How To’s

Self-Care Tips for Actors from New York Film Academy

From your physical health to your emotional well-being, not taking care of yourself as an actor will make it hard, if not impossible, to give your best performance. And if you are acting in front of the camera, every stress and strain will show! Here, we compiled a few tips to help you look and feel your best — great for your career and your psyche!

What goes in must come out.

Eating unhealthy foods or using substances and alcohol can all wreak havoc on your skin, damage your body, and make emotional stability and clarity on set or on stage very difficult.

To keep fit and healthy, this Backstage article suggests you eat a good breakfast, and keep your energy level up by eating small healthy snacks throughout the day. And as for exercise, “The most important thing is to move your body at least 30 minutes a day minimum.”

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Rehearsals and long shoots are not always conducive to getting the rest you need, but you should try to unplug and put yourself into bed at reasonable hours whenever possible. Not only will sleep help you avoid unsightly dark circles, but it’s necessary for emotional stability.

Speaking of emotional stability, ABC Entertainment Executive Director, Casting (NY) Marci Philips’ book “The Present Actor” is full of wonderful advice that ranges from the practical to the esoteric. Perhaps none is more important than what she has to say about the use of alcohol, drugs and other self-destructive behaviors that “may be a quick fix now but will inevitably and viciously bite you in the *ss.”

Empower yourself.

Let’s face it, being an actor sometimes feel very disempowering, which is why so many actors turn to producing. In every actor’s career there may be busy times and not so busy times. You may not always be booking jobs, or not the jobs you want.

So why not give yourself your dream job? Create a web series with your friends, write and produce a play, put together a short film, or find a new way to evolve new media entertainment.

As this article suggests, “Don’t just wait for the phone to ring. Submit yourself for projects through online casting sites like Backstage,” and “Find out if any films are shooting on location in your area. Do some digging. Your local film commission will have all this information.”

Perfect your craft and find a community.

Acting classes and workshops will of course help you to rock that big break when it comes, but they will also get you out of the house and meeting like-minded people.

As this article puts it, “We are in this together, and without a community, it is not only harder to find a job, it is too isolating. Face it, we don’t ‘act’ alone unless we only want to be in one-person shows.”

Self-care does not equal selfishness.

Sometimes the best way to care for yourself is to care for others. Volunteering to serve in your community is a great way to get out of your head and stop fretting about your own woes. It will also give you the opportunity to practice compassion, which will help you be a better actor and human being.

Ready to take care of your dreams and learn more about acting? Check out our acting for film programs at the New York Film Academy.

Social Media Mistakes Actors Make

With 2.07 billion active users on Facebook, 330 million on Twitter, and 467 million on LinkedIn, many aspiring and established actors are promoting their work on social media sites.

If you’re hoping to utilize your social media accounts to make new connections and build a fanbase as a professional actor, you’ll have to engage with people on one or more social media site.

With that said, many of us are warned about the potential pitfalls of social media As an aspiring actor, you’ll want to be on top of your game when promoting yourself on social media because each decision you make can impact your acting career significantly.

Want to be ahead of the game? Follow these seven tips and tricks to help create a lasting social media presence.

1) Start Small

There are many different social media platforms, but that doesn’t mean you need to have a presence on all of them. Start with one or two you are familiar with and build your presence on those accounts.

For example, start off by creating your Facebook fan page or Twitter handle. Take the time to learn tricks and techniques that will help you grow a following on those sites before adding another.

2) Stay Away From Controversy

Don’t post anything lewd, crude, or otherwise inappropriate. You are trying to be marketable and professional. Causing controversy results in neither of those things.

Stick by this golden rule: if you wouldn’t want your grandparents to see it, you probably shouldn’t post it. If you’re not sure about a post, get a few opinions from friends and colleagues

3) Remember to Do Basic Grammar Checks

Everyone occasionally makes mistakes, but constant misspellings or incorrect grammar could distract from your acting chops. Remember, if you want someone to take your acting seriously, you have to consider every post you make as a reflection of your professional self.

Remember to carefully proofread your posts and have another person take a glance as well.

4) Mix It Up

Don’t just post all text posts or constantly show off videos. Give your audience variety with text, picture, and video posts. All fans like something different — some may enjoy videos, some pictures, and some may like a little bit of everything.

Make sure you take the time to create fun and engaging posts of all types for the best results.

5) Make Your Posts Meaningful

Don’t post something just to post!

First, consider how meaningful your post is to your “brand.” Does it benefit you or your target audience? Does it contribute something unique and essential to your brand? If not, then don’t post something as filler.

6) Don’t Leave People in the Dark!

While you shouldn’t post something for the sake of posting something, you also don’t want to abandon your social media presence for weeks or months at a time.

Make a regular schedule to commit yourself to and make sure your followers are aware of when new posts will appear.

7) It’s Not All About You

Believe it or not, it’s actually helpful to not talk about yourself all of the time.  Sure, you need to be comfortable with promoting yourself, but you also don’t want to come off as egotistical. People enjoy seeing actors who are compassionate , hardworking, and human.

Brag about your latest role, but also praise fellow actors and productions you recently enjoyed.

 

Looking for a more permanent boost to your acting portfolio? Browse our acting program and other areas of study.

Acting Without Talking: How to Make a Big Impact — Without Lines!

The New York Film Academy knows that acting isn’t just about conveying emotion through spoken words. It’s also about posture, facial expressions, movement, and body language. Mastering techniques like the ones previously listed will help you become more present, more emotionally available, and genuine. As a result, you’ll feel more confident, natural, and you’ll be able to be present in the moment of your scene.

Here are some tips to help you improve certain aspects of acting without having to speak any lines. Once you master these, you’ll be well on your way to perfecting your craft.

Eye Contact

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Direct eye contact can convey a score of thought and emotion. Your acting coach has probably drilled into your head that listening to a partner is key. However, if excessive, direct eye contact may come off as too intense and ruin the emotion of the scene. Conversely, if your eyes dart around to other places during a scene without focusing on your partner, it can convey that you’re not invested. When it comes to eye contact, it’s all about achieving that equal balance.

Body language

Body language can be a driving force in expressing emotion and visual storytelling for an actor without having to speak. The first step–literally–for an actor is to determine where they need to stand, especially in relation to other actors in the scene. Don’t stand too close but don’t stand so far away that your co-stars can’t hear when you speak. Once you have determined where you are going to stand for your scene, you will want to set up your launch stance. A launch stance is the way you stand that keeps you relaxed, comfortable, and confident. Both feet on the ground with head up, shoulders back, and knees slightly bent is a common launch stance.

If you want the director or your scene partner to feel like you are listening to them, point your feet and torso in their direction. It shows that you are open toward them, and will help keep tensions low.

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Don’t underestimate the power of microexpressions; facial expressions and gestures can make or break an act. Directors want to be around people who are positive and happy. Try to smile genuinely while you are acting out your scene. In order to smile genuinely, think of a thought, joke, or scenario that makes you smile.

As an actor, you should be aware of the seven universal microexpressions. Knowing and understanding microexpressions will help you better prepare for scenes. The seven micoexpressions are: disgust, anger, fear, sadness, surprise, contempt, and happiness. They can occur from 1/15 to 1/25 of a second, so it’s important to be aware as possible when it comes your body language.

To learn more about decoding microexpressions, watch Vanessa Van Edwards discuss them one by one, and how to detect the hidden emotions from other actors.

