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Acting Tips

Help Starting my Acting Career

QUESTION:

Hi, my name Anastazia and i want to be an actress. I’m 18 years old and I’m graduating high school in June. I have never acted in my life. My school holds a play every year and I only got a small, non-verbal role. I live in a small town in up-state New York and have no schools that are close to where I live.

Can you help me find a school that is for people like me who have no acting experience?

ANSWER:

Acting Schools are usually for people with no experience, so you have plenty to choose from, especially now you’ve graduated and are willing to move out of your small town. If you don’t want to go too far, start with our listings of New York Acting Schools that cover acting schools in New York City, Long Island, Queens, etc.

Most listings include a short description, as well as information on the performance opportunities you’ll have (an important thing to start getting experience, along with career preparation), the type of degree you can obtain (if any), the tuition fee and financial aid (if any) and what you’ll need to apply (this is where you’ll find out if the school accepts all applicants, experienced or not).

Sometimes a picture and resume, along with an audition are required, but don’t let that stop you if you like the acting school in question. You can get a snapshot to begin with and write a short resume following these tips. A lot of acting schools who ask for monologues are not expecting to see a perfect performance, but just want to evaluate your potential.

To expand your search beyond New York, visit our acting schools page. It starts with an informational article to help you pick a school, followed by acting schools listings by state and city throughout the US.

Good luck.

Return to Acting Tips.

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Acting Tips

Acting Tip for Special Skills on Resume

QUESTION:

I was looking through your section about filling a resume and it was very helpful except for one thing. What if I don’t have any special skills?

ANSWER:

If you really believe you have no special skills, you don’t have to have a special skills section on your acting resume. As long as you have your acting experience and training listed, your resume will look professional.

Special skills are an opportunity to add a little personality to your resume, though, and almost everyone has some special skill, whether it’s a sport you play well or an accent you do well.
If you haven’t already done so, click here and scroll down the page to see a list of ideas of what can be considered special skills on an acting resume.

If you truly have a special skill like motorcycle stunt driver, or licensed airplane pilot, then this area may apply. I’m not sure how helpful the special skills section is to your resume. If you’re writing skills like basketball or swimming it may be best just to leave off this section altogether. In the end, will this section help you get work as an actor? Sometimes the credits on your resume and your picture are more than enough to get you called in. Good luck!

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Character Development

Help with character development!

by Shelby Salt (Calgary, Alberta Canada)

QUESTION:

In school, we are doing a Cinderella parody and I auditioned for Cinderella and got the part. I was very happy about that until it came to developing and knowing your character. In the play Cinderella likes basketball and that’s pretty much the only difference from the real Cinderella.
The problem is Cinderella is such a Boring character! There is nothing i could come up with to make her more interesting. We have to do monologues and I’m not sure how well that is going to go if I’m not comfortable with my character. I don’t want to give up being Cinderella but I just need some help with making a stronger more interesting character. PLEASE HELP 🙂

ANSWER:

There are no boring characters. Your character may not have very interesting lines, but you can make her VERY interesting with a little work and imagination. After all, this is Cinderella we’re talking about. Every little girl wants to be Cinderella when they grow up so she must have something going for her, right?

Start by writing a bio for your character. The Cinderella story is pretty vague about who she really is, how she grew up, what makes her mad, her likes and dislikes…

What is it about basketball that she likes so much? Does she become different when she plays basketball? Look for the comedy in your character. Maybe Cinderella is not so perfect after all. Maybe she’s two-faced and changes completely when she’s dunking?

This is a parody, so unlike most other acting roles, you can do a little overacting if you stay in character. For example, work on the fairytale aspect of your character and take it to the extreme. Find the quality of the perfect good sister in the way she speaks, talks, looks and walks. Start to develop one gesture that embodies that personality of Cinderella for you. Then start working on her other side, the basketball Cinderella, who may be up to anything, have an attitude and dribble like no one else. Find a gesture that connects you to that part of your character. These two gestures will help you switch back and forth and keep your monologues interesting.

