So, what does ABR stand for? I’ll get to that shortly. But for now let me ask you a question and be truthful: How often do you practice your craft as an actor?
I am always astounded when actors tell me that they don’t practise acting as much as they did while they were studying acting in school. I ask them why, and of course they give me the normal excuse of not having enough time and that life just gets in the way.
Acting is like a muscle. If you don’t exercise it daily it will eventually become weak, resulting in flabby auditions and performances. You have to keep exercising that mind muscle, even if you don’t have any work or auditions to go to. It’s common sense, and it should also be common practice. Stop with the excuses of having no time. Inject some fun into it and make it work for you.
Whether you live in a large city or a small town there should be some form of acting environment or community for you to join. Whether it is amateur dramatics or an acting centre, make a point of signing up. Go at least twice, if not three times a week. On the days you are not there you should practise at home. Yes, at home. You could do this in front of the mirror or by filming yourself on your smartphone.
Going to workshops and acting classes will allow you to connect with other actors and start building relationships as you prepare for future work. Instead of delivering monologues in front of a mirror, you can pair or triple up and work on your dialogue or even whole scenes.
Since actors tend to be out of pocket at certain times, and may find it difficult to afford masterclasses, I suggest joining or creating a group yourself and inviting actors who will dedicate the time to meet up regularly to practise at someone’s house or even outdoors. The beauty of this is that you will be able to perform in front of others and gain valuable feedback, as well as having the opportunity to film yourselves performing scenes. Seeing yourself on camera is invaluable when it comes to critiquing your work and identifying areas to improve.
If it boils down to you having to practise all by yourself – which can happen, and its value shouldn’t be disregarded – your smartphone can come to the rescue. You can purchase an added microphone, which will connect to the phone and allow you to record your voice much more clearly than the inbuilt microphone would. Sound is so crucial when it comes to viewing an actor’s showreel, and especially monologues. I would urge all actors to purchase an external microphone and make use of it as much as possible. You won’t regret it. The worst thing for a viewer watching a self tape recording or a showreel is not being able to clearly understand the audio. This can quickly put people off, especially when it comes to casting directors.
Just as a professional photographer would never leave home without a camera, don’t leave yours without a few monologues under your belt. Learn at least three to five that you would be proud to deliver when the time comes. Know these monologues back to front and inside out. Deliver them to yourself while cooking, cleaning and showering so that they are part of you wherever you go. Please invest at least ten to fifteen minutes a day to learning your monologues or dialogues.
This daily act of practising your monologue will strengthen your mind muscle as well as the acting one. By consistently doing it day by day you will soon discover that by the end of the month you have a full monologue under your belt, which means that learning six monologues within half a year should not be beyond your grasp. This will really help when you’re auditioning for certain characters and the director asks you to deliver the lines in a new and unexpected way.
This is were the ABR comes in – Always Being Ready – No matter where you are or what you’re doing, you may bump into a potential prospect, so make sure you have the ammo ready to hit back with either a monologue or two whether it’s at an event, at a restaurant or even waiting in line at Costa for a coffee. Yes, you may feel nervous and uncomfortable yet it’s all part of being an actor. As long as you have your ammo ready and are prepared to deliver those lines you stand a better chance of overcoming that fear and doing it anyway.
The majority of industry professionals tend to judge the actor not by their talent alone, but also by their ballsiness. Their intention is not to belittle the actor they’re speaking to; rather it is to provoke and inspire them to come out of their shell and convey their acting capabilities. It may not get you the job this time, but it may at least teach you how to go about it more effectively in the future.
Practice makes perfect; yet it doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, you shouldn’t be looking for perfection when you’re practising your craft. You will stumble and fall at times, but embrace this learning curve. Throw yourself into the unfamiliar. Feel those butterflies in your belly. That simply means you’re on the right track. Feeling butterflies is great, so long as you can make them fly in the right direction. The aim of the game is to progress; to keep walking the journey and learning from the curves of your experiences. Mastery is beyond our capabilities, just as perfection is a mirage. Don’t aim for that, just aim to progress – every day, little by little – by taking incremental steps toward your goals. And remember – ABR.