At NYFA, it’s important for us to offer students a hands-on approach to help students prepare for performing both in front of the camera or on stage. Some classes that we offer students include: voice and movement, movement, and advanced movement.

Do you have any methods for acting without talking? Sound off below! We would love to hear from you. Learn more about acting at the New York Film Academy.

3 Ways Acting For Film Is Different From Stage Acting and How to Adjust

Are you finding it difficult to make the transition from theatre to film and TV? If so, it may be that your training for the stage is getting you into trouble. From auditions to final product, stage and screen acting make different demands on actors.

Here are three major differences with tips on adjusting your performance.

1. Distance matters.

If you’ve been on stage, you’ve probably heard it said that you must play to the back of the house. In your movements and your voice, there is not a lot of room for subtlety. Small facial expressions and soft voices will probably not reach beyond the first few rows.

Conversely, when you are acting for the camera, you must be as contained physically as possible. As this Theatrefolk article puts it, “Because of the close-up perspective, actors on film must use more subtle, controlled, and natural expressions and gestures. Large, exaggerated ‘stage acting’ can look awkward and silly on screen.”

Nearly every emotion conveyed on screen is done through facial expressions. Your eyes can betray you. If you are thinking about your lines or your hair rather than about your character’s situation, the camera will see it and the audience will disconnect from you even if they don’t know exactly why.

2. Preparation and performance.

If you’ve been in a play, you know that a lot of time goes into rehearsals. Once the curtain rises, there can be no do-overs. You need to know your lines perfectly and perform them with energy every time.

Often in film and television, you’ll probably not get more than a cursory run-through before cameras start rolling. It is also not unusual to have script changes at the very last minute, so flexibility is important.

No matter what, you have to work on memorizing lines, so that when you hit the stage or set you are not the one wasting everyone’s time! In this article, we offer tips to help you nail your lines whether you have months to prepare or merely hours.

But keep in mind that in theatre, the play runs its course linearly and it is likely that there will be an emotional pull to the end. In film and television, scenes are shot out of sequence. This means that different challenges face the screen actor, who must move quickly between emotional frequencies with little time to prepare.

3. Familiarity vs. originality.

When people go to a play, they are often already familiar with the characters and plot. They are there to see an actor bring Juliet or Willy Loman to life. As this Backstage article puts it, “The audience and critics will compare you to past versions of the same show. Because many stage characters have been played over and over, there is only so much leeway an audience will accept before they start to complain.”

In casting for film and television, it is often the case that the script will be wholly original and brand new for everyone, and its creators are looking for an actor to bring herself to the role. Especially in television, a part will grow and change with the actor. This means that when auditioning, it is important to be as natural and authentic as possible — something much easier said than done!

Ready to learn more about acting for film? Study acting at the New York Film Academy.

 

How to Make the Most of a Part with Minimal Lines

Every aspiring actor dreams of one day playing the lead roles. But whether you went through an excellent acting school or spontaneously gave it a shot, you’ll usually have to start at the bottom to reach the top. This means taking on small roles where, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to say some lines.

1. Remember that small parts are still important!

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Before you even show up to an audition or start practicing your lines, it’s good to keep one thing fresh in your mind: every part matters. And whether you have one line or one thousand, it’s important to do your work and know your part inside and out.

You don’t have look far to find A-list stars who began with bit parts, knocked it out of the park, and slowly worked their way up to build a strong reputation as a professional artist. For example, Robin William and Tom Hanks, two of the best ever to grace our industry, played various minor roles (both of them on “Happy Days”) before making it big.

Even as a day player, delivering excellent craftsmanship and making a good impression on set is always an actor’s first and foremost priority. Remember, any role can lead to future roles.

2. Prepare for the role.

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A big mistake many burgeoning actors make when given a “small” role is thinking it’ll be a piece of cake. Since they’re only reading one or two lines, they don’t take it as seriously as they should and fail to prepare. Whether you’re saying one line or many, a good actor always does the work to make sure their character has originality and depth.

Needless to say, you should definitely arrive to the job able to play your handful of lines without looking at the script.

3. Show up knowing you’re not the star.

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It’s easy to get excited about any role, but remember that although you did all your homework and are completely wrapped up in your character’s backstory, you’re there to collaborate. You will be supporting the work of the entire crew and fellow performers, including the stars. So forget about impressing the director, or worse of all, ditching the script to say your own lines. The last thing you want to do is put your ego first: do a great job, know your work, and support the story. That’s the surest way to make a great impression, after all.

4. Don’t ruin an opportunity.

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A minor role is a good way to sharpen up your skills and improve your own work ethic while showing you’ve got what it takes to create success in the industry. Small parts are a part of building a career, and it’s important to take them seriously. As actress Laura Cayouette, author of “Know Small Parts,” puts it: “One reason small parts are a big deal to me is that I make a living playing them.”

No matter how minor your role is, your work is an opportunity to not only strengthen your own professionalism, but to build relationships. Show gratitude for the opportunity by playing your role well, sure, but also by showing professionalism in how you handle yourself off-camera. This is your opportunity to build a reputation as being an actor everyone wants to work with. Don’t be the one slowing things down or giving the crew headaches.

5. Be present and connect.

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Every actor approaches their work differently. Some will want to connect and chat in between takes, some will want to remain in their process. One of the best ways to connect with other characters in your scene is respecting your fellow actors when the camera isn’t rolling, whether that means carving out space for yourself to do your necessary preparation or whether that means breaking the ice socially.

Either way, it’s important to make an effort to be respectful and acknowledge not just your fellow actors, but everyone you interact with throughout the project’s process — from the casting director to the crew. Listen to instructions and incorporate new ideas or directions when requested. Note that people who get called for another role in the future may have not been the “best” actors — rather, they were more enjoyable to work with and showed they can have good chemistry with others, functioning well in the environment of the set.

6. Give it your all.

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There’s a big difference between trying your best and, as we’ve already covered, overdoing it. Your work is not about your ego, so let those worries fade and focus on your craft. In fact, you’re less likely to get the part in the first place unless you truly commit during a reading and transform into the character. Even if it wasn’t the role you initially wanted, showing passion and enthusiasm both on and off the set can make a lasting impression and generate more gigs down the line.

What are your favorite tactics for developing your work in “small” roles? Let us know in the comments below! And study acting for film at the New York Film Academy.

 

6 Simple Tips for Memorizing Lines

If you are a current student – or alumni – of NYFA, you understand that auditions are a normal part of life. But, what if your audition is tomorrow and you have a ton of lines to learn? We’ve compiled some tips to help you memorize your lines.

1. Write your lines out.

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Try writing your lines out by hand — do not type them. This method works well for long scenes with speeches. Writing your lines out by hand forces your mind to connect to the action of writing the lines down and seeing the lines. Make sure you focus on writing your lines out and your lines only. It will let you focus on you without having the distraction of other actors’ lines.

2. Run lines with someone.

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Running lines with a partner is one of the most well-known methods for memorizing lines. The key is to run lines with another actor — not your friend from down the street. Running lines with another actor holds you accountable. Allow the person to coach you and read stage direction to you. During the first run, you’ll want to listen to the words and absorb the script.

If you can’t find someone to help you run lines, try using the app Rehearsal 2. While the app is $19.99, it allows you to highlight lines in the app, record other characters’ lines, and use it as a teleprompter.

