|What they don't teach you in an acting school|
What Acting Schools Don’t Teach You
Like many of you, I attended a top acting school in the USA and in India with a diploma, a fancy piece of paper that says “You are a great actor!” I was a big fish in a small pond (school), played lots of big roles, and took lots of acting, voice, and movement classes. I studied Meisner, Stella Adler (2 of my favorites), Stanislavsky and some other techniques. I even learnt how to wear neutral mask!
One of the many useful things that acting school teaches is that training is essential, and should always be part of your career.
Fancy diploma in hand, I moved to Mumbai one month from USA with cheap headshots in my bag, a mediocre temporary job, and wondered “Where are all these high paying acting jobs I’m supposed to be getting? What do you mean I have to get few artist coordinators"? I quickly realized there is this whole “business” side of acting, nobody had told me about. I needed to change my approach, get humble, and come up with a game plan.
Later I came to know most of the acting schools in India and around the world usually forget to mention and train actors on these vital success factors:
Here is the list of those 6 things
1. Don’t think you are special
You may have gotten a standing ovation for playing a great role in a school class,” but you aren’t the star anymore. You will be in the audition room with people who don’t have any training, who have never taken an acting class, and yet have big coordinators. Some of them already have many of television serials and film credits. And guess what? They are up for the same parts you are in an audition. Accept it. Everyone is in the same boat now, top schools and fancy acting degree, diplomas or certificates or not.
2. For sure acting is business, too.
It’s one thing to be a good actor; it’s another thing to be a “smart” actor. Acting school is all about the “art.” In the real world, it’s about the “business.” Nobody is going to come knocking on your door begging you to act for them. You have to do the work to get noticed. You have to combine artistry with business intelligence if you want to make money doing this and support yourself. That means killer headshots, a good 2-3 minute demo reel, great audition techniques, monologues (that aren’t too common and one for all), networking (without being annoying), branding, doing “meet and greets” with coordinators and casting directors, creating a website, making your own content, and being the CEO of your own acting business.
3. You won’t be Salman Khan or Deepika Padkone right away
Yes, you were the lead in your performances in school. Everyone told you how great you are. Now you have to go back to the bottom. The reality is that most actors, once they register with few coordinators, just wait for some top producers like Karan Johar or Sanjay Leela Bhansali to knock their door. The fact is you will have to start, maybe with without a dialog, one liner role and slowly build up your résumé and show reel before casting directors are even considering you for auditions for major films or
4. Know your “type”
In acting school you play all types- an executive, a lover, a villain, a taxi driver, younger or older than your age and many other types. Now you are in Mumbai- “Maya Nagri” Bollywood
5. You must learn to “master the Audition Room”
When it comes to television and film, 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 auditioning (eye-lines, slating, memorizing your lines in 15 minutes, etc.), as that is the gateway to you getting your dream role, and getting casting directors to “trust” you. Take audition workshops, see yourself on camera, or learn from your acting coach. 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. Requisite focus on Acting for the camera
If you don’t learn the art of acting for the camera, you will simply make a lot of technical mistakes, look either flat, fake or will just exaggerate gestures and voice
This is the most important, and took me months to figure out. Most casting directors for television and film will tell you to “keep it natural, “or “don’t act, just say the lines.” “But I went to a top acting school!” you argue with yourself. It doesn’t matter. You are no longer playing in an acting class. You are playing to an HD camera three to five feet away, which magnifies everything you do, and even the smallest gestures can seem too big. Be economical with your gestures, subtle with your emotions, and use your eyes. Just think and feel, instead of showing.
Acting school training can create confidence in you as an actor. It can be amazing, and can give you the tools and technique to have a long, successful career. But being a professional actor requires an additional set of skills, which involves knowing the market and how you fit into it, so you can put your acting certificate, diploma or degree to good decoration use. Acting schools are an important part of the equation, but remember, it’s just “the part" of the success equation.