To err is human, but to acknowledge it on your CV is an even bigger mistake. Whether it’s a personal demon or a small gap in your training, acting weaknesses don’t need to ruin your career. We’ve found the three biggest weaknesses that actors starting out their careers face, and how best to deal with them.
Stage fright and nervousness are considered weaknesses by many actors. However, they’re not only universal experiences; they’re also vital ones. A “rush” before performing can spike adrenaline and keep an actor alert and emotionally vulnerable during the performance.
We have previously covered the importance of emotional vulnerability for a good method actor.
However, sometimes “nerves” can become overwhelming. This is when it starts being called fear. The amount of stress an actor has during an opening night is equivalent to what someone in a car crash experiences. If you don’t realise that this is common and normal, your fear could incapacitate you.
How do you cope with the fear of failure? Simple – just relax.
No, really. Lee Strasberg’s method acting includes the technique “relaxation,” which all actors use before a class, rehearsal, or performance. Even film greats like Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep use relaxation. Relaxation recognises that the physical and mental are closely linked, and so by ridding your body of tension you help your mind to become calm; and vice versa.
- Begin by sitting in an armless chair, all your limbs hanging loosely at your sides. You head, too, should be limp and lolling.
- Move each limb – one by one and head to toe – in a circle. Flail each joint and appendage until there is no tension remaining.
- Let your jaw go slack, and release a steady noise from your throat: “ahhhh”. If you feel lingering tension inside your body, feel free to grunt, scream, or yell. Relaxation is primal. While you do this, roll your head one way and then the other.
Go slowly, taking about 20 minutes to fully loosen yourself inside and out. Afterward, you will feel relaxed; but keep in mind that a little residual tension isn’t a bad thing.
If stage fright is something you struggle with, this video on nerves might help.
There will come a point in every actor’s career where they consider giving up. Maybe an audition went badly, or you were dropped by an agent. When you’re a performer, knocks to your confidence will come nearly constantly.
Even the most famous actors feel like giving up – sometimes very dramatically. When Ewan McGregor saw Daniel Day-Lewis perform for the first time, he set his equity card on fire.
Giving up is one way that low self-esteem can manifest, so the best way to combat it is to build your confidence. It might seem contrary, but stepping out of your comfort zone can be the best way to pump your ego.
Try taking a course in a new style of performance, for example in dance or clowning. Not only does this build your repertoire of skills, but you might find that you have a natural talent you’ve never explored before. Even if you don’t, you’ll make new friends – and that’s sometimes all the boost you need.
Talent is one thing, but honing it is another. A huge weakness for many actors is underpreparedness; they think that they will land roles based purely on their “X factor”. This is far from true.
No matter how skilled an actor you are, you need a reality check: your “X factor” doesn’t matter if it’s not on paper. Here’s how you can make sure your acting CV is as strong as your acting.
You might be a natural, but casting agents won’t know this until you get in the room; and you won’t get in the room without training. This could be a tertiary degree in drama, a certificate of completion for a course, or a line stating that you’re currently seeing an acting coach. If you don’t have experience, you need some kind of qualification.
More than that, casting directors want to know that you’re open to further training. Even internationally famous pop stars still have voice coaches; and star athletes, too. Keeping up a training regime or doing the odd course will make your CV shine.
Look the Part
Headshots are a weakness that many actors don’t realise they have. Often, young actors are tempted to take the picture themselves, slap an Instagram filter on it, and go – this isn’t good enough.
Headshots should be taken from the shoulders up, and in black and white. They need to be high quality and unedited, and require direction to get the best depiction of your face’s potential.
Hire a professional photographer. Often drama schools will know of someone who takes them at a discount. When choosing a headshot from the selection, get the opinions of several others; often we have a distorted view of ourselves, and will be unable to objectively choose the best picture.
Acting in Motion
A committed actor might have a showreel – because some people just look better in video. You should have film from performances you’ve been in, or footage of yourself performing a monologue, dance, or song – showcase any skill you have.
As with headshots, quality is important. Unlike headshots, a professional showreel is likely to be expensive; it can cost anywhere from £300 to £850. If you have the funds or the tapes then make it, but otherwise leave this section blank! No showreel is better than a poorly-made one.
Even if you don’t fully overcome your weakness, just facing it can improve your career. Acknowledging our flaws allows us to develop strengths that combat or even compliment it; for example, if you’re a particularly nervous actor then why not be a character actor, and use that trait?
Whether there’s a gap in your CV or you have a general fear of failure, you can rest assured that your acting weaknesses can be overcome. If you want to boost your CV, your confidence and your connections then consider the Ultimate Acting Programme – one of the best Strasberg method schools in the UK.