3. Quiz yourself.

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Use a scrap piece of paper to cover up everything but the one line you are trying to memorize. Continue to read the same line over and over again. Once you feel comfortable, try reciting the line without looking at it. If you can, move on to the next line and start the process over again.

4. Go for a walk or take a nap.

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In an article published by “Chicago Tribune,” Cindy Gold of Northwestern University suggests that after looking at lines, it is helpful to either go for a walk or take a nap. While you rest, the information your brain just processed moves from short-term memory to long-term recall, where you will be able to recall things easier. Also, when you walk, you are exercising muscles and that helps with memorization.

5. Use a mnemonic device.

You can use a mnemonic device to help you remember your lines. Try writing down the first letter of every word in your lines. When you look at those letters, it will help jog your memory and you’ll remember your line a bit easier. Think of the mnemonic device as a short cut.

6. Learn the cue lines.

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Not only should you learn your lines, but you should learn your cue lines as well — these are the lines that lead into yours. By knowing the cue lines, you will be more prompt and you’ll be able to deliver your lines in a timely fashion.

Interested in learning more than your lines? The New York Film Academy offers a variety of degrees — such as Master of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, and Associate of Fine Arts — and programs for students who are interested in acting for film. 

Do you have any tips that help you memorize your lines? If you do, let us know below! And learn more about acting at the New York Film Academy.

 

Acting for Film: How to Put Together a Fantastic Demo Reel

Like most aspiring actors, you’re probably torn on whether you need a demo reel or not. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “No reel is better than a bad reel.” However, demo reels are an industry standard, considered more effective than head shots and resumes alone. Here are a few tips on putting together a great demo reel.

Get By With a Little Help From Your Friends

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If you’re just starting out and you have no footage to draw from for a demo reel, you can create your own footage! Try filming three short 1-minute scenes featuring yourself and a few actor friends, and be sure not to skimp on a professional microphone, camera, and lights if possible. This will give you some footage you can edit into a demo reel, ideally between 90 seconds and 3 minutes. Make sure to include your contact information at the end of your reel. It can be expensive to rent professional equipment, but if you can use the footage from the demo reel for multiple actor friends, the cost will be split.

Keep It Short and Sweet

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A demo reel should be two to three minutes, maximum. Casting directors don’t typically watch demo reels longer than that, and if you go any shorter you risk losing the chance to capture your talents accurately.

Film a few different scenes and edit them together; one scene alone may not entice a casting director, especially if you want to show your range and diversity as an actor. You may want to use one dramatic scene and one comedic scene to show off your skills and prove your versatility. Whichever you choose, make sure not to overdo it with your editing; splicing too many short scenes together creates a choppy reel that will turn directors away. Instead, focus on choosing scenes that convey a strong sense of your presence and skills.

Gather Footage from Current Projects

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You don’t always need to film your own reel. You can use material from current and recent acting gigs. Understand that if you are currently performing in a film project that you would like to include in your reel, the material will take a few months at least to receive: You have to wait until the film goes through post-production. Stay in good standing with the director, editor, and producer of the project; write down their contact information and save it somewhere important. When the film is finished, write or email the director to very politely ask for a copy of your footage. The footage can be delivered over Dropbox or even through a jump drive.   

Update and Don’t Reuse

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Ensure that you consistently update your demo reel with your latest projects. This demonstrates to casting directors that you are constantly challenging yourself as an actor. It also shows willingness to persevere in a tough industry. Furthermore, don’t reuse the same project for multiple clips in your reel. Each project should yield one scene: otherwise it looks like you haven’t done anything else in your career.

Market Yourself

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Once you have your demo reel, it’s time to promote yourself as an actor. Create your own website, which is relatively easy and inexpensive; you can register your domain name for under $30 per year. Link your website to your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram accounts and post updates on projects regularly. Embed your demo reel on your new website so casting directors can get a quick glimpse of your skills in addition to your headshot and resume.

Do you have any insights on best practices for creating a great demo reel? Let us know in the comments below! And learn more about acting for film at the New York Film Academy.

Developing Your Core Acting Technique

If you’re thinking about becoming an actor, there are some basic things like your type, age range, and preferred medium (stage or film, or both) to which you’ve likely given some thought. But have you considered your acting technique?

Actors can train in several techniques developed by master acting instructors, including those based on the work of Constantin Stanislavski, who inspired Stella Adler, Uta Hagen, Michael Chekhov, Sanford Meisner, and Lee Strasberg.  Strasberg’s technique is commonly known as “The Method” and looks at a deep investigation of characters’ emotional lives to intensify the connection between actor and character. Using information gathered from the script, the life of the character is made multi-dimensional through investigating the actor’s own imagination and developing a fuller sense of humanity via techniques such as a detailed and rich back story that provides the actor with a deep connection to character that integrates the writer’s intentions.

And how does one do that, you ask? While no actor is the same, we’ve got you covered with four tips to help you get started on developing your own acting technique.

1. Relaxation

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Relaxation or the release of muscular tension is a key skill in any technique. Muscles tense in order to block emotion and the anxious actor is often so full of that one emotion that they are incapable of feeling any others. Removing thoughts and tension that block emotional range and limit the actor’s imagination is an imperative. If you’re just starting out, find a quiet area and lie down with your arms at your side and your palms facing upward. Take several long deep breaths, preferably on a five count in and a five count out. With each inhale, imagine you are breathing in pure energy. With each exhale, allow all toxicity and negative thoughts to flow away from and out of your body. Allow your muscles to release and become pliant and available. Set a timer and do this for five minutes, beginning with breath and visualizing release and repeating the then slowly revive yourself by wiggling fingers and toes before you slowly sit up.

While there are a number of relaxation and breathing exercises, like these published on our blog, the trick is finding one or a few that work well for you, and then practice, practice, practice! This kind of training can seem very slow at first, and you may even fall asleep the first few times, but hang in there! This is the foundation of your technique. Many actors train with relaxation and breathing exercises that can be found in Stanislavski’s “An Actor Prepares.”

2. Sense Memory

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Sense memory is an exercise to help actors recall objects, places, or things and allow the senses to react. For example, if someone were to ask you to recall the scent of a lemon, could you re-create in this moment the sensations you originally experienced? The first step in doing this would be to take a real lemon and sit with it. Explore in in your hands, with your fingertips. Bring it up to your nose. Memorize how it feels in your hands, and the scent of it as you bring it closer to your nose. Once you’ve explored this object with your senses – touch, sight, sound and taste (if necessary) — take it away! Now that it’s gone, try to recreate your sensory experience of this object. Recall the scent, the taste, the touch of it on your fingertips — your palms. The more you practice doing this, the easier it becomes!

3. Personal Object

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Let’s say you’ve been cast to play a corrections officer. Through the information provided in the script, you know your character clocks in at work Monday through Friday from nine in the morning to five in the evening. That’s a good chunk of the day that your character in on the job. Would he or she be carrying a ring of keys on their belt buckle? Perhaps you could experiment with the sensation of wearing a heavy key ring all day. Does it affect how you walk? Do you immediately reach for them when facing a door? Do you ever mistakenly reach for them in your personal life at home?

