The steps you take in the first stages of your acting career will have a huge impact on your entire acting future. One of the most important decisions you can make when embarking on your journey to becoming a professional performer is whether or not to go directly into movie acting.
Stage, television and movie acting will all require you to learn different techniques and adapt to the unique styles of each medium. From voice modulation and breathing techniques to learning how to work with cameras as opposed to audiences, there are several major differences in these different forms of acting.
The first thing to remember is that there are around 38,000 working actors in the UK. However on average, only one in 50 makes more than £20,000 per year. This is why it is so vital that you know exactly what part of the industry you want to join and that you hone and perfect the skills specific to your acting style.
Successful actors are few and far between because star quality is hard to come by. When an actor has star quality, audiences, directors and casting directors know it. If you do decide to go straight into movie acting, then you will need to know exactly how to work with cameras, set lighting and, most importantly, have the skill-set and ‘star quality’ to engage movie audiences, hold their attention and make them believe in the emotions you portray on screen.
What Makes Movie Acting Different?
If you were to start out by acting in theatre or on television, you would learn to develop your character through the rehearsal process. However, according to actor and director, Ben Miller, when acting in a film role, you must spend the entire process becoming your character. In an interview with The Guardian, Ben Miller describes the movie acting process as one in which you;
“live and breathe the character”.
He also says that filming a movie creates an atmosphere which makes this as easy to do as possible.
Movie actors are often required to prepare for a role more thoroughly than actors preparing for smaller roles. This means that as well as reading scripts and memorising lines, you will have to look at your character in-depth and really try to work out the basis of their behaviour and create a fully rounded personality. For example, if you were to play a character from history, you would start by reading up about that person and learn about them in as much detail as possible. If you were cast in the role of an evil antagonist, you might want to think about why this person behaves the way they do- no matter how unsympathetic they might seem at first glance. If you don’t put this sort of research into your role, you might find that the final result ends up quite flat and not believable to the audiences watching the movie.
In his 1990 book, Acting in Film: An Actor’s Take on Moviemaking, the iconic British movie star Michael Caine goes into great detail about the aspects of movie acting that make it different to other styles of performance. He explains how the technology used in film, which allows viewers to see an actor’s face in extreme close-up and hear even the slightest sounds they make, means that movie acting can be portrayed much more subtly. He describes how it is much more truthful and potent for a big screen actor to downplay their emotions.
Michael Caine isn’t the only person to note the difference sort of acting that movie roles requires. In the 1952 thesis; Theory of the Film, Bela Balazs attribrutes the power of movie acting to the close up. He says that the close up causes a subtle style of performance, the likes of which had not been seen before in theatre acting. Balasz calls this the ‘polyphonic play of features’. Similarly, Walter Benjamin also points out the uniqueness of movie acting in his famous 1936 essay, The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Benjamin believes that the difference lies in the fact that the performance in a movie is not happening live. This means that the actor cannot adjust their performance to suit the audience.
Both of these are examples of very early acting theory, which goes to show that even in the earliest days of cinema, experts were making note of the difference in stage and screen acting- particularly the fact that the technology, production and editing techniques used in film production play a big part in the way stars act.
The Art of Movie Acting
If you decide to dive straight into movie acting, there are a few things you need to know first. For example, you will film scenes individually and separately from the other actors. This means that you won’t get a chance to watch the entire story unfold like you would in a play. Because of this, some actors may need help from the director to see how their character fits within the wider story as a whole. Taking the time to do this can make a big difference to your performance, even if you only have a small part.
Movie acting is all about ‘hitting the mark’. Film sets are organised very carefully. The lights, cameras and all objects in the scene will be positioned very precisely. This means your movements will be carefully constricted. You will need to stand and move in exactly the way that the director tells you to. Usually, the floor of a movie set will be marked with tape to show actors where to go. This is where the term ‘hitting your mark’ originates.
Movie actors also need to know how to work with cameras. Every time you act in a film scene you should be aware of the type of shot a director wants. A few kinds of shots you’ll work with include extreme close ups, close ups, long shots, over-the-shoulder shots, high angle shots and dolly zooms.
Movie Acting – Should You Go Straight Into It Or Not?
