Monday, February 28, 2011

WhatAbout Script Analyis?

Here are some questions and answers about script analysis that I recently had with a correspondent. My comments are in bold.

In your e-book,("The Tao of Acting") you say you're not in favour of script analysis. Exactly so. I also find this very difficult for me to do. I've been taking acting classes for almost a year now, and I feel I haven't improved much since I started.That is probably due to your doing too much writing and not enough acting in those classes.

How should an actor prepare for a scene, like getting into character, if he should not create an imaginary biography of the character, or imagine what happened before the scene starts? If you have read the play, you have all the character info and back story you need. If the playwright thought you needed more, he would have given you more. (historical characters excepted as the playwright may think the actor already knows the character and his circumstances when the actor may be unaware of them. Then a bit of historical research may be in order, but otherwise analysis is not needed.) The actor reads the scene or the play, whichever he is given, understands what is going on and what the character is about, then the actor assumes the physical character, and reacts to the stimuli of the scene moment by moment.

Isn't sub-text beneficial to the actor because it helps the actor be, or get in touch with the character? I think sub text is a crock. The lines ARE the emotional response to the stimuli, they don't need sub text, they need to be spoken to communicate their meaning. Sub text is "acting" and therefore artificial and we want our performances more real. Also sub text is dangerous because the actor may speak the sub text rather than the lines and confuse his scene partner. I saw a famous actress do a scene at The Actors Studio, years ago, and she felt the scene was not working so she ad libbed a sub text line not in the script. Then she blamed her scene partner for the weakness of the scene. I thought all of that was BS. And now I know that Method acting is BS. As one of my students, now a professional actor, said about script analysis, "Just do the scene." I agree, if you want to be a student of what is in a script, analyze it. If you want to be an actor, "Just do it."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why people fail to become successful actors

I probably have addressed this somewhere before, but it is a question much on people's minds at present. Many want to know if they have a chance to succeed as actors, and many would become actors, but.... There are many reasons why people fail. In my book, The Tao of Acting, I list personality traits that actors must have for success. These are taken from True and False by David Mamet. And then my book contains a list of professional habits based on Miriam Franklin's book, Rehearsal. Failure to live up to any of these personality traits or professional habits can cause an actor to fail. I recently saw an interview with a Los Angeles acting teacher, who said "The only people who succeed as actors are those who have to be actors." This is something I have been telling people for years. If you can be happy doing anything else in life, you probably will not succeed as an actor.

If you wonder if you have a chance to succeed or wonder if acting is what you should try to do, you will fail. Those who have to be actors do not wonder or even care much about those things. They just go out an be actors because they must do that. If you have any reason why you may fail-- lack of money, where you live, race, religion, or anything else -- or if you give reasons why you failed in the past and have not accepted them as your shortcomings and corrected those reasons, you will fail. Many actors illustrate the definition of insanity: they keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.

Acting is not just a career choice, it is a life style choice. It involves a great deal of self motivation, sacrifice and continued effort. If you are not a good self starter, if you cannot live without the common comforts and conveniences and/or if you cannot doggedly stay with your desire to be an actor in spite of everything, then you will most likely fail. For an actor, success is not fame and fortune, success is having been able to be an actor as much as possible during his lifetime.

Lastly, Tony Smith, on his Acting Career Start Up web site, today posted an article and videos, revealing what he calls the secret of achieving success as an actor. That secret is another thing that I have been telling people for years: have a mentor. If you blindly try to become an actor on your own without guidance from someone who knows the ropes, who has been there and done that and who is really willing to help, your chances for success are diminished. I should not have to point out that finding someone willing to help you and then ignoring their advice not only is rude,but also is a way to fail.

To be a success, you must be positive, and be willing to do what is needed to be done. You must listen to experience and learn from and correct your mistakes. You must be a successful personality and not associate with losers. And you must have a mentor willing to help. I not only am willing to help, I am probably the only mentor who does not charge anything for his help and/or who is not trying to sell you anything. Above all, however, you must have to be an actor.

PS. One of my advisees in LA just sent this regarding the topic of why people fail to become actors: "Most people want instantaneous gratification - as most society and acting does not yield itself to instant gratification. Many don't have the personality - it is sales, it is marketing, it is communicating, it is networking, it is planning. You have to be very smart and savvy. You have to spend the money to make money - a good head shot is priceless- yet many get photos from amateurs and it shows. If someone wants to have no vacations (how can you vacation if you are trying to make it?), no love life, no family life (or minimum at least), no partying (if you get an audition the next day you can't be indulging and that can happen in an instance). (I truly believe you should not date or be in a relationship if you want to be an actor- too much energy) It is almost like living like a monk. To stay focused and not get discouraged - wow! Only for the thick skinned and those who are tenacious. It takes total dedication - and perseverance - and a long shot. It is like gambling - yet if you get that role you hit the jack pot. Yet - if you do it right and make the right connections and are likable - I believe it can happen. It really depends on the person and how much they believe and want it. They need to never give up - I guess you need to be insane! You have to love it - whether it gives results or not. Even if you are not an "a" list or "b" list actor = you just have to be happy that you are trying and living the dream so many are afraid to go for. The ride to get there - to being a working actor - is more fun that when you get to the top of the mountain. Then you have to say - what next?! It is not meant for the majority - that is why so many leave. They don't understand that it is a lifestyle and one that many won't accept and understand. You need to say "good-bye" to those who don't believe in you - as you can't have any negativity. It is self centered and the person has to be extremely egocentric. I guess I am not painting a very nice picture - yet I would not give it up for the world. This is the happiest I have been in years."

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cost, Warnings and Preparations for Being an Actor

What has become more and more apparent to me over the last year is that going into the business of acting requires many kinds of investments that I write about on my newest web site sub page, Your Investment in Acting. Acting is not an art that you just start doing and people give you money. Acting is a hard-nosed business that takes a sizable monetary investment for you even to compete and to make progress. Then the investments in time, effort and preparation are in addition to that. Acting is not something to be entered into unadvisedly and without proper preparation, which includes lots of acting experience as well as some formal training.

Almost all of the kids on Yahoo Answers are looking for a quick and easy way to become the people they see on the TV and movie screen. They don't have the foggiest notion that what they see on those screens is not at all what acting is all about. Thus the scammers take over, selling them the promise of quick stardom, even if they have no talent. And there is practically no one out there that will tell them if they have no talent. A large number of the population do not even believe that it takes talent to be an actor. Every aspiring actor should question every organization they are thinking of doing business with and try to be assured that the business is not a scam.

When I first began advising on Yahoo Answers and All Experts, and I wrote my book, The Tao of Acting. I always listed for those who asked for them the steps in becoming an actor. One important step was that the aspirant needed to get a mentor. As I have moved away from belief that there are a set series of steps in becoming an actor, I have kept the belief that the aspiring actor needs a mentor as described in my book. The actor needs to do many things all at once: build a resume, network, earn a living, and on and on. And of course success comes to each actor in a little different way. Some are thought to have a lucky break, but luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Networking is making opportunities for yourself. If you want to be an actor you cannot ever stop working on it. It is a life style and there is no vacation from that.