Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It Is Difficult Beyond Description, Yet Possible

The more I work with aspiring actors and the more I get into what
makes an actor successful, the more I am aware of just how terribly nearly
impossible it is to succeed at professional acting. There are lots of reasons
for that including the colossal number of aspiring actors and the nature of the

It is difficult to imagine how many
aspiring actors there are. Every year
in the US alone, more than ten thousand graduates of academic and professional
acting schools are added to the total. Then there are the thousands and thousands of those who do not go to school , but who just try
to become actors without that expense. And no wonder when the cost of college acting majors and acting schools
cost thirty to forty thousand dollars a year! But numbers and cost are not the
only obstacles to be overcome if one is to be an actor.

The acting business is a very closed
society that only allows newcomers when such newcomers have such a look,
personality, experience and talent as to make the business want to include
them. Each actor who gets into the
business does it in a little different way. The way professional plays and films are cast contributes to the closed
society. Except for small roles, films
and plays mostly are cast from the actors that the producers and directors know
and trust. Only rarely are they willing to give a newcomer a chance. Sure there
are sometimes ‘open’ auditions. But these are mostly sham. They are required by the actors’ union and
are really just ‘going though the motions’ rather than honestly looking for new
talent. But new talent is found.

In spite of all these things new talent
turns up on TV and on the stage and in the movies. There are some who call this luck, but honestly, it is when
preparation meets opportunity that new faces appear. This means that to become a professional actor, one needs a heap
of experience and training. I think the
experience is the more important. Even
when some people in the industry say that the actor’s look is most important,
they also say that charm, confidence and talent are also important for
success. Experience and training hone
one’s charm, confidence and talent. When the actor with these qualities meet the casting director looking
for the same type, new talent often is seen on TV and in the cinema or on

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Acting: A New Definition

I think we need an entirely new definition of acting because of the motion picture. It has taken a
Century for it to happen, but what was acting a hundred years ago, even fifty
years ago, is not what acting is today. Looking at a list about screen acting
that I was sent, one item is "be yourself, that's who they
hired." This completely eliminates
the business of characterization, doesn't it?

I have been writing that I
don't think there is any such thing as the Academy Awards "Best
Actor". Screen acting is mostly
the technology of filmmaking and has very little to do with what the actor
does. Film acting is doing nothing
except feeling emotion that is expressed naturally in the eyes. The actor does not try to show anything with
his uyes, he just does it naturally.

Returning to what Don
Richardson says acting is in “Acting Without Agony: “Acting is being other
people,” I think we have a basis for defining acting and what an actor does
when he ‘acts.’ Acting is assuming
that you are someone else (the character in the film or play) and behaving as
though you were that person. You enter the imaginary world of the screenplay
and you respond emotionally to the stimuli in the world of the film. Do you have to go through a rigorous
preparation of creating a character? No. The screen writer has done that. Only if you are portraying a historical
personage whose mannerisms and speech are well documented do you need to
research and practice those things. Other wise, in fictional roles, the actor’s job is much easier. He assumes being the character the
playwright or screenwriter has created in the script: and, using the dialog and
blocking given him, he behaves as though he were the role. He needs no information that is not in the
script, no backstory, imaginary biography, or character analysis. The actor and the character are one and the same when the actor is acting.

David Mamet also gives
insight into what acting is in “True and False.” He says that the actor stands in lieu of the character. Since the character is not a real person and
cannot be on the set, the actor must represent the character by taking his
place. Thus, Acting is taking the character’s place on stage or in front of the
camera, When he does that he is being
someone other than himself. And yet the
actor is still himself. It is his
emotions that must be expressed in the dramatic situations he finds himself.

What Stanislavsky originally
wanted as well was for the actor to be himself on stage. Mamet, Richardson, and
I agree, as do many, many other acting teachers and directors.