Every person wants to start their career as they mean to go on, and with an acting career it’s no different. However, the question of whether or not to go straight into movie acting is one that you will need to think about. The movie industry is a sector that the majority of actors dream of being in, due to the fame, glamour and the fact that they expect the pay to be significantly higher. However, in reality, if you go straight into movie acting you should be prepared for smaller parts and low paying roles. In the early stages of your career you will need to focus on building up experience by accepting smaller parts. This might seem disheartening at first if you have dreamt your whole life of being a film star, but it will make you a better-rounded performer and build a foundation for your career in the long term.
Some new actors believe that they have to get stage acting experience before they are able to make the switch to performing on the big screen – but this doesn’t necessarily need to be the case. You will need to work your way up through the ranks of the film industry before ever landing a larger role, but it is very possible to begin your career in movies. If you were to pursue a career in film after working on stage for some time, you would be close to starting all over again from scratch. This is because the two mediums are so very different- as are the skills they respectively require.
Many actors prefer to accept as many acting jobs as possible, on stage or on screen, in the early stages of their career, while others prefer to stick steadfastly to their chosen forum. To decide what’s right for you, you will need to spend some time working out which areas of acting excite you most and which you excel in. You might want to speak to your agent or acting coach about this. Some questions that frequently pop up about whether or not it’s best to go straight into movie acting include:
- What type of training are you going to undertake?
- How much do you understand about the entertainment business and how it works?
- How will you go about finding auditions and applying for them?
- Which kind of acting appeals to you most- film, theatre, television etc?
When you’ve really researched these questions, you can make an informed decision about which acting route is right for you. You will then be able to create serious goals for yourself.
Start Your Acting Career
Whether or not you go straight into movie acting is a decision that only you can make and the decision will be totally personal to you. Whichever you decide, it is important to remember that there is no easy route or fast track to becoming a successful star.
When you apply to join one of Brian Timoney’s acting courses, such as the Ultimate Acting Programme or the Introduction to Method Acting Bootcamp will provide you with enough tools and insider information to get your career off to the best possible start.
Brian will teach you not just about the techniques of method acting, and how to draw upon them to enhance your performance, but he’ll also teach you about the business of acting too. This is an absolutely fundamental aspect for any aspiring actor who is serious about making it in this highly competitive industry – particularly when it comes to movie acting.
Confidence is hugely important for an actor. You need to have a lot of self-belief if you’re going to put yourself out there and find work, but even more fundamentally you need it when acting if you are going to convince others with your performance.
While it’s certainly true that some people seem more naturally confident than others, it’s not just down to a mix of genetics and having the right upbringing! Whoever you are, no matter how naturally confident you feel, you can learn to believe in yourself as an actor if you take the right steps.
Know your stuff
People often say you have to “fake it ‘til you make it”, but wouldn’t you rather not have to fake it? This is very much the philosophy behind method acting – we don’t want you to fake anything, we want you to learn how to unlock your potential and harness what’s already inside you to create something real.
This is how you increase your confidence as an actor too. The goal is not to learn how to mimic what you imagine confidence looks like! We want you to put the work in to gain the skills and experience so you will feel genuinely confident in your abilities. After all, if you know you’ve got the chops, why wouldn’t you feel confident about it?
Faking confidence (if you can pull it off) might well open a lot of doors for you, but when you’re up on stage or in front of a camera, if that confidence isn’t based on something real, it will soon show. Being exposed for a fraud won’t do anything for your long term confidence, so make sure you really know what you’re doing and your confidence will continue to grow with each success.
There’s a reason the Scouts have “be prepared” as their motto. They believe that if you always know “the right thing to do at the right moment” you will be able to cope with any situation. This is the root of confidence – believing you can handle any situation you find yourself in. So how do you do that as an actor?
Preparing for an audition or performance includes the obvious things, like learning your lines, researching your role and looking the part, but there’s more to it than that. Method acting means learning how to produce genuine emotion on demand, so that whatever feelings you are required to portray as an actor, you know you can call them up when needed.
Having a repeatable process for doing this means you can deliver the goods every time and you’re not leaving anything to chance. Method acting training teaches you how to develop that repeatable process so you can always be prepared for whatever is required of you as an actor.
