ACTING 101- Skills and training
- Written by Paris Hepburn
Skills and training. Every actor at some time or another asks, what kind of skills do I need? Everything you could possibly imagine. At first we have to stick to the basics…ACTING. We hear of someone being a triple threat. Well what does that exactly mean? It means that you can do more than just act. Your skills are more numerous than that of other actors. Typically triple threat means a person can act, dance and sing which is what I do. But a triple threat means much more than that. I can not only dance and sing but I can also ride horses, do stunt work, practice martial arts, play the violin, study foreign languages, swim and many more activities that doesn’t exactly have to do with acting. I am always willing to increase my skills and training in whatever I do. I never know when I will be called upon to use these skills and training.
Going to acting classes is vitally important but certainly not absolutely essential. All actors need and have been exposed to some type of training somewhere in their life whether they realize it or not. We sometimes hear of actors that have never acted before become famous. Well that is not true. All actor whether famous or not have come in contact with the acting profession. Harrison Ford was a carpenter on film sets. He spent his days surrounded by actors, producers and directors. Can you imagine the training he got by watching perform on the very sets he constructed. Tom Cruise, Jim Carrey, Meg Ryan, Johnny Depp, Cameron Diaz, Russell Crowe, Brad Pitt, are just a few of the actors who made it big without any formal training. But most of these actors have been involved in some type of acting whether it be a school play, commercials, or just acting out on their own.
To get better, actors have to educate themselves in their career. Acting classes hone an actors skills that are vital to their career development. Even experienced professional actors take lessons or get training in some form or another. Actors need to always keep themselves informed and ready to perform on a moment’s notice.
However, acting classes are only one part of the actors’ career. There are those actors who are unable to attend acting class, work at other jobs, and have families they need to take care of, have scheduling conflicts, or are just unable to attend classes for whatever reason.
The internet has become indispensably important in bringing information to actors. This provides the information they need to keep up on their career. We have seen the transition from classroom learning to online learning during the Covid-19 of 2020 crisis. During this time, groups of people who could no longer congregate together, started using the internet to learn new skills and interact with other fellow actors. Actors have been able to tune into classes in the privacy of their own home and even at their own pace to stay up to date. The internet has changed the whole landscape of informational acting. I think for the better.
Here are some tips to use while growing your acting skills:
Reading. Reading is extremely important to any actor. There are numerous books written on the acting of various types. These books explore looking at acting from different angles and different perspectives so an actor can incorporate them into their own style of acting. Courses such as Stanislavski Technique, Chekhov Technique, Meisner Technique, Classical Acting Technique, Method Acting Technique, Uta Hagen Technique, Viola Spolin Technique, and Adler Technique are a few of the more classical methods that an actor can explore. All of these techniques are a broad range of different acting skills which we will discuss individually later on in a different article.
Theater. Theater is a great way to learn the basics of acting. When I was four, I performed in numerous plays. I performed at the Creative Arts Theater in Arlington, Texas for numerous years. I learned about the entire production and performance process from props, scripts, value of stage presence, costuming, and working in a large groups. Interacting with a live audience taught me about actor timing, pace, and character interpretation. While many of the other actors had a fear of performing on stage, I always was the first one to volunteer. This usually meant I got the lead which I did. Later, I performed at school. I would perform as many times as I could at every opportunity. School always had some form of entertainment arts going on all year. This gave me the chance to practice as much as I could. And of course, a talent contest each year was exactly my thing to do.
Watch TV, Movies, Theater. Watching TV, movies, and theater, I was able to see other actors in motion. Watching other actors performs gave me ideas of how to act, or not act, myself. Brilliant performances are showed by seasoned actors and are real performances. I have seen so many actors that just read script. They are plain and boring. An actor needs to breathe life into their character. An audience needs to find the emotional convincing and emotional connection needed to have them keep on watching. The actors’ responsibility it to understand the various methods you may be called upon to work on. Watching also allows you to understand the various styles of acting you might be confronted with. This also helps in looking at your competition. The value of watching is always advantageous to have watched the show before you go to your audition, monologue or reading. Understanding the mind and how it works will make you a better actor. I always am watching how other actors play their parts, so I have some idea what I should be looking at. After I watch other actors, I make up my very own style that fits me.
Practice. One of the biggest characteristics of an actors training is practice. I use a camera/video or my phone, but, mostly my camera/video. Especially for auditions. Many of my professional auditions are self-taped. I love this because I can practice over and over again before I get it the way I want it. Practicing a scene or monologue is my way of getting instant feedback on what is, and is not, working about my performance. I usually take three takes before I send in my audition or monologue. Other actors may take longer according to their experience. This form of practice of self-training is extremely valuable. Self-taping is highly recommended even if I am taking regular acting classes. Many of the acting classes I took usually taped the results of the sessions. The better actor you will become by the experiential learning. And practicing takes doing whatever you are doing over and over again. Learning by doing!
Meditation. I know this may sound like a very strange way to learn how to act, but it helps me realize that acting is mostly about being in the present moment. Learning how to meditate can be one of the best actor self-training tools. Meditation practice actually helps with calming the nerves, sharpening the focus of attention, and training yourself in the ability to stay on task. These are all very important aspects to an actor’s craft. I have been on set where I will simply go off and meditate. I meditate in my own way. I find a quiet place to be alone and let my mind wonder. I think about my character and what I am supposed to do next. I already know what my scene is going to be like because I have already seen it in my head and played it out over and over again. I can’t do this while I am acting out the scene because there is a lot of things going on. And I certainly can’t prepare when everyone is talking and interacting and camera’s rolling and numerous other distractions. Don’t get me wrong, social interaction is also very important to have as an acting skill but there are those times I just need to be alone.
So we can see that skills and training is a lot more involved than just acting. Acting takes time, patience, concentration, and the ability to focus. The more you practice these skills the better actor you are going to be. Try taking as many classes as you can. Expand your classes to other activities besides just acting. Work with someone who can give your real positive feedback on what you are doing. Get out and go to the gym as it will prepare you for action scenes and more. Everything you do in life can be used to fill your acting tool box.