Many of you have gone to good acting schools, got a fancy piece of certificate which says “ Certified Great Performing Actor” and come out elated thinking that now all top directors will approach and you will become a Bollywood star, soon!
In school, you played lots of lead roles, and took lots of acting, voice, and movement classes, studied Meisner, Stanislavsky etc... etc.. Wow!
Fancy certificate in hand, you move in Mumbai week after week with inappropriate headshots, a mediocre small type role in an unknown short film or in a TV serial and wonder “Where are all these high paying acting jobs I’m supposed to be getting? I was a top student in my acting school and now what’s happening?” As the time passes and you continue to fail in auditions, slowly the truth starts dawning upon you… there are certain parts of my acting craft like how to fight tension and nervousness you have not learnt and secondly, there are some aspects apart from the craft of acting you do not know.
The clock is ticking and you may or may not realize there is this whole “business” side of acting nobody had told you about. Wake up! You need to change your approach, be nice, and come up with a game plan.
Things they may not know or forget to train in an acting school:
1. You aren’t a star.
2. Remember-the acting is a business, also.
Nobody is going to come knocking on your door begging you to act for them. They don’t have to. There are hundreds of aspiring actors knocking their doors who are ready to work for free, just to get a break. Firstly, you have to do the work to get noticed by these “buyers”. You have to promote yourself through your casting coordinators, agents, online and offline social networking, Email marketing, mailing, developing personal contacts, meeting production houses, casting directors and other people in the industry.
You have to combine artistry with the rules of-“How to be successful in a business”, if you want to make money doing this and support yourself. That means to begin with killer headshots, a good 2-3 minute demo reel (show reel), great audition monologues (that aren’t overused), and then add to this what I have mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Did your acting school train you on how to run this “business” of acting?
Therefore, you have to be a damn good CEO (chief executive officer) of your own “Business” apart from a being a good actor.
3. You can't live and expect based on “Your Past” right away.
Yes, you were the lead in all your shows in school. Everyone told you how great you are. Now you have to go back to the bottom. The truth is, you won’t be seen in a TV serial or in films on regular roles without concrete television or film credits under your belt. The reality is that most actors, will have to start with co-star and guest star roles, and slowly build up their profile decorated with work clips before they are even considered for auditions for major serials for regular roles on television or in a film from a major production house. This might take years, and having a survival job (or three). Patience is the key.
4. You are a particular “type.”
(See my previous post on Do you know your actor "type"?)
5. You need to “be king or queen of the audition room.”
When it comes to an actual performance on a television and film set, you can be an amazing actor, but terrible at auditioning, or a terrible actor, but wonderful, confident, and charming in auditions. You have to be “good in the room” as they say. You have to learn the fine art of as that is the gateway to your getting the job, and getting casting directors to “trust” you. Take an audition class may be with a private acting coach, see yourself on camera, and learn how to “Great” on screen. You have to understand tone, the rhythm of television, what works on camera, how to take down your performance for a medium shot, how to embrace your personality, make strong choices, and be authentic.
6. You are nervous and tense.
It’s written all over your face. You are not comfortable and are tense in front of people, in front of the camera, in your approach, attitude, posture, you forget your lines, and you are breathing heavily and sweating, oh my god what have done to yourself? A high degree of tenseness and nervousness is the biggest enemy of an actor and a sin. Though you might have learnt relaxation exercises under Stanislavsky techniques, but in my opinion, they are inadequate in today’s rapid paced filming environment and especially in the case of Indian actors who relatively are oversensitive. What they need is a well-planned individual exercises combing Indian and western techniques under yoga+ self-hypnosis+auto-suggestion. After a few sessions and continuing the practice, a student learns to relax his body and mind in less than 2 minutes even while sitting or even standing. Amazing, isn’t it?
7. “Be simple”
If you don’t learn the art of acting for the camera, you will simply look ”out of everything” technically and craft wise or your acting will be deemed “theater-y.” This is the most important, and takes a pretty good time to learn, which unfortunately schools don’t have because of the number of students and need to train individually. Most casting directors for television and film will tell you “just keep it natural,“ or “don’t act, just say the lines.”
And you start thinking and arguing in your mind “But I went to best acting school where it was taught “to be in a character” and imagine “If I’m so and so”
It doesn’t matter in practicality. You are no longer playing to your teacher in an acting class. Keep in mind you are playing to an HD camera three feet away, which magnifies everything you do, and even the smallest gestures can seem too big, and trying desperately to be in a “character” is dangerous. Be economical with your gestures, subtle with your emotions, and use your eyes. Just think and feel, instead of showing.
Training from an acting school can open doors for you. It can be amazing, and can give you the tools and technique to have a long, successful career. But being a professional actor is a different ball game and requires an additional set of skills, which involves all the above I have mentioned mainly knowing the market and how you fit into it, so you can put what you have learned in a school to good use. Training from a school is an invaluable part of the equation, but it’s just that: part of the equation.
(Admin: The author of this post and this blog apart from being an International Acting Coach, An Actor and a Filmmaker is an Ex-Vice President, Marketing in Multinational Companies for more than 30 years and an authority on marketing and training.)