site
stats

What You Need to Know Before Considering an Acting Coach

Illustration courtesy of Nick Bertozzi

If you’re in the Los Angeles area in April, my Spring Audition Bootcamp classes have just been announced.
April 10, 17 & 24, 2018. Please click here to read the description and apply. If you apply and are confirmed before March 26, get 10% off!
I look forward to working with you.

******

I get this email about 20 times a week: “Hi, Ms. Liroff. My wish is to be an actor. I’ve always wanted to do it but I don’t know how to get started. I have no experience at all, but my dream is so big, I can’t let that stand in my way. I’ve read all your articles and I think you’re the perfect coach for me. When can we get started?”

While I would never squash anyone’s dream, this is a perfect example of putting the cart before the horse.

You’ve got to learn the fundamentals of acting before you start working with an acting coach.

For instance, a gymnast trains extensively and then gets a coach. You need to be in weekly classes. When you’re in classes, you’ll be able to get up and work every week in front of a room full of people. Not only will you learn from your teacher, you’ll get to witness some great (and not-so-great!) actors and learn from their victories and defeats.

When I’m working with an actor, I can immediately see if they’ve had no training because they do not even know how to stand. They don’t know what to do with their hands, they’re not in touch with their body. Movement classes will help you connect with your instrument.

I’m seeing too many actors who do not know how to use their voice effectively. They’re not breathing correctly, which leaves them without power. They aren’t enunciating properly, which makes gorgeous dialogue turn to mush. Voice classes will give you insight on how to use your instrument properly.

Once you’ve got your foundation set with acting classes, it’s important to understand how to work with the camera. There’s a very specific skill set that you need to master before you’re going out for auditions.

Some of the issues you need to know are:

In TV and film, always connect with your reader. If there are other people in the scene, you can place them just to the right of the camera, not off to the far left.

Being off-book is now a given. There is no point coming in and reading your sides; we call people who do that “reciters.” If you don’t know the material inside and out, you will not be able to take direction and connect with your reader.

I get emails from parents saying they want to get their kids into acting, and then ask me to coach them. They don’t know if their child even likes acting. Get your kid into classes first and see how she responds. My friends with kids who think they want to be actors say no year after year until they feel the child really means it and is truly ready.

Your acting coach helps tweak and shape your work and gives you confidence and another set of eyes on your performance. But you must have a performance to begin with! Coaches are not meant to be acting teachers—that’s what acting classes are for.

Make sure to check out my new online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

Warning: I grant permission to share my blog as written with no additions or deletions. Posting my blog is in no way an endorsement of another site unless you obtain my written consent.)

Like this story? Help spread the word! Click to tweet.

How to Avoid the One-Note Performance

Artwork courtesy: Nick Bertozzi

Howdy! I’ve been such a busy bee, I haven’t blogged in months! No excuses! I’m just going to get back on track and send out my blogs more regularly.

If you’re in the Los Angeles area in April, my Spring Audition Bootcamp classes have just been announced.
April 10, 17 & 24, 2018. Please click here to read the description and apply. I look forward to working with you.

************************

Have you ever worked on a scene and given it your all, only to get the comment “Eh, it felt very one-note”? What does that even mean? It reminds me of the iconic scene in “Amadeus” when, after Mozart plays his new composition, the emperor responds, “Too many notes.” How many notes is too many? How many is too few?

Let’s say you have a scene where you find out your boyfriend is cheating on you. What I often see in auditions is actors playing one emotion; let’s choose anger. Think about it for a moment: If you found out your significant other was being unfaithful, you would probably have a deep well of many emotions—betrayal, loss of trust, embarrassment, resentment, shame, paralysis, disbelief. Why play only anger? Beyond the fact that it’s boring to watch, it’s not how you’d act in real life.

When you play the scene, we want to see all the colors wash over you. Even if it’s a short-lived moment, there’s so much you can play between the lines. Every bit of information that your partner is giving you should result in a different expression of emotion. Yes, they can all be rooted in anger, but there are so many different ways to show it—it shouldn’t be your interpretation’s only driving force.

Finding all the possible emotions will make your performance more nuanced and rich.

As an exercise, write down all the possible responses to the action of your scene in the margin of the script. Try to play them all until you find the most authentic and honest reactions.

That said, if you’re all over the place emotionally (“too many notes”) we’ll find it hard to follow you because your performance will feel unfocused. The audience is most moved when they can latch onto something and relate to you. And there’s a fine line between losing yourself in a scene and a sloppy performance.

