07
Dec
15

Training

 

Why are American actors not getting cast in major films and TV? How is it that they are put aside for Australian, UK and New Zealand actors? What is not happening in their training?

 

This is the question that has been driving me for a while. It’s not that I think they’re not being taught well, but what is the focus? Are they taught to have the rigor of practice that we are seeing from our over seas competition?

 

Basic technical skills like working and drilling dialect is a case in point. Here our counterparts outstrip us; Revenge, Hannibal, Fringe all had non-American born protagonists but you wouldn’t know it to listen to them. There are many reasons why we are falling behind. The movie industry is seen as something that many can do and requires no skill. How often have you heard ‘you look amazing you should do film.’ Yes, it’s still happening. The untrained actor in the US wants fame but doesn’t want to work for it.

 

Actors are athletes in their own way. The body is their instrument, their physical presence that they rely on. So it makes sense skills that need to be drilled work on voice and body. I’m not talking about the actors who gain weight or starve themselves for a role that is a whole other conversation. I’m talking about drilling lines, knowing the script, keeping yourself in performance condition. As actors, we are our own canvas; we must hone the physical skills and intellectual skills to be able to work in our field. Skills such as portraying emotions, knowing how to break this down in a physical way. What is my breath doing? How is my voice affected? What is my physical stance? Actors must be able to portray emotions whether or not they feel it.

 

The introduction of the American method has kept us behind twenty years in the field. This is my opinion, and one that is shared by others in the industry. We train people to give themselves therapy on stage and to take everything as personal. Turning everything inward. I find it far more interesting to see how others inform you and how you react to what is in front of you.

 

Yes, these are generalizations but we have to start somewhere. On returning from his tour of US schools and universities, Christian Penny, head of Toi Whakaari in New Zealand, found students unable to take on larger questions without it becoming a personal attack on them. We need tougher skins, we need to be able to drop offers that are not taken up and move on, without grieving for the brilliant idea or offer that didn’t fit or work. To be able to hold our own when challenged, to separate from the work, it really isn’t all about you.

 

I’m not asking you to all be super men and women, but be in shape what ever your shape is. Make sure you can endure a day of rehearsal and shooting. Stop being precious about your offers. Make them and keep them coming. Drill your skill set, voice and diction, breath control, movement. These are your tools. Know how to use them and be ready to.

The face of theatre is changing and we are not keeping up. There is a movement of mixed training and media that cross disciplines. Companies like Knee High, Complicite, and DV8 physical theatre are leading the way.

 

I will leave you with this quote from Michael Fassbender

 

“Tiger Woods is Tiger Woods because he practiced that fucking swing 100 times a day. Why should acting be any different? It’s just boring repetition, and through that, I find things start to break down, and you start to find the nuances, all the interesting little details.”

 

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