Winston Churchill once said that the US and the UK were nations divided by a common language. This could also be said of UK and US acting schools. We may seem similar to the United States but we have a lot of differences in the acting schools department.
The Russians heavily influenced the US back in the late 1800s, mainly due to a man named Konstantin Stanislavsky. Stanislavsky invented a new way of training actors to create more believable acting, which he called ‘The System’.
After his death, his work was continued by Lee Strasberg who developed what is now commonly known as ‘The Method’.
Many acting schools in America follow the workings of ‘The Method’, whereas in the UK they have, in the main, avoided it.
Why? Well, the UK historically has been more comfortable with a less emotional approach and has favoured a more technical approach to acting. “No emotion please, we are British” and the old ‘stiff upper lip’ attitudes have dominated acting schools in the UK for many years and to some extent still do. It is changing – but very slowly.
Because US acting schools followed ‘The Method’ approach, they conquered the film medium very quickly, whereas the UK focused on the stage.
The truth is that you need both aspects in an acting school. You want an acting school to train the actor to deliver emotional content but still master the technical aspects such as voice and movement.
The core aspects of acting training are acting technique, voice and movement. Personally I don’t think that some of the current training goes far enough because today’s actor needs more than the core aspects.
It’s a very competitive industry and the actor needs to know how to navigate the industry, get work and mould a career for him/herself. Many acting schools don’t pay enough attention to this.
What many acting schools need to accept is that the business of acting is an art form as well. Too often I have heard the excuse that actors are artistic therefore not business-minded. Whilst I can understand that someone of an artistic nature is not automatically predisposed to business-type activities, this does not mean the actor can’t understand and learn these aspects as a necessary part of their career development.
To be frank, most people can learn anything if they want it enough.
But often acting schools do not help the situation as they tend to reinforce the view that actors are artistic and therefore they can’t handle the business aspects.
I believe that acting schools have a major role to play in educating the actor on all aspects of the business. What we want is all-rounders; people who are brilliant artistically, who can conduct business with the industry and create outstanding success for themselves.
It is possible. I know for a fact it is. At my acting school I make this a focus of the training – and it makes a difference to how the student approaches the industry when they graduate.