On the other hand, what if you are playing a character who just lost their mother? Perhaps your own mother gave you a bracelet when you were young and that object holds a key to certain memories of her. Can you imagine losing your own mother, and wearing that bracelet every day in remembrance of her? Use this exercise to brainstorm ways in which an object stirs emotions.  What if you saw the bracelet every time you wash your hands? Could your character also have an object their mother gave to them that elicits feelings? In this way, using an object of personal significance is helpful in developing a template to investigate the inner life of a character.  

4. Music/Sound

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Music is another very effective tool that can be used to ground a character’s inner life. If you think about a time where you were excited and very optimistic about something — a first date, a graduation, the birth of a child — you may associate those events with a particular song. And if you don’t, you can find one that calls those feelings to mind. Now, let’s say you are playing a character who just got hired for her dream job. This calls for feelings of excitement, hope, and wonder at what’s to come. It’s also a time of transition. Can you find a song that inspires the emotions you need to ground the reality of this character’s experience?

There are plenty of songs in many genres, so feel free to go outside of your comfort zone. Music has a way of calling to mind different events in our lives, the people who were there, and the feelings we experienced in those moments. You may even be triggered by simple sounds. The sound of footsteps or a door opening and closing, and the jangle of keys can bring on a sense of anticipation, or excitement, or fear. Meditating to sound or recreating it in your mind while developing the backstory of your character can help you get into a role faster, and with more ease.

While these tips are not conclusive in preparing one’s own technique, they can certainly be used as an introduction while you are honing your craft. Remember, this is training! Taking on a character is like running a marathon, and like any runner will tell you, it takes the right training to succeed.

What are some of the exercises you practice to help develop your method acting technique? Let us know in the comments.

5 Tips for Creating Character Relationships

Ok, so you’ve done the work: memorized your lines backwards and forwards, filled notebooks with your thoughts and backstory, answered the key questions “who am I and what do I want?” and have a good handle on the circumstances of the character before the scene begins, and you’re ready to hit the set with your authentic character.

But wait! Have you thought about the circumstances in the scene itself and the effect other characters and performances might have on your character’s situation? In the fast-paced world of film and television, the first day of shooting may find you in bed with a stranger – so strong choices must also be flexible choices. Here are a few tips from the experts about creating robust yet supple character choices that will lend truth to your performance, even in high-pressure situations.

1. Put Your Objective in Context

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“What do I want?” is one of Stanislavski’s questions to ask when approaching a scene.

Adding another dimension, ask yourself “How does my character want to make the other character feel?” We rarely walk around narrating our inner emotional life. Speech is an action and it most often emerges from what we want from a situation or person.

In thinking about your character’s objective, also think about the character playing opposite and their relationship to that objective: your needs from your lover are probably not the same as from your boss. Character relationship colors what you want and how you go about getting it.

2. Prepare to be Moved

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“Sanford Meisner On Acting” is one of the top recommended books to read if you plan on pursuing acting as a profession. “Never come into a scene empty” is perhaps its mantra, and in order to follow this advice, preparation is necessary. But preparation must be both strong and malleable so that choices can be made or confirmed in the moment. An actor must prepare a specific inner life for her character that then is moved and affected by the inner life of other actors’ performances – performances that may emerge spontaneously and must be reacted to instinctively.   

3. Use Your Imagination

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As Cathy Haase elaborates in her book Acting for Film, there is no such thing as a character without relationships. Some character relationships are “primal,” relating to familial bonds, while others are determined by the social hierarchy of the world he or she inhabits. When imagining a character’s inner life, add the spice of imagining their status with the other characters to understand how your character’s position and power (or lack of it) affects your choice of actions on a given line or phrase.

4. Get Involved

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Once on set, it is vital that you get out of your own head and involve yourself with the people around you. You must see your character and the characters inhabited by other actors as living human beings who have inner lives of their own. In his book “Irreverent Acting,” Eric Morris offers exercises to help you see what is in front of you — to see your fellow actors as if for the first time. This kind of active and curious seeing keeps your responses from being stiff, and your expressions from being glazed over by your own preoccupations.

5. Pay attention

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As this past NYFA Student Resources article suggests, focus and concentration are key to creating convincing characterizations. It is vital that you pay attention to what’s going on around you as well as to what’s going on inside you. Listening to your scene partner will not only keep you out of your sabotaging head, but it will help you deliver a performance that feels spontaneous and truthful.

How do you create living, breathing character relationships? Let us know in the comments below!

How to Reach for Acting Roles That Are Right for You

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Actors actually have a great deal of agency when it comes to how they set goals, choose auditions, and decide whether or not to commit to projects. If you’re a burgeoning professional actor, it may feel confusing to decide which direction to go in terms of how your pursue your work opportunities or commit your time.

One way of making auditions easier on yourself is to spend some time before you even submit for auditions in deciding what kind of acting roles you feel would be the right fit, and why. Think beyond your dream role to the kinds of productions you’d like to be a part of, the kinds of teams you’d like to work with, and the kinds of scripts that set you on fire. Once you have this mental picture, it may feel easier to make decisions about how to invest your time and energy when pursuing work as an actor.

To help you focus your time and energy, we’ve compiled some questions to ask yourself about your professional goals. While often the primary challenge is simply to book work, sometimes actors find themselves overwhelmed with audition submissions, or in the dilemma of choosing between jobs, or wondering whether they should turn down a role. Some actors even find themselves in the enviable position of having one or more projects to consider.

Whatever your dilemma, the following can help you sort through your goals when it comes to your acting roles.

Which roles make the most of you and which roles can you make the most of?

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One of the most important things to understand as an actor is the unique set of traits you bring to the table. , which can have a direct effect on your marketability. While these traits  may not always reflect your full goals and your full range as a performer, knowing a bit about type can help you focus your job search and understand the most effective ways to present yourself to casting directors, agents, and producers. An exploration of your comedy chops or something as simple as “type” can be powerful tool when used with expertise, precision, and strategy.

Think of Goldie Hawn working with the “dumb blonde” trope to build an incredibly rich career, eventually using her success to break barriers and create her own work. Do you make a good dumb jock or are you more of a funny best friend? Are you comfortable as the hot blonde or are you a perfect fit for the role of nerdy guy or girl? Know your strengths, know your industry, and play to those strengths.

The good news is that with experience, you’ll eventually have more range to play various types. To learn more about finding your type, see our piece on how to find your type as an actor.

Is the role exciting to you?

When starting off, you’ll probably be willing to take on any acting gig that’s right for you just to get experience under your belt. However, one way of keeping yourself motivated as an actor is by joining projects that you actually think you’ll love.

If comedy is your thing, look for acting roles in this category that allow you to demonstrate your passion for making people laugh. Find a role you’re so enthused about that you can’t stop talking about the film or play when talking to others.

How is the pay?

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Money can be an ugly word when your love of acting alone is the reason you chose this career path. But as many struggling professionals will tell you, being an actor comes with its own set of economic challenges. Not everyone out there is making millions per movie.

The best thing you can do is figure out a budget for your life as an actor. There’s nothing wrong with rejecting a role if the pay means you’ll starve to death and miss paying rent. With good planning, you can figure out a budget so you know which roles will work for your plan and which will leave you stressing.

Is the script any good?

Like we’ve mentioned, it can be tempting jumping into any role just for the cash or experience. But if the project ends up panned for reasons outside of your acting skills, it can be a devastating blow.

One way to avoid this is by learning how to study a script in order to determine if the film or play is going to be a stinker. Actors reject roles all the time after analyzing the script and deciding it isn’t the right choice for their time and effort.

