By: Amanda B. Goodman
You may wonder how fire safety steps for kids a.k.a Stop, Drop, and Roll apply to the study of acting. Well, lucky for you, I just happen to have the answer to that. The craft of acting is not easy. Anyone who tells you differently is probably either a highly paid reality star or your neighbors’ cousins’ niece who stars in every community theatre production playing either an off-key Annie or a female Jesus. All of that is fine, but it isn’t going to get you to the root of this incredible art form, nor is it going to lead to success career as a serious actor.
I employ the formula of: Do, Watch, and Learn. And then this leads to Stop, Drop, and Roll. Do means taking action. If you are starting out as an actor, you must train. No matter what the old lady who sits next to you on the bus tells you about how talented you are reading the newspaper out loud to her, or how much natural talent you think you possess, doing is better than just believing. Talent exists, but it must be fostered. Take your time to get to where you need to be in your studies. I would never advise someone who has only taken a month of acting classes to suddenly expect to audition for major projects and immediately get cast. Most importantly, you can’t compare your progress to anyone else’s. Everyone learns and grows at their own pace. It’s not the finish line of the race that counts, it’s the journey to get there.
After you Do, you must Watch. To watch means quite literally; watch yourself. If you are pursuing a career in Film and TV, how can you know what looks right if you don’t know what you look like? This can be difficult for a lot of actors, I myself included. We all have times when vanity gets the best of us and we’d rather just Do and not Watch. While I agree, that we should never let the vanity aspect or society's expectations of what actor's are supposed to look like (um...how about humans?) affect our performances, we still need to be aware of how we come off on-camera. At AGR, one of the biggest benefits is being able to watch your work back after the intensive. When you get that video performance, watch it and then watch it again. Stop analyzing yourself for glamour reasons or get lost in viewing it like you’re watching cat videos on YouTube, and start to see if you are witnessing something believable. Begin to look at your work through the eyes of a casting professional. Would you cast the actor who continuously roll their eyes so far back into their skulls on each line that they look like one of those creepy baby dolls with rolling back eyes? Bleehh, I think not.
Another aspect of Watch that I would advise you to get in the habit of, is rehearsing while looking into the mirror. You want to be able to see how you look in order to keep yourself as still and real as possible. Take note of certain facial tics you may have and practice eliminating them. Imagine that the frame of the mirror is like the frame of the camera. If you are moving too much, or squinting to be flirty or sly, you’ll see how ridiculous it actually even if it doesn't feel like the movement is big. The camera sees all. It's like that pesky neighbor who knows more of your secrets than you do. We all have things we need to work on, and there is no shame in watching ourselves till we feel comfortable performing within the small space we are given. But give yourself a break. Over-analyzing can lead to a negative self-image (bag) or lead you down the path of over-rehearsing (worse). It’s not choreography; it’s just about knowing your spatial limits.
Watch, of course, leads to Learn. No matter what level of success or notoriety you achieve in this industry, you are always a student. You are a student of the craft, a student of the business, and a student in life. There is never an experience that you’ll have that isn’t an opportunity to learn. If you’ve been working on a film set for a month and you’ve only concerned yourself with your job as the actor, what will you get out of it in the end? Why not instead, take the downtime you have to ask someone on the crew about an aspect of their job? You will not only learn something new, but you will have formed a possible future business relationship, and in turn, may even learn something on the technical side of things that could reflect back to your art. Never close yourself off to learning.
Finally if you apply Watch, Do, and Learn, this will lead you to Stop, Drop, and Roll. Simply put: Stop worrying, Drop the ego, and let the camera Roll. Enjoy the ride, because we may get many shots to get a scene right, but only one shot at life. So work hard, and trust that it will all work out the way it is supposed to.
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