That’s just an idea. I don’t know the play so these acting tips may just not work for your situation. Talk with the director of the play. Ask him or her why they picked that play and what they find interesting in your character.

Good luck!

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Character Development

What’s a character actor?

by SALIOU (NEW YORK)

QUESTION:

What’s a character actor?

ANSWER:

Good question. A character actor is someone who has a very specific type. It is often used for comedic types but not necessarily. If you always play bad guys, you can be considered a character actor.

Some people just have a strong character actor look, whether because of their features or their body type (for example, if they are overweight, very tall, or short, or muscular, etc.) Others can be considered character actors because they are very good at playing certain types of characters.

Usually, a character actor is not a lead type, but of course, some movies, especially independent films and comedies, feature character actors in the lead roles. For example, Steve Carell is a character actor who has been the lead in comedies like Get Smart and Date Night.

Being a character actor is a good thing. Character actors get a lot of work. You may not know their names but you recognize them because they keep getting hired to play the same types. Eventually, they get so much experience that they can start to branch out and do a wider range of parts. Look at Tom Hanks. He started as a character actor in comedies and went on to win two Oscars for the lead role in a drama!

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Character Development

Character Experiencing a Loss

QUESTION:

I am doing a 15 minute skit based on the short story ‘On the Sidewalk Bleeding’ and I play Laura, a girl who is deeply in love with her boyfriend, but he is killed in a gang fight and she finds him dead in an alley. I’m not sure how to get in to character for the scene where she finds him. Any tips or suggestions?

ANSWER:

I find the best way to approach these highly emotional scenes is to not force it and use your imagination. Start just asking “What If”. Think about the situation and ask yourself, “What if this was happening to me? How would I feel? What thoughts would come through my head? What would be my first reaction? What would I do to try to change things”, etc.

Start imagining the relationship between your character and her boyfriend before the tragedy. How did they meet? How did they fall in love? What did she love about him? Imagine a lot of details and specific moments. When we lose someone, we tend to remember specific moments (a smile, something they said, a moment where they made you laugh, etc.)

Don’t just make up details for the sake of it. Keep questioning how your character felt as you build the backstory so you start to understand her better. What were her fears? Was she worried about gangs? Did she think her boyfriend and her would always be together? Would marry? What were her dreams before the event?

You can use the Chekhov acting technique and question your character directly (ie. “show me what you would do in this terrible moment”) and keep questioning until you feel a connection on an emotional level. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll start feeling the inner life of your character if you just keep asking questions and using your imagination rather than making any decisions ahead of time on what she must feel. Some people completely close off when they experience loss and are unable to feel anything, others fall apart completely, others are overwhelmed with anger or denial.

If you are trained in Method Acting, you could do an emotional memory exercise. I prefer to work with my imagination but everyone’s different.

Hope this helps. Good luck! I hope you use the comments section to let us know how the performance went.

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Character Development

Getting into Character?

QUESTION:

I am doing a scene at the moment and I do not feel that I am in character one bit. How do I get into character?

Is it by looking at the movie, play or scene the actor is in?

I just don’t know how… Any help?

ANSWER:

If you are doing a scene from a movie that was released before, the last thing you want to do when working on a character is watch what another actor did.

Why?

Because it will be very hard for you to forget how the other actor performed a specific part and how they delivered certain lines. To be in character, you got to create your own character and not be tempted to imitate another actor.

1) The first step is to do some detective work. Read the play or script several times and look for clues on what your character is all about, what motivates him, what makes him “tick”, etc.

2) The second step is to start to connect with your character. A good tool is using the “as if” (ie. “what if this was happening to me”, “how would it feel to go through this”, etc. ) You can read more about how to act as if in this post.

3) The third step is to start filling in the blanks left by the writer. Write a bio for your character, walk around and experience life as your character, ask yourself what he would wear, how he would walk. This is where your creative imagination comes in. You can work from the inside by doing specific character exercises (if you’re a method actor, for example, you may do a character private moment or a character animal exercise) or from the outside (make-up, clothing, props, body movement, accent…).

