Friday, June 29, 2012

The Magic Button for Great Acting

Hi.  Thanks for visiting.  As you read this, pretend that I am talking directly to you.  Because I am.  We have a tendency to distance ourselves.  Don't fall into that trap.  Take this personally.  Let it inspire you.  Review yourself honestly.  That's how this blog will be the most effective.

I took a personal development course this weekend.  It made absolutely clear what I already knew.  I have a poor relationship with my word.  And it wasn't just me.  It applied to all 147 people that were in the Landmark Forum with me.  We say we're going to do something, and then we don't do it.

Everyone is always looking for the magic button that is going to make their acting really pop.  And if you're denying that last sentence, you're lying to yourself.  We all want to take the shortcut.  The fact of the matter is that there is none.  You are never going to be 'good enough'.  You will never 'arrive'.

That's not meant to be a downer.  That is the good news!  Have you ever heard those "life is a journey" sorts of people?  The same applies to your work as an actor.  It's not about getting somewhere.  It's about fighting for your art along the way.  If there is any answer, that's the one.  Once you address your own integrity, you'll begin to see the results you long for.

What does that mean?  How many actors do we know that don't audition or don't practice?  How do they expect to get anywhere?  How about you: do you do your work on a consistent basis?  Do you spend enough time nursing your own creativity?  I doubt it.

I'm not asking if you work a lot.  Personally, I do five shows a year now.  I'm the Artistic Director of The Seeing Place Theater.  I get together with my company on a weekly basis and read plays.  I've taken two acting classes every Wednesday for the last 5 years in New York.  I talk about acting all the time.  I write all kinds of blogs.  However, I set for myself the goal of practicing the work I know I need to do to develop my actor's instrument on a daily basis...and then I rarely, if ever, get to it.  Maybe I'll run through the motions quickly, but I never give myself the time and energy that is necessary to build a new habit.  If that's me, then where do you stand?

The truth is that we all know what we need to do.  And rather than making excuses, putting it off, beating ourselves up, etc, we could spend that time and energy to do the work we know we need to do.  It's not always going to happen.  Things will get in the way.  That's fine.  Forgive yourself and recommit.  You won't be perfect.  But your effort has to become your habit if you are ever to grow.

Try this idea on for a week and see how you feel.  Simply following through on your own personal promises is huge.  Let your commitment be the thing to inspire you.  When you begin a workout regime, it never feels good.  It's an inconvenience.  But you begin to hunger for it, and then you can't see life without it.  You want to have that relationship with your craft - and also your career.  Art isn't enough.  You have to put yourself on the map if anyone is going to take notice.

I understand the fear.  Believe me, this blog applies just as much to me as it does you.  I don't know where I'm going to find the time.  But I'm tired of making excuses.  I'm tired of walking into class, knowing I'm presenting this image of the perfect student, when I'm really under-prepared.  I'm tired of feeling like a charlatan.  And I'm committed to spending 15 minutes a day exercising my acting muscles.  Because everything I am rests on the strength of my word to myself and others.  That's what's going to make it possible for me to walk into a room with confidence.  It's such a minor daily effort in comparison with what I get out of it.

Don't know where to start?  Look at your daily complaints against yourself?  What are you always excusing?  What do you justify to yourself every day?  You don't need anyone else to tell you where you fall short of your own mark.  You already know what you need to do, what you put off, what scares you, etc.  Do you need to audition more?  Do you need to get into a class?  Do you need to read more plays?  Do you need to warm up on a more frequent basis?  Where is the slack in your art?  Take this opportunity to be true to yourself.  See how far you can go.

Just remember to be kind to yourself.  The Artist's Way talks about setting "gentle goals".  That's important.  It's hard enough to take action.  You don't need yourself as an enemy, shooting you in the foot, making you doubt your worth.  Stand up for yourself.  Stand up for your word.  There is nothing wrong with you.  We all struggle with this.  Make the effort.

The magic button is integrity.

You read what I promise to do.  We'd love for you to share your goals as well.  Seriously, please spend a minute to type out a new plan for yourself and share it with us.  That's the first step.  That way, we are a community of artists empowering one another. 

What goals are you setting for yourself?