Is the role something you want to be known for?

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Being typecast can be a nightmare for some people, but only if you’re repeatedly getting offered acting roles that you’re not happy with. If your dream is to be a leading man or lady, it can be a bummer always playing a supporting character. If you already find yourself in this position, here are several tips to help you recover.

Is it an acting role you’ll learn from?

The fact is, most of the best actors and actresses of our time went to some form of acting school. It’s there that you’re given the tools and resources needed to decide if you really have what it takes to act for a living. Seeking out specialized training, such a the Acting for Film programs at NYFA, can also help you stand out from the crowd when hunting for a role, especially if you invest in advanced training to further sharpen your skills.

But just like any college degree or program, school is not the same as the real world. Only by being involved in real world projects  can you get a taste of what acting is truly about. We suggest targeting roles that will contribute to your growth as an actor. This can include working with experienced actors and directors, or it can simply be a project that’s unique and will force you to try new things.

What are your professional goals as an actor? What kind of acting roles do you aspire to? Let us know in the comments below!

Actors: When to Voice an Opinion

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Actors are arguably one of the most important visible elements in the theater or on screen. As a primary collaborator in the art of visual storytelling, the question of when and how to assert an opinion or suggestion is vital to the work of the actor and can make the difference between being seen as an asset or a liability by the production team.  

Depending on who you’re working with, collaboration and can be joyous and inspired or nearly impossible, and it’s always very important to find the most professional and respectful way to voice any opinion. Whether you’re struggling to communicate with a director or you’re in an environment that welcomes input, there’s a right way and a wrong way to assert yourself on set or in rehearsal.

The following are a few simple tips to consider the next time you want to share a thought or two with the production team. Finding the proper etiquette can work wonders in creating a positive working environment and resolving conflict.

Show, Don’t Tell

Most actor input is made via acting choices. Stella Adler famously said, “The talent is in the choice,” so if you have a suggestion about your role, try to incorporate that into your performance as early as the audition process to give the production team a sense of your individual take on the character or role. In addition, ask yourself whether you need permission to go with a choice since, in most cases, the most efficient way to communicate with a director is to show them what you’re thinking. Explanations can often be time consuming and murky. Just do it. If they hate the choice, they’ll let you know.

Make Sure You’re Informed

 

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The first step to being a strong collaborator is investing in the big picture. Actors who not only understand their role but the overall plot, theme, style, and atmosphere of a project are respected and valuable collaborators. Jay Roach, the director for “Dinner With Schmucks,” says of Steve Carrell, “Most actors give you two or three usable takes out of 10, but with Steve eight out of ten are great, each in a different way, each playing off decisions he made in an earlier scene or is going to make later. He has the extremely rare ability to run the entire movie in his head. And it’s probably a better movie than the one I’m going to make.”

 

As an actor, your responsibility is to analyze the script so you completely understand the character and how its creators want to see them performed. Writers and directors are counting on you to be an expert on your character and the function of that character in the overall story. You’ll find your ideas and opinions are received with more weight when you can demonstrate a full understanding of the script, including what the character truly represents in relation to the entire project.

It’s All in the Timing

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Being able to discuss common ground with your fellow creators shows them that you’ve not only formed a strong foundation for the character, but also that you respect everyone’s time and work and have the project’s best interests at heart — but sometimes it’s just not the right time to make a suggestion.

If the production is running behind on time, tempers are high, another actor just made a suggestion, or the shooting or rehearsal sequence is complicated, your idea may not be welcome no matter how solid your analysis has been. Before contributing, pause and make sure your input will be constructive and useful. A good rule of thumb is: does it need to be said, do I need to say it, and do I need to say it right now. Knowing when to stay silent or waiting for a better opportunity or idea is as important as making the right suggestion.

Pay Attention to the Approach

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There’s nothing worse than developing the reputation of being difficult on set or in a rehearsal room, so it’s extremely important to take the temperature of your collaborators and working environment and your place inside of that. Leads or stars are often also producers on a project and their position allows for a higher level of input than a day player or extra.

Before voicing your opinion, think carefully — especially if you know your idea may overstep your authority with a fellow actor, crew member, etc. Sharing a good idea can sometimes prove very beneficial to the entire production, but don’t earn a reputation as an actor who slows production or “thinks out loud” to the detriment of those around them.

And always, always make sure to play the positive. There’s a big difference between saying, “I have an idea I’d like to try with this line,” and, “This line is terrible and needs to be changed.” To maintain a healthy relationship with your fellow actors and crew, be sure to express your opinion in a way that’s sensitive to their point of view.

Weight the Risk vs Benefit

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With all this in mind, you don’t want to run the risk of always withholding your ideas out of fear of reprisal. If you’ve got a solid, well-timed idea that will work in the production’s favor, the risk you take may be well worth it in the end.  Many productions value and encourage brave actors and actresses who are willing to speak up and share ideas and input. And sometimes, when the actor ditches the script and goes with their gut feeling like Harrison Ford did when his Han Solo responded to Princess Leia’s “I love you” with “I know,” the moment becomes iconic and enters film history.

Have you had a positive experience in voicing an opinion on set or on stage? Let us know in the comments below!

The Importance Of Subtext For Actors

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Words are everything and nothing to an actor. A script is filled with words, all of which add up to a plot, theme, events, and characters but the actor is responsible for bringing the words to life. One of the best ways to infuse a performance with conflict and drama is to interpret and play the subtext of the script.

What is Subtext?

In a play or film, subtext is the underlying message being conveyed by a piece of dialogue. Some call it the “lines between the lines” or “the unsaid meaning.” Writers love to use subtext in scripts because it adds an extra layer of complexity to scenes and their characters.

Actors must act like investigators to identify the true meaning of their dialogue so that they can play the character’s subtextual intention, rather than just recite the lines. Overlaying the meaning of the subtext on top of the dialogue gives actors something to do and makes for a more interesting performance.

Finding the Meaning of the Subtext

How often do people say exactly what they mean? Probably not often because of the obstacles that stand in the way. Social conventions, other people in the room, and/or a fear of rejection are common reasons that people and characters do not speak literally. So, understanding a character’s objective and obstacles is the first step to finding their subtext.

After reading a script, take a moment to think about the objective of the character i.e. what do they want? Then, consider the different obstacles that they face. Characters adopt different strategies to try and conquer their obstacles, and these changes of tactic are often motivated by subtext.

When reading through the script, mark places where the character is communicating something great than what they say. This may be a feeling, an opinion, or a desire that is hidden within the words they say. Once the subtext is identified and assigned a meaning, experiment with ways to clearly play the scene so the subtext shines through.

Examples of Subtext

Subtext is a common convention of modern scripts and appears in every film and play we see today. Here is a simple two line exchange to illustrate subtext:

INT. LIVING ROOM

A man enters the room. A woman is sitting on the couch.

MAN

How are you?

WOMAN

I’m fine.

There are 1,000 different ways to play this scene and they all hinge of the choice of subtext. Is the Woman really fine? Does the Man really care?

An actor could decide that the Woman is happy, sad, angry, disappointed or any number of emotions which would change the delivery of the line (of course, do not play an emotion, play an action). The same can be said for the Man. He could be in a hurry, he could be sympathetic, or he could be sarcastic among other things.