All the training in the world will…help you a lot, actually! But it’s also important to get out there and get experience. Building confidence means having the courage to go outside your comfort zone and show yourself that you can not only survive out there, but thrive.
For an actor, this means getting out there and actually acting in front of people over and over until it no longer seems so scary. However nervous you might be before a performance, getting through it and to the applause at the end is guaranteed to help build your acting confidence.
Whether you have to start small in local theatre productions or amateur short films or are lucky enough to get professional work right away it all helps. Putting yourself out there and doing it, succeeding and then doing it again is the way to build genuine self-belief that will help propel you to each next step in your career.
Learn from the best
Copy successful people and you’ll have the confidence of knowing that what you’re doing works. After all, if something works for Robert De Niro or Christian Bale, why wouldn’t it work for you? Knowing you are using a winning formula is one of the surest ways to boost your self-confidence as an actor. And what is that winning formula? Why, method acting, of course!
80% of Oscar winning actors this century have been method actors, which really ought to tell you something. And if they can do it, so can you! These Academy Award winners have provided a blueprint for acting success that you can learn to emulate. Do that and you’ll be absolutely justified in believing you have the necessary skills to give a great performance. And once you know that, then guess what? Everyone else will be able to see it too!
Gaining confidence in yourself and your acting abilities certainly isn’t an overnight job, but with the right help and the willingness to learn and apply yourself you can become as confident as anyone.
Looking for a way to really build acting confidence? Why not apply for our 2016-17 Ultimate Acting Programme starting in October? The deadline for applications is 8th June and auctions are taking place on 15th June. Need to know more? Please feel free to get in touch with your questions.
“With any part you play, there is a certain amount of yourself in it. There has to be, otherwise it’s just not acting. It’s lying.”
Many people see acting as one great big game of make-believe, with actors spending their lives playing at being other people. While in once sense this is true, creating truly exceptional performances is about moving beyond the idea of playing a character to truly become your character. This is what we mean when we say that you need to stop acting and “get real”.
Method acting allows you to dramatically (no pun intended!) improve your performance skills so you can truly become your characters, both in your own mind and the minds of your audience. When you learn how to method act, you gain a whole new range of skills to help turn you into the consummate performer you need to be for a successful career as a professional actor.
Understand how your brain works
Our brains work in different ways when carrying out different tasks. The logical, analytical parts of our brain work best with written and verbal information while the emotional, creative side of our brain responds more to images and our senses. When becoming a character, we need to use that emotional, creative side to inform our performance.
We do this by tapping into our memories, recalling images and sense memories to help trigger the emotions we need to build our performances. By understanding how our brains work, we can give ourselves a palette of real emotions to work with on command. Method acting allows us to do just that, giving us the techniques to effectively tap into our brains hidden potential.
Produce real emotions on demand
Method acting training involves learning to control this process of emotional recall to inject real truth into a performance. The process of doing this is known as affective memory and works by taking experiences from our own lives and deliberately recreating the emotions associated with those experiences.
Learning to control this process requires a great deal of self-discipline, but, once mastered, affective memory allows you to create performances that will be utterly convincing as they are anchored in truth. Audiences can always tell when an actor is faking it, so learning to create genuine emotions reliably and on demand is a key skill for any professional actor.
Create believable characters
The ultimate goal of method acting is to create characters who are totally believable to an audience. Injecting real emotions into your performance is a key part of this process, but there are also a number of other ways The Method can help you learn to create convincing characters on stage, on film or in any other kind of performance.
Method acting helps you to understand your own personality, providing a model for creating characters, but also helping you unlock your own psyche as a mine for “psychological truth”. Developing a coherent and truthful psychological blueprint for your characters will make them far more real to you, and therefore, much more believable to your audience.
Establish convincing relationships
One of the key things that defines any character is the way they interact with other characters. Convincing relationships between characters can help sell a performance and ensure that your audience are fully invested in the narrative of the story you are bringing to life. Learning method acting includes learning how to develop believable relationships with your fellow actors, which often involves as much work off-stage or off-screen as on.
For his Oscar-winning performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger reportedly refused to break character during the entire shoot. He also sent his co-stars various bizarre and offensive things in order to keep people appropriately unsettled around him. The idea was to provoke honest reactions from his co-stars that would imbue his scenes with them with emotional truth, helping to sell those relationships to the audience.