This is where rehearsing with a partner before your audition is vital. I can always tell when an actor comes in to audition for me and they haven’t read the scene with another human being yet. Your audition should not be the first time you’re reading these words aloud with a scene partner. Rehearsing with another person will help you in several ways. First, there is a natural conversational rhythm within the scene that you can’t find unless you read it with someone else. You also need to find the moments between the lines and between the words that will elicit genuine emotion. You can’t do that on your own in a vacuum.

I recently found a great website, WeRehearse.com, where you can set up your profile for free, then hire someone to run lines with you before an audition. That person can even be your scene partner when you self-tape. I wish I’d thought of it!

Make sure to check out my new online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

Warning: I grant permission to share my blog as written with no additions or deletions. Posting my blog is in no way an endorsement of another site unless you obtain my written consent.)

Like this story? Help spread the word.

 

 

How to Protect Your Actor Psyche

Illustration by Nick Bertozzi

By Marci Liroff

When I’m coaching actors for an emotional scene we often have to dig deep into memories that are extremely painful. Many times, my clients are terrified to open that part of their psyche for fear that they won’t be able to close that can of worms.

When an actor is doing a highly emotional scene and has to dig deep, how do they keep themselves in a safe place psychologically so that they’re not walking around like an open wound?

I’ve asked some of my colleagues to weigh in.

HOWARD FINE (acting teacher and coach)

Actors need an exit strategy. They tend to spend all of their energy on preparation to get in, but getting out is equally important and essential for mental health.

This could include anything that brings happiness and peace to the individual artist. In the same way that an actor learns to focus on triggers to produce unpleasant emotions, they need to have a process that I call returning to the light. I teach my students that emotional recall also includes experiences of love and joy. The actor need a complete tool box of positive and negative experiences to tap into.

CRAIG WALLACE (acting teacher and coach)

My advice to actors is to explore the emotion in the body. Emotions live in the body – this is where you feel. Sit very quietly with the body and feel very specifically where the emotion is affecting you – not any holding, tightening, expanding, notice the breath. The breath is the loudest bodily indicator of how we are feeling. Feel the emotion very specifically in the body and you’ll find the truth in a safe and enlightening way. And once it’s stored in the body it’s there for you when you need it.

Dredging up painful memories in the mind feels very unsafe and the mind is there to keep you safe. This becomes a very long and frustrating process. It is also highly unreliable and the actor will often find that when performance/audition time comes, the emotion isn’t there because the frontal lobe, which has to do with logic and safety, has taken over and shut down the risky emotions. The body has no such agenda.

ANDIE MACDOWELL (actor)

It is an odd gift that actors’ wounds have purpose, they are the colors we have and we get to use them. Our suffering and understanding of human frailty is how we create characters and we all have life experiences to draw on.

That is the great part about being an older actor, I have lived longer and I understand more about life. For me it is a relief that I can use what I understand on a deep soul level and in a way, it gives me a place to release pain.

Being vulnerable is a part of the process and I want to tap into what I know and give it up. It’s ok to feel lost and uncomfortable, what matters is that the person you create touches people.

I would rather feel lonely while I am shooting than to try to protect myself. It is hard to find a role that calls for deep experiences and we all know that given the chance to create a complex character is rare and beautiful.

I never need to stay in character, but if I have to be quiet and alone to stay focused I do. I guess I welcome the opportunity to feel wounded because it means I have a canvas to paint on and that is a dream come true.

JEFFREY MARCUS (acting teacher, coach and media coach)

I find wardrobe to be very helpful in ‘taking on, and taking off’ a character and their emotional baggage.  Even if you don’t change from top to bottom, just changing a shirt or shoes can make a huge difference.

Whenever emotions that can overwhelm you arise after an audition or performance, make sure you wash your hands and have a drink of water before getting in your car. Both of these are grounding and put you back in your body.

By building in ‘emotional memories’ of the character, rather than just culling from your own trauma – it becomes much easier to move effortless between perceived reality and imagined reality. My favorite go-to, if you’ve done the work well – treat yourself to a treat (my go-to is dark chocolate).

If using music to assist you in getting into the emotional space, use it to also get you out of it.

LILY MAE HARRINGTON (actor)

You have to balance out the extremes. If you’re screaming and crying for your job that day you have to balance it out when you get home or in your trailer; Watch a funny movie, have your favorite snack, sing your most happy song, do some yoga. Find that other extreme.

Click here for a recent article about Lily

Make sure to check out my new online course “How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp”. You can view it on your laptop or your mobile device and your subscription gives you lifetime viewing privileges for this course. I’ll be adding lectures throughout the year.

(Warning: I grant permission to share my blog as written with no additions or deletions. Posting my blog is in no way an endorsement of another site unless you obtain my written consent.)

Like this blog? Click to tweet and share the love!

 

 

 

 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 ... 21 »