4) The last step is to put it all together. Look at this post on finding the character’s energy and the use of the psychological gesture.

This is not an extensive list of everything you can do for character development work, but it’s a start.

Once you’re done with your scene, go watch that film and see what the other actor did. It’s a fantastic tool to learn, especially if it’s a talented experienced actor. You’ll probably get some insight into both their process and what makes you unique as an artist.

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Character Development

How do I act the part of a child

(canada)

QUESTION:

I am 19 years old and I’ve been acting since I was 3 years old, I’m in a play for the sears drama festival, I’m playing the part of a 5 year old, she’s a really fun character, but my problem is I have a large chest (D cup) and I want to know if any one has tips on how to make me look flat chested or close to it so I can look the part, the play takes place in modern day (2010……2011)and if any on has any other tips so I can look more like a child they would be appreciated.

thank you

the theater geek

ANSWER:

The audience will obviously know you’re not 5 years old, so instead of trying to look like a child, maybe it’s best to just suggest it in your costume and the way you do your hair (pigtails, for example, with big ribbons). If you really want to hide your chest, maybe you can disguise your shapes behind a fat suit of some sort, but don’t bind your chest as it could constrict your breathing (you need to breathe when you act!)

I don’t know the play you’re in so this may not work, but little girls love to wear princess outfits, so how about getting a Cinderella costume so instead of literally being a child, you are her projection of herself. Could that work?

Anyway, good luck. This sounds fun! Could you add a comment with the name of the play below? I’m always looking for good scenes for kids so I’d love to know what this one is called.

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Acting Tryout Questions

Acting Lingo

QUESTION:

What do the “Objective” and the “Characterization” mean?

ANSWER:

An objective is what your character wants. Whether you are working on a scene or monologue, having an objective helps you be in the moment when you act because your character is focused on getting what they want. An objective can be something simple, like “I want to leave”. It’s helpful to stick with action verbs so you don’t get in your head.

Characterization means character work, so when an acting teacher tells you to work on characterization, they mean you need to study and flesh out your character more. This includes everything from understanding your character and their motivations better to working on how they walk, dress, speak, and relate to others. There are plenty of ways to work on your character. Start by asking questions like, “Who is he/she?” “Where does he/she come from?”, “Where is he/she going?”, etc. You can also write a biography of your character or work from the “outside in” by developing a gesture, look or specific speech pattern for your character.

For more information on objectives and characterization, read our information on acting techniques.

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Acting Tryout Questions

Acting Tryouts for Membership Theatres

by Angela

(Sydney, Australia)

QUESTION:

Hi, I am pretty inexperienced and have only attended a workshop, an improvisation class and drama class at school. (Unfortunately there is no drama club or school plays held at my school, because of my area and country).

I was looking around for community theatres but I was wondering how I could have an audition in them? There is really only one I can go to and they have a membership fee before you can join…is that normal?

ANSWER:

I’m not familiar with how things work in Australia, but in the US there are several membership theater companies that require a small fee to join. Usually it’s an annual fee around $100 that is paid by all the members to support the cost of producing plays, as many theatres don’t make a profit.

That being said, in America, actors usually audition before they have to pay a fee. Legitimate membership theater companies will only accept as members actors who they think are talented and will be cast in some of their productions. Usually, members still audition for roles from plays produced by the company, but they should at least appear in one staged role a year to make it worth it.

I would drop your headshot and resume off at your community theater and ask if they hold open calls for new members prior to paying a fee.

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Acting Tryout Questions

Auditions and callbacks for pilots

QUESTION:

How soon after an auditions for just 2 lines do you get a call to see if you got the role? Are there callbacks if only 2 lines? And does the casting director make the decision for the tv pilot show or the actual director make the decision?

ANSWER:

The director and producer always make the final decision. If you were not put on tape, you will most likely get a callback, usually within a few days to a few weeks. If your initial pilot audition was filmed and you only have a few lines, you may be cast directly from the filmed audition or get a callback depending on who is casting, how important the role is, etc.

Hope you get it!