This example is only to show how subtext can change. In a well-written script, there will be clues about the characters’ emotional state and the true meaning of the dialogue.

The Final Word, Between the Lines

Identifying and playing the subtext of a scene is an advanced skill that the best actors make good use of. Careful script analysis is needed to find and decide what the subtext is and solid acting technique is needed to honestly play the subtextual meaning. If the dialogue is what the actor says, and the action is what the character does, then the subtext is what the character ultimately means.

Learn more about the Film School at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

How To Analyze A Script For Actors

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All the activities we pursue in our daily lives have directions. When you drive on the road there are laws meant to prevent us from getting into accidents, when we cook we follow a recipe and when we build with LEGOs we follow the literal directions so that our castles and spaceships turn out just right. For acting, the closest thing to a set of directions for how to proceed is a script. However, complications arise because of the different ways that readers interpret scripts. This means that the primary job of the actor is to analyze a script to uncover the truth about a character so they can accurately portray then on stage or on camera.

The First Read

Script analysis is a process and the process may be slightly different depending on the actor, but, in general, script analysis starts with the basics and gradually adds details. On the first read through, it is important to understand the literal situations and events that affect a character at each point in the story. These facts from the script are the given circumstances and help to determine the actions that you will take in performance.

As you read a script, make a list of all the facts about your character. Anything you can glean from a script is helpful. What do they do for a living? Where do they live? Who is closest to them?

Breakdown into Scenes and Beats

After you have a feel for the character, map out the story into scenes and beats. Good scripts are written as a series of related events where A leads to B and B to C and so on. The practice of making a scene map helps the actor to understand the story sequentially and provides built-in points to change action.

Look for points in the script where the setting changes or the characters on stage change, or time passes. These are common ways that scenes change. Beat changes are smaller shifts within the scenes where the characters may change their action, attitude, or topic of conversation. After identifying the scenes and beats….

Identify Your Characters’ Actions

Ask yourself, “What does my character want to other people in the scene to do?” The answer that question is your character’s objective. How are you going to accomplish your objective? That’s what is important because that gives you an action to play in each scene.

Usually, characters want other characters to do something, feel something, or understand something. For example, perhaps your character wants someone to get the mail. How will you get them to go to the mailbox for you? Charm them? Barter with them? Yell at them? The right action is the one that is true to your character and helps you to start identifying your character’s type.

Stay Open to Notes and Change

Remember that acting is a collaborative exercise and actors must also take a director’s opinion into account. Listen to what a director says and incorporate it into your character in an honest way, based on your own analysis of the script. Sometimes your initial analysis won’t be correct and you will have to make adjustments throughout the rehearsal process. But, with a strong foundation for your character, built from a thorough analysis of the script, these changes will be minor and your performance will be natural.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

How To Create A Convincing Character

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If you want to be a great actor you should know the importance of conveying a character as well as staying in character. Anyone can read words off of a page, but truly creating a convincing character takes much more than that. Your goal as an actor is to be able to tell a story. What type of person are you? What events have happened and how are you affected by them? There can be a laundry list of questions. Here are some helpful tips to guide you in the direction of creating a convincing character whether it be on screen or the stage.

1. Get Into It

You should immerse yourself in the role. Forget the audience is watching you and forget that your mom is in the front row. You need to focus on your character and how they feel. Be in the moment. You can use sense memory to help with this. Sense memory is a technique, developed by Stanislavski and Strasberg, where a person can access their subconscious memory to bring emotional truth to their work. They can access the memory of sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. For example, if your character is stuck in a long dark alley and it’s full of trash, you can try to recall a memory of you being fearful in the dark at some point in your life or recall a time when you were faced with an unpleasant odor. These small details can make a big difference when conveying feelings.

2. Be Prepared

Make sure to carefully read through your lines as well as memorize them. If you don’t study your lines you will be unprepared and it will show in your performance. It will also take you out of character. Take the time to read through the script with your fellow actors and take rehearsals seriously while of course still enjoying the process.

3. Take A Moment

Take a moment to breathe in your scene.  Don’t just regurgitate the lines, but take a moment to take in the environment, and the other characters/actors in the scene.  Build and feed off of the scene and what the other actors are giving you. Take that split second to let it all affect you and process how your character will react.  This can also apply to auditions where you may be given a cold reading. A cold reading is text or script that is un-rehearsed and is often given to you at an audition. Take a moment to look over the lines and make choices about your character, think about how your character will react. It’s often fine to ask the casting director if you can take a moment.

4. Focus

Pay attention to what is going on around you in the scene. Be in tune with what other actors are doing and saying. By doing so you will have a more natural reaction to what’s going around you. Focus will also help you to not break character be present in the moment. Learning to focus more can be developed through rehearsals. However if you find yourself forgetting a line or you drop a prop on stage, just keep going. Life often throws us curve balls so just react naturally.

The more experience you get with rehearsals, auditions, and performance the more you will find yourself feeling comfortable and confident in your skin and your characters skin. You can use these tips to guide you in a direction that presents a convincing character. Break a leg!

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy, with campuses in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.

Stanislavski In 7 Steps: Better Understanding Stanisklavski’s 7 Questions

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There are so many different acting techniques and books and teachers that finding a process that works for you can be confusing. Ironically, most acting books and teachers use similar principles as basis of their pedagogy; Stanislavski’s system. This is because Constatin Stanislavski is considered the father of modern acting and every acting technique created in the modern era was influenced by “Father Stan.” For young actors, understanding of Stanislavski’s seven questions is an invaluable foundation upon which to build a character.

1. Who am I?

Start with the basics and then fill in the gaps with your imagination. Pick apart the script to find out what type of person your character is; what they look like, what they believe, how others describe them and so on. Think about your character’s past and the significant events/people that influenced them and made them who they are in the script.

2. Where am I?

The script will usually tell you where you are but the important thing for an actor is to consider how the character feels about the place they are in. Characters act differently in public than they do in private. People move differently when they are cold vs. when they are too hot. The space your character occupies can determine how they behave during a scene.

3. What time is it?

Year, season, month, day, and time of day should all be described. Then, think about how the specific time of the play changes the character’s action. If it’s set in Victorian England, voice and proper etiquette will be different than San Francisco in the 1960s.

4. What do I want?

This is a character’s primary motivation for everything they do in a scene. All actions should be executed with the goal of getting what you want from the other characters in the scene. This is also called a character’s objective.

5. Why do I want it?

There must be a driving force behind your objectives on stage and on screen and that is your justification. We all having reasons for doing what we do and characters are no different. Give your character a convincing reason for acting and you automatically generate high stakes which leads to tension.

6. How will I get what I want?

Use your dialogue, movements, and gestures to try to influence the other characters to give you what you want i.e. accomplish your objective. This is also called a character’s tactic. If one tactic fails, try a new one and see if that works.

7. What must I overcome to get what I want?

There is always something stopping you from achieving your objective. Usually, there is someone or something in the outside world impeding a character’s advancement and also some internal conflict with which they struggle. Find what it/they are and fight against them with the scene. This is also called a character’s obstacle.

These seven simple questions can provide hours of work for an actor to answer fully. The flip side is that an actor who puts in the time and energy will inevitably have a greater understanding of their character and their personal acting technique. Take them, learn them, and think about them. That is why Stanislavski asked them.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy, with campuses in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.