Bring your characters to life
Acting isn’t just about learning lines and repeating them on cue, it’s also important to master the physical aspects of bringing a character to life. One of the key method acting techniques for enhancing your physical performance is animal exercises. These focus on imitating animals, incorporating elements of the way they move into your characters. This produces characters that are both physically and psychologically distinctive from yourself as the very way they move is unique.
Oscar-winning actor Mark Rylance, speaking to Backstage, said of director Michael Alfreds:
“We did a lot of animal work and improvisation. He taught that the most perfect performances were alive and present and different each night.”
Animal exercises allow you to create performances that are alive in exactly the way Rylance mentions, but also fluid. This means you can give a performance that feels the same, time after time, without having to try to recreate the exact same movements in a way that can quickly become stale.
Isn’t it time you stopped acting and got real? Our industry-leading method acting classes will help you take your life experiences and use them to kick-start your professional acting career. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or an existing actor desperate to take your skills to the next level, we can help. To find out more, just get in touch and we will be happy to answer your questions.
I’d like to introduce a concept that people in the corporate world have known for ages. It’s called targeted marketing.
How do you feel when you get a brochure left on your car that advertises the next greatest burger place in London? Here’s what I feel these ads are saying to me: “Hi, random car owner, I don’t know you and I don’t know anything about you, and I don’t care, but look, I made these burgers, and I hope you’ll buy some.”
This is a spectacular failure to impress me. For one thing, I don’t like burgers.
It’s a very different feeling when my phone company rings me up and says, “Good afternoon, Mr. Timoney. I see that you make a lot of calls to Scotland. Are you aware that we have a flat-rate discount plan that could mean you pay about 60% of what you’re paying now?”
Okay, I’m listening.
Know Your Buyer
In method acting classes you learn to know yourself. In the business of acting that’s important; but it’s also important to know the buyer.
Firstly, identify your primary and secondary types. What roles would you expect to play? If you had one line on a show, how would you dress for it? What would your character’s job be? Do you play teachers? What type of teachers? Do you play the bad guy? Are you the sweet, nurturing mom or the no-nonsense disciplinarian mom? You need to know and understand what you can most naturally deliver.
Secondly, watch TV shows. Watch the current season of any TV series that’s filming in your area. Find out where your primary type lives – in roles that are at your current tier or above. If you’re straight out of drama school and going for co-star roles – meaning the characters with job titles instead of names like waiter, doorman, Cop #2 and the like – then watch the current season to see how those characters vibe. For instance, Ray Romano is a loveable comedy character, but I couldn’t really see him on a CSI show. A cop on Flashpoint is very different from a cop on Mike and Molly. Watch these shows and try to spot someone like you in a role you would like to have.
Find out who casts those shows. Go to IMDB and find the casting director for the current season. Mark this person’s name down and keep him or her on your list of people to target.
Find out who reps the people cast in roles you could play. The paid subscription to IMDB Pro lets you in on a great deal of production info that you don’t get with the free trial. You get to look up locations, production notes, and for your purposes here, the agents of actors close to your type being cast at your next tier. Write these agents’ names down.
Before long, you’ll start to see patterns emerge. You’ll notice that certain casting directors tend to go to certain agents. Certain directors work with the same people. Start keeping a record of these relationships. Set up Google alerts for these people – the more you know about them, the better. When you get an alert that they’re speaking at an event, giving a presentation or offering an acting class; you go too. Slowly get to know these people. Build relationships with them.
Keep the information in one handy catch-all place – be it an Access database on your computer or a binder full of hand-scrawled notes. Keep it organized by name. Then when you’re about to meet the person, you can walk into that contact with more confidence. I’m not suggesting that you go up to a potential agent and immediately mention the school their five-year-old attends – let’s not get creepy – but at least learn whatever you can learn, and keep it to yourself. You never know. The information may come in handy in conversation.
Targeting your efforts is a great way to increase the results you get from your hard work. Work hard to focus your efforts. Don’t be the guy that left the burger flyer on my car. Know your buyer.
Want more practical, actionable advice that’ll help you make a living as an actor? Have you heard about my Ultimate Acting Programme?