How Can Any Actor at Any Stage in Their Career Improve their Craft
Like any business, you are going to need to do the business part. Prepare your resume', show up for auditions, send out letters, keep an online presence. But in some businesses, you can hire people to do the things you aren't good at. In the acting business, you either audition well or you don't get work. You either perform well once hired, or you don't get asked again. In other words, your talent and skill are what matter most.
I have new actors coming to me or calling me who have a bit of experience in high school or college, and maybe they've been told they're good at acting. They've got what it takes. Now they want a manager and an agent and some opportunities to prove themselves. But you can take it from one who has made a living acting his entire life: You have to keep working on your skills. And there is a bare minimum of acting talent and skill that is necessary to get any work at all.
Some of what you need will only come through taking classes like those offered at the New York Acting School for Film and Television. Wherever you are in your career, we have classes designed to take you to the next level. You may even find it useful to take private coaching lessons.
But there are ways you can supplement what you gain in classes by doing things at home. Here are some things you can do.
Research through books and online resources
There is an almost endless supply of free acting advice on the internet. Similarly, whether you buy a book, get an ebook, or borrow a book from the library, many outstanding actors and actresses have written books on acting methods, styles, and approaches. Many of these resources suggest exercises you can do at home. Clearly, some of these will be better than others. Check out the reviews on Amazon to see what others are saying.
Set up a simple video camera for practice
You can learn a lot by watching yourself on camera. Whether you want to practice something for an audition or actual job, or just do practice work, the more time you spend in front of a camera the better. You can easily set your smart phone up on a $20 tripod, or buy a $100 camera and a $50 tripod if you want something a bit better. Getting a friend who has videographer skills to practice with you is even better.
Get one or more fellow actors to work with
Nothing is better for learning than teaching. So when you find a partner or a group of fellow actors to practice with, keep in mind that this is a case where giving will be more important than receiving. If you are serious about giving great direction to the others, you will need to research and study the subject. As you explain what you have learned, your own understanding will be cemented into your own knowledge base.
Working in a group can be great fun, and will also allow you to expand your networking and experience base for finding existing work. Don't see your friends as competitors. They are rarely going to be the same "type" as you, so will rarely be in competition with you.
Cold readings with your partner or group
Practicing cold reading will make it easier to take your focus off the words on the page, and allow you to get into the scene and the interaction with others in the reading. You can do this yourself by taking a scene and doing one character’s dialogue aloud. Try to do this by glancing at each line, then delivering it without looking back. The more you do this, the better you will get at this kind of site reading. Using a second person to read other parts will give the exercise even more reality.
Work on your voice
Your cat will probably get really bored with your using her as the audience, but try to use quiet times to entertain her with your characters and your dynamics. You can have tremendous presence on camera and still have a weak voice. Or you might have the perfect face for the part, but you aren't able to bring in enough power, or enough finesse to get the sense of the character.
You can also work on diction when you are alone or in front of your camera on the tripod. Delivering lines without uhh's and ahh's, and eye rolls when you blow it, will help you show the professionalism the directors are looking for.
At home you can take the time to work on imagining the scene. This is especially helpful before an audition when you have the script ahead of time. Get totally quiet and shut out the rest of your life. Concentrate all of your mind's eye on the scene. Fill in the details. What was going on before you say your lines? What happens after? What is in the background? Where are you standing? Work through your reading in your mind, seeing yourself doing the part.