How To Succeed As An Actor After Acting School

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So here you go, off into the real world you go to become an actor. You just graduated, so now what?  Where do you start? Like so many aspiring actors out there you want to jump right in. You may have heard some of these tips in school or maybe some are new or insightful, either way I hope they help you take those big steps forward towards a promising career.

1. Headshots

Before you can even audition you need a good headshot. It’s your calling card. You are marketing yourself, so make it the best you can. I know you are most likely working one or two jobs and trying to balance auditioning, while living paycheck to paycheck, but don’t go cheap with your headshot. Keep in mind that a bad headshot won’t even get you in the door. In general a great headshot showcases your personality all while looking ah-maz-ing.  Avoid too much make up, you want to look like you. But if you do wear makeup you might want to consider hiring a makeup artist that specifically does makeup for headshots (often times photographers will partner with a makeup artist). Don’t wear white and avoid distracting graphic shirts or prints. Do your research on headshot photographers, check out their websites and previous work.  Ask your actor friends who they used and whose photos you like and are drawn to. Also, some headshot photographers will do discounted group rates, so if you and some friends want to go in together you might be able to save a few bucks.

2. Attitude

This business can be cruel and disheartening like a bad ex. However, remember that rejection will happen and the best thing you can do is take the criticism and feedback and turn it into a positive. You will experience set backs, but stay positive. A good upbeat positive attitude will get you a long way. Don’t forget what you love about acting and why you are pursuing your passion.

3. Get involved

Find theater groups or take some commercial classes. Why not both. By taking commercial classes you will attain the skills and learn the basics (like how to slate) and it doesn’t hurt to go on to take the advanced classes as well.  Go out and see local theater, improv shows, and professional theater. Make mental notes and get inspired. By getting involved you will have the chance to meet other aspiring performers like yourself and why not make some new friends.

4.What is your type

You should have a clear view of who you are going to play as far as age range and physical type. This can be discovered through theater coaches, casting directors and by asking your friends and teachers.  It doesn’t mean you can only play one type, but you should be aware of what you would be considered for and hopefully cast as.

5. Acting is hard work

You need to work at it. Every. Day. This means getting headshots (and keeping them up to date/accurate), attending workshops, submitting to casting calls and being as active a you can possibly be. Surround yourself with smart, talented people that you admire. This will challenge you to be the best you can be.  Research casting agencies and do what you can to get an agent (this may take some time, partaking in commercial workshops or classes can be a great way to meet the right people). Create your own website to market yourself and to keep a professional collection of the things you are doing and have done. It may take some time to build, maybe even years, but it can be helpful as you work towards branding yourself.  The whole process can be challenging and exhausting at times, but don’t give up.

I find that people in the Arts are some of the most well balanced, because they often have to hold down a day job as well as constantly audition, attend rehearsals and perform. This is a highly competitive field so just remember it takes lots of hard work and dedication. You should be fully committed to your craft and the lifestyle it comes with. I hope you find much success while pursuing your acting career.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy, with campuses in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.

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How To Transition From Modeling To Acting

Dijmon Hounsou

Former model and acclaimed actor, Dijmon Hounsou.

Modeling and acting are different arts, no doubt. But for being different they are awful similar in many ways and the transition from modeling to acting is a well-established route of many performance artists. Mark Wahlberg famously modeled Calvin Klein underwear and Channing Tatum was a heartthrob in Abercrombie advertisement before they became Hollywood stars. Charlize Theron and Monica Belluci became huge in the fashion industry before they embarked on long and successful film careers. So, if it is possible to transition from modeling to acting, how do you do it?

Educate Yourself

 Reading blogs, acting books, and plays is a great way to begin the transition to acting. The New York Film Academy blog and website has resources to help aspiring actors learn about the craft of acting and the steps required to pursue an acting career. After you have educated yourself of the basics, and are truly committed to becoming an actor, consider taking acting classes.

Go To Acting School 

There’s no substitute for the training one receives during Acting School. All actors should invest in acting classes, and models are no different because with education comes experience and confidence. Models have an advantage when it comes to becoming an actor due to their comfort in front of the camera. However, acting classes will teach the important aspects of acting that models may not be familiar with.

The ability to analyze a script, breakdown a character, and make appropriate performance choices is the primary focus of acting classes but there are so many other advantages. Acting courses offer the invaluable opportunity to study with other aspiring actors, directors, and writers. Essentially, classes are the best way to learn about acting while building a network of friends in the entertainment industry.

Use Your Industry Connections

Through modeling work models meet agents and other artists, many of whom can help with the transition from modeling to acting. Actually, a lot of modeling agents also represent actors or can help find agents that do. Other models and photographers may also work in film or commercials and have advice on for how to get started as an actor. Point being, models should use their existing connections to help start their acting career. After all, you aren’t the first to make the transition to becoming an actor. Just ask Ashton Kutcher.

Understand the Challenge

It is never easy to become a professional actor and the transition from modeling to acting will be rife with challenges. A support network of fellow models and actors, as well as a firm self-belief will be needed to make the jump from photographs to moving pictures and stage plays. However, models have the unique advantage of having worked in a similar industry with high expectations. Use your past experiences and seek out acting classes to learn the ropes and help ensure that your transition from modeling to acting is the smoothest it can be.

How To Elevate Your Craft As An Actor With Improv

Improv theater marquee

In a city where we continuously elevate our fashion sense, our taste buds, and our little tiny city apartment spaces, why not constantly elevate our acting game? As actors we gravitate towards new styles and methods of performing. The one I found to be fun and most rewarding is Improvisation.

Forms of improvisation have been around for many years. Comedia del’ Arte, which in Italian means “comedy of professional artists” is a form of improvisation that became popular in the 18th century and is still performed to this day. The performers wore costumes, masks and used slapstick props while often performing in the back of their traveling wagons. The scenes often dealt with local events and scandal, which is also similar to our current day entertainment.

Improvisation by definition is a form of theatre where all, or most of, what is performed is created in the moment of that performance. Think of it as a ready, set, go, moment, in which it’s up to you to decide what you are adding to the performance through improv. Anything goes, so don’t think too much, just act.

For example, if your scene partner says you are at the airport and you forgot your luggage, go with the moment. Why not raise the stakes in the scene: be at the airport with no luggage and you just missed your flight to your best friend’s wedding. Now that makes it more interesting! Explore where your strong choices take you and the scene. Remember there is no wrong path!

Most performances are scripted and your job as the actor is to take those words on the page and bring them to life, turning them into a believable reality. By using the principles of improv, you can be more present and focused, and less concerned with memorizing the scene, even when acting alone. This lets you be more in the moment, and able to focus on other details of your character.  When doing improv there are no rehearsals. However you can apply the below guidelines at read-throughs, rehearsals or the technical rehearsal (which is the final rehearsal before the performance) to improve at each step of the way. The lessons that follow will elevate your performance from good to great!

Exercise your acting and improv muscles

Improv is an art form. With most art forms you need to train in that craft. Practice, practice, practice; which means sign up for improv classes, join a team (or even form your own), or anything else that flexes your improv muscles and keeps your acting chops strong.  It also doesn’t hurt to get out and watch other comedy/improv performances. Take notes, get inspired, and apply everything you can to all that practice you are doing.

Be daring and imaginative

There are many moments in life where we are fearful or cautious.  With improv this is your moment to let loose and not be afraid. Create characters, develop relationships, make strong and decisive choices, and see where it leads you in the scene. Trust you are in a safe space and go for it. After all, Amy Poehler said it best: “No one looks stupid when they’re having fun.”

