. I honestly think it's the only book on the subject that actually details what an actor or actress needs to know to work. But, I'll boil it down a bit here...you need to be practicing what you will be called on to do on set and acting is only one small part of the equation. Film and television are editorial processes, as in, they shoot a lot of different things and then have to edit it all together to make a show.
You as an actor or actress have to make it as easy as possible for the producers to edit their show together. It's very different than acting for the theater, though they do share some common traits. There are a ton of people that know how to act for the stage. There are very few that know how to act on a film or television soundstage really well. If you practice BOTH elements, you will increase your chances of working in film or television. Makes sense, right? Do that and you'll stand out. Don't and you won't. Simple really. Seriously, read my book, it explains it all, I'll even give you your money back if it doesn't.
Ask your acting coach if he or she will do that for you.
Tip #3 - Be Punctual
Don't ever be late. Ever. To anything. Not your audition. Not your acting class. Not to meet your friends for lunch. And never, ever, ever, ever be late to a call time. Get in the habit of always being early until it's second nature. Then it will be way less likely that you'll be late. Form good habits, because you'll need them!
As an actor or actress, you have to understand the implications of what time means to everyone involved in a film or television production. The average cost of a film production works out to about $700 per minute!
Yes, per minute!
So, if you're 5 minutes late, that's $3500 the producer just lost. But, it's worse, because it has a multiplying effect. If you're late, other things that should be getting done aren't, which pushes everything back just a little bit. Which, when you add up all the little elements along the way, can easily translate your 5 minute flub into 30 or 40 minutes down the line.
Now we're talking $28,000 dollars lost.
That's about ten times what the average SAG actor makes in a year. Get it? Don't be late. The funny thing is, this job starts with an audition. Now, knowing what a production will lose on a late actor, and knowing that the person casting for a film or show probably likes their job, do you honestly think they're going to risk their reputation on someone who shows up late for an audition?
Unless they know you really, really, really well, they won't. Ever.
Tip #4 - Be Expressive, Be An Actor!
If you want to be successful as an actor or actress, you have to be able to act. If you haven't been training as an actor or actress, odds are really high that you're not very good. I know there are some exceptions out there, but they are exceedingly small compared to the population of people that self-identify as actors. I'll quote Sanford Meisner here, "Acting is the ability to live truthfully under the given imaginary circumstances."
Now, as far as I'm concerned, the thing about that statement that hangs people up the most is "truthfully". I've seen countless actors confront the death of a loved one in their scenes, their imaginary circumstances if you will. Almost all of them have been absolutely terrible. Almost all of them when confronted about their performance will say "but if it were me in that situation, I truthfully would have acted that way."
To that, I say, "no one in the audience gives a crap about your truth."
I've literally seen an actor in a scene have his father get shot right in front of him. His reaction? He walked over and said "Dad...Dad..." and then put his head on his father's chest. Right after he watched his father get shot in the face.
This kid looked more like someone had just told him his cat ran away.
The point of all this is that, you as an actor or actress have to become very comfortable openly expressing emotions. If you're not used to or comfortable with emotion, you're going to have to practice. And, once you get comfortable expressing emotions, you then need to learn how to harness those emotions, direct those emotions and temper them to give the audience a visceral, gut level reatcion to what you're expressing.
The closer you can hit the human reality of what the situation calls for, the more the audience will identify with what you're doing. The deeper and subtler you can pull that off, the more in demand you will be as an actor or actress. It takes years and years of practice, so get cracking!
Just don't be boring, flat, expressionless or indifferent. Great actors care deeply, fight passionately, lose grudgingly and let the world know exactly how they feel. So, be great, there's already plenty of crap out there.
Tip #5 - Be Disciplined
You might notice a pattern developing here. I know the Hollywood dream machine wants to make this world just look like glitter and gold, but the truth is, acting is an incredibly competitive industry that requires love, devotion, humility and most of all practice. Practice comes solely from being disciplined.
Most kids you run into in Hollywood that claim to be actors are, for the most part, kind of similar to the kids who go on backpacking trips to Europe after college. They're getting out into the world, it's all just kind of fun and easy breezy, but the reality is it's just a brief stop on the way to their "real" life. Most of them will spend 20 or 30 hours a week going on dates and hanging out in bars, but will spend twenty minutes a week on their acting.
Acting is a tricky business. There's nothing about it that is set in stone, but I can say without a doubt that it requires some pretty serious skills to do well. Most of the popular actors you see in film and television today have been working on soundstages since they were children. It's just like a kid who starts playing tennis when he's six and keeps going through adulthood. If you just picked up a racket for the first time six months ago, he's going to smoke your ass in a game.
BUT, with disciplined practice, you can "catch up". It might take you ten years before you can beat him consistently, but you'll start making him earn those games much sooner than that. There's even a story about President Obama playing golf when he was still a State Senator. He went out and got his ass kicked. He took lessons, he practiced like a maniac and six months later, he was golfing almost as good as the guys he went out with before.
Now, just do that for your acting.
Like the old saying goes, "Repetition is the mother of all learning" and repetition means practice. Practice requires discipline. If you're not repeatedly training yourself in the skills you need to do the job you say you want to do, you'll never get that job.
If you want to learn more about how to get started in acting for film or tv, be sure to check out Acting For Film And Television.
As always, if you have any questions or thoughts, or would just like to share some of your successes, please feel free to drop me a line. I actually answer them.
Best of Luck out there and remember, you can't fail if you don't quit.