  1. This is awesome Brandon!

    My sore spot continues to be monologues: even though I have a bunch of good ones I've gotten from monologue classes, none of them are the "perfect" one. I'm coming to realize that no monologue will ever be the perfect one...the fearful part of me is just coming up with excuses not to focus. Because if I'm not solid on a monologue, I can't go into monologue auditions with confidence. And it's a convenient excuse not to audition!

    I'll start on Monday spending at least 15 minutes a day on the two monologues I like the most. Even if it's a short amount of time, it'll keep me familiar and comfortable with them. Once I get over this fear and discomfort, I'll be much less hesitant to audition!

  2. I have, finally, been taking back control over my fitness, which has a huge impact on my work as an actor. If I can't be comfortable in my own skin, it makes it pretty difficult to be fully self expressed for others. So though it's hard to drag myself out of my apartment each night, I am exercising 6 days a week to fulfill my commitment to having a healthy body. It will make a huge difference once we open DANNY AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA and I need to be in various states of undress on stage... :)

  3. Brandon thank you for your honesty,vulnerability and integrity. I feel like I am king of the slackers!!! But beating one self up(something I am the master of) is self indulgent and counterproductive and not the answer that action is. I have been working on some monologues when I am at one of my crummy jobs or going for long walks. I am resolved to take an accent class and find a teacher to work on my craft. Because of course i am justifying things all the time: I will take this class after I get this or do that because I have to have a life after all.
    I went on an audition the other day and second guessed myself to death but now I realize instead of going in my head "the bad neighborhood" or more precisely the war zone ie.homs,mogodishu why not work on my audition technique?!! And erin i loved your fitness example. I have been whining about not being able to run due to an injury for 2 weeks. Well what about swimming! what a noble concept!! I am tired of being a charlatan as well so tonight i am going to read ARCADIA by Tom Stoppard which has been sitting besides my bed for 2 months.

  4. To invest my time and money into my carreer and craft. By making little daily decisions that pulls me to my dreams. Above all, have peace and faith in God.

    1. Yes! I love that you bring in the idea of little daily decisions. I feel so much better when I have little benchmarks to achieve.

  5. That's funny - Ariel and Erin stole both my ideas!!
    I've been trying to get by with a small number of "go-to" monologues for a while now, while some potentially good new ones go unlearned.
    And I've been "planning" to go the gym regularly for some time now, too... like Erin said, it's important to be healthy to give yourself confidence within your own skin. Not to mention stamina when you're in a long run of a play...

  6. I think that this relates to everyone not just actors, everyone has something that holds them back and they struggle with/ lie to themselves about in the fight to be and do they best they can in whatever is is they are doing. In regards to myself as an artist I often find that I become unproductive when I start to think too much about all the other things I have to do that are not the thing I am currently working on. I sometimes wish I had a switch I could flip so that when I am working on one thing that could be the only thing filling my mind. I think all busy artists can relate. Its one thing to schedule my time and another thing altogether getting my mind on board with that schedule. I have found that sometime while working I all of a sudden am filled with anxiety because while I should be focused on what I am doing in order to not screw it up, instead I am lost in...the deep blue sea. So what to do? For me I know that when I become overwhelmed like this writing down goals of what I must get down regarding all projects I have going on by when is often helpful. Having a visual and lists I can cross things off of makes the sometimes daunting tasks seem more manageable. I just am not so good at taking the time to make those lists and schedules for myself as I need to be. Goal for tomorrow-make list/schedule of goals and deadlines for the rest of July.

    1. It's like you're speaking right to me. The only way I seem to get through stuff like this is to make a to-do list, attached with the time I think it will take. I did that for my work today - I didn't get everything done, but I got so much more done than if I hadn't make the list. Plus, just having it on paper got it out of my head (aka the anxiety zone) which made me so much more productive.

      It's nice to know I'm not the only one!

  7. Lists are key for me. It's amazing how may things I seem to have to do get in the way of not doing any of them, ha. Sometimes half the things on my list literally take 20 minutes collectively, but if they are not laid out in front of me, they seem overwhelming and I find myself in front of the computer for 3 hours instead.

    I think the key for me will be finding a way to go about practicing craft and enhancing my career the same way I complete those tasks in 20 minutes rather than sitting in front of the computer for 3 hours.


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