Trust yourself and your partner or team

Avoid questioning yourself or your partner, which can often stop or block the movement of a scene. Like your high school coach once said, “There is no I in team.” This is also true with improv or any acting performance for that matter; it’s a team sport. This trust can be built through improv exercises or workshops in which each performer needs to rely on one another.

Be true to your character and scene

Stay in the present and make strong choices (there’s that “choice” word again). Don’t upstage. Rather, the better you make your scene partner look, the better you will look. Take the suggestions from your partner and go with it. Create a story. Most importantly, be true to the character you create and react truthfully. This will ground the scene, make it more believable, and give you the freedom to explore the scene you are creating. Storytelling is a word often used in improvisation but it means something a bit different. Storytelling is when the audience wants to see something happen, or a story developing. Just remember there are no mistakes when it comes to performing improv, just be true to your character and the scene.

Tina Fey once said, “Say yes and see where that takes you. “There is an improv principle called “Yes And,” which reminds performers to go with (“yes”) what their scene partner gives them and then add to it so the other person can “yes and” again.” These improv tools will help you on a performance level, as well as in your everyday life. Improv can elevate your mood in a positive way, give you a new way to approach daily obstacles and become more comfortable socially (plus you’ll probably meet all sorts of cool improv folks). So get out there and say YES!

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

How To Use The Internet To Boost An Acting Career

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Al Gore may have claimed to have invented the internet, and Barack Obama’s presidential campaign may have used the internet to aplomb, but it is another renowned American politician whose pre-political career could’ve benefited from the internet. Ronald “The Gipper” Reagan rose to Hollywood stardom before the internet. He had to go about spreading his name the old fashioned way, through auditions, callbacks, and pounding the pavement.

Nowadays, more film and television casting happens online than in person and casting directors aren’t the only ones turning to the web for professional support. Writers, producers, and directors all utilize the internet to search for talent and to display their own successes. Actors can follow suit to boost their own budding careers by making the most of the resources and networking opportunities that the World Wide Web has to offer.

Internet Movie Database

They call it IMDb in the industry and it is the holy grail of online advertisement for the entertainment industry. On the website, actors can post headshots, film credits, and basic biographical information for industry professionals (and the public) to view. A basic profile is free and if maintained, can provide a certain amount of credibility to an aspiring actor. The downside is that because IMDb is such a large site, profiles can get buried, never to be discovered by Hollywood decision makers.

Personal Website and Blog

 A personal domain and associated blog can act like as a marketing tool, reference site, and efficient means of communication. An actor website doesn’t have to be complex. In fact, it should be simple to use, yet neat and organized. On a personal website, actors can post their resumes, headshots, reels, contact information and more. Once you generate a following, a blog is an excellent way to keep in touch with your fans and inform them of upcoming projects. The advantage of a personal website is the control it affords the actor, at a low price. A custom WordPress domain can be purchased for about $4 a month, well worth the investment just for the ease of exposure.

YouTube Account

If you can’t beat ‘em, you might as well join ‘em. Committing to improving as an actor can go a long way toward a successful career. Taking classes at New York Film Academy, auditioning for local plays, and studying acting technique are important for all actors. However, as casting director Heidi Levitt (The Artist) says, “The Internet is now your casting room,” and the number one streaming video site is YouTube.

As we discussed in our prior piece on essential resources for actors, all over the world actors are producing their own short videos, sketches, and vlogs (video blogs) and receiving millions of views as a result. All you have to do is create a YouTube channel and begin making videos and the views will come. YouTube videos show talent and determination to casting directors, and they also act as generators of traffic for your personal website. Although the goal of the videos should be to expand your artistic and professional horizons, if enough people view them, actors can turn a profit on the hobby.

Social Media Presence

Some actors hate it, some actors love it, but the fact is that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are changing the way the industry networks. As a general rule, a professional fan page should be different from you personal page and should focus on your acting accomplishments. Shameless self-promotion may not come naturally to some, but the practice is becoming a standard for many actors. Share photos and videos from the set, post updates and information regarding upcoming shows, and tweet to your heart’s content.

The internet is a crazy place, full of interference but brimming with opportunity. Any actor who is able to harness the promotional power of the net can serve themselves well in the future. Remember, all the above-mentioned websites are connected and they feed into one another. A little effort on the computer and a little creative thought are all that separate you from winning one for the Gipper.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

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How To Budget As An Aspiring Actor

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Part of the allure of acting is the uncertainty, challenge, and endless opportunity. However, those things also make acting a difficult career to weather, especially at the beginning. Actors toil for years trying to establish a sustainable career in the arts, usually working a day job on the side. The result of this constant struggle is an inconsistent income that must be managed carefully if the actor is to succeed.

Establishing a budget for life is one of the best strategies for approaching an acting career because a budget informs all the business choices that an actor makes. A good financial plan, meager though it may be, is crucial for survival in the cutthroat field of acting. Here is some advice on how to create an honest budget to reduce stress and reserve the creative energy for auditions and performances.

‘Breakdown, it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright’

Tom Petty said it, and it applies to budgeting. First, actors should breakdown their expenses to know how much their day-to-day lives truly cost. This is important because knowledge of minimum required expenditure, even in times when income is a goose egg, will help determine the amount of money that should be saved each paycheck.

Start keeping track of everything that you spend over the course of a week or month and divide spending into two categories: essential and non-essential. Essential expenses include housing, food, utilities, transportation, internet, and cell phone. These are the things that you need to live and maintain an acting career. Loans and debts owed should also be counted in the category of essential because not paying them actually costs more money in the long run. Nonessential expenses are just about everything else, including clothes, drinks, leisure activities, Starbucks, and movie tickets (although an argument could be made).

Now, take the total number from the “essential” list, and know that this is the baseline. This is the minimum amount of income needed to keep swimming in the acting world. But, since acting income fluctuates unknowingly, actors need to supplement the baseline number with savings. Financial experts recommend saving $100 or 10% each month to start building emergency savings. Add that to the baseline, the new number is the benchmark.

‘So bye-bye miss American pie’

Don McLean comes into this, I promise. After calculating spending, take a look at earnings. Budgeting 101: Income must exceed spending or else. But really, if the benchmark number is out of reach, something needs to change. Either spending needs to be reduced or earnings need to be increased, perhaps by doing extra work.

To reduce spending, attempt to find areas of essential costs that can be reduced or consolidated. Find a cheaper cell phone and internet plan. Use less electricity and water. Cut down on groceries. For example, pie is delicious but unessential. Only buy food products that are on sale. Move to a cheaper apartment. These are all actions that can be taken to cut down the cost of living.

Conversely, earnings are not locked. Ask for more hours at work. Find part-time work online. Sell possessions that you no longer use. Diversify as an actor by auditioning as a model or voiceover artist. If earnings can be increased and spending decreased, a surplus can eventually be generated that leads to the “non-essential” list.

‘It’s hip to be square’

Huey Lewis figured it out in the 80’s: It’s never too late to get square, budget-wise, or otherwise. Making a financial plan is an intelligent (albeit scary) way to attack the challenge of becoming a professional actor. Once you hit it big, drink all the Starbucks you want, but after you meet your benchmark, of course.

Learn more about the School of Acting at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.

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