Acting Advice

Lewis’ Quotes
“Extras play situations. Actors play actions.””An acting coach or teacher is the only service provider I know who, when they fail to help you become a better actor, can turn around and tell you that  you aren’t talented or that you don’t understand. Anywhere else in your life you would ask for your money back?”“Instead of looking for a “method” to follow, actors should look for tools. Rather than approach acting from the perspective of a cultist, one should look at it from the perspective of the carpenter. He assesses a job and chooses the tool for that job. The cultist tries to apply the doctrine according to ‘whomever’.”“If any acting teacher had the perfect method he would not be teaching in a little hole in the wall around town. He would be under lock and key by some studio and living in a mansion. Academy award winners would be thanking them every year for their help.””Just because you know what your next line is doesn’t mean your character knew in advance what he/she was going to say or how to say it!”“Just because you know your lines doesn’t mean you know what your saying or what your doing, or even what is being said to you.”“Don’t try & own the room. Give something of yourself to the room. The strongest ‘choice’ is authenticity.””On set or at the audition, breathing is the portal into being present and authentic. There is power in the ‘here and now’ not the the ‘then & there.'”

“Quite often it’s not the line you forgot, but the thought you didn’t have.”

Exercises from Lewis
The Point – If you don’t breathe you die. When your brain is not oxygenated it can’t think straight, therefore can not engage in strong, clear or complete conscious actions. When you panic, you hold your breathe. Panic makes you stupid. Almost every physical defensive behaviour is designed to cut off your breathing, in order to get your heart rate up, this triggers adrenalin, which prepares the body for “fight or flight”. This instinct is one of the most primal ones we have at our disposal. However, this does not prepare you for Hamlet’s sound advice – “The readiness is all”. In every sport in order to compete you must complete actions. These actions are executed with force, precision and accuracy on the breath. You swing on the breath, you kick and punch on the breath, and you throw and hit on the breath. In acting you should pursue your actions on the breath.Emotion rides the breath which transmits more ‘emotive data to the audience’s ear. It is also more esthetically pleasing to the ear. Do these exercises 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night, every single day. Repeat as many times as it takes to before adding the next step. Get strong on each stage before adding the next exercise to the routine.

Breathing Exercise – Lie on the floor allowing it to “hold you up” and breathe – trust gravity. If you can’t trust gravity, who or what can you trust? Once you are lying on the floor, trust and allow your body to “breathe all by itself” – this is NOT meditation, since we’re not trying to “clear” our minds but “engage” and reconnect to everything we are at that moment. Deny nothing! Deny no thought or feeling that that thought triggers. Notice how we block or deny by tightening the body and holding the breath. Keep trusting gravity and release the body and breathing. Repeat as many times as it takes before moving on to the next step.Step two is to continue to do the above while trusting your body to breathe all by itself. Remember that your body can do this while you sleep and you don’t die. You will notice you will want to control the breathing in order to control your thoughts and the feeling that those thoughts trigger. Repeat as many times as it takes before moving on to the next step. Deny nothing! Deny no thought or feeling that that thought triggers. Notice how we block or deny by tightening the body and holding the breath. Keep trusting gravity and release the body and let it breathe.The third step is to add the emission of sound on the breath, not right before it, not right after starting to exhale but right ON the breath. Repeat as many times as it takes before adding the next step. Deny nothing! Deny no thought or feeling, that thought triggers. Notice how we block or deny by tightening the body and holding the breath. Keep trusting gravity and release the body and let it breathe.Once the sound emission is seamlessly on the breath, use a scripted line to be released ON the breath. Let the line affect you. Do not try and affect it. Deny nothing! Deny no thought or feeling, that thought triggers. Notice how we block or deny by tightening the body and holding the breath. Keep trusting gravity and release the body and let it breathe. Deny nothing and get on with it.Then add a corresponding ACTION to it (i.e. to plead, if one is feeling vulnerable – attack or demand, if one is feeling aggressive). As a last step of the routine, add an OPPOSING ACTION to the same line (i.e. if vulnerable, attack or demand; if aggressive, plead or seek comfort). Let me know how you’re doing. I’ll try to clarify anything or answer your questions regarding the exercise.

Some Random Thoughts on Acting Techniques from Lewis
Character:
-I was contemplating the expression “getting into character” and thinking that getting into character is like getting “into a costume”. It would be more advantageous to think of it as, “letting/getting the character get into you”.
-Character is a simply a response to a set of conditions. This is true in science, as it is life, where we put different elements (people, objects) under scrutiny and measure their response to a host of conditions. This reveals their character(istics) or qualities. I think this is true of any endeavour that is interested in truth as opposed to interpretation. We measure and judge people by there actions, thoughts and behaviours. Since when did some of the training to be an actor start to operate outside the laws of Physics?
-The important question then is: how do you get the character into you? It seems that doing what you do in “real” life would instruct us. Change the way you think – how you behave, and how you act (the actions you play). If you do this then you change who you are. You see the world very differently when you think and behave and act differently. You are somebody else yet still you.Other thoughts that crossed my mind recently:
-If you need to have the “moment before” then don’t you need the moment before that, and the one before that “ad infinitum”. Wouldn’t a thought and an action applied to your immediate set of conditions/circumstances propel you forward and allow you to be in the moment or more present.-If you know you are in the moment then you are not in the moment.
-Is there much that total commitment to an act won’t solve?
-Are not the simplest solutions to acting problems inevitably the most useful.
-Is not the most honest answer to the question “Who are you”? It depends on what I’m thinking, what I’m doing, and how I deal with my situation. You are your actions not your feelings. Your feelings are a response to something not the cause of something. Shouldn’t this then be true when asked the same question of your character?
-Extras play situations. Actors play actions.
-If you want to look at your world or your characters world with pure – accurate -clean -clear eyes.”I ain’t looking for nothing in anyone’s eyes.” – Bob Dylan

I have also been thinking how every major athlete has a fundamental routine or set of moves before he/she shoots/hits/throws/etc. I have come up with what I believe could be the actors routine before any audition or scene.

  1. Breathe. Get in touch with how you feel right now.
  2. Ask yourself is there anything I am feeling or am thinking that will be useful to the scene, monologue I am about to perform.
  3. If yes – focus on the action, deny nothing that is going on in you and commit to what you need/want with every fibre of your being.
  4. If no – have a thought towards an event/person/thing and let it affect you(ask yourself – where, when, and with who did this happen. Let it affect you. Focus on the action, deny nothing that is going on in you and commit to what you need/want with every fibre of your being.

Use it. Adapt it. Come up with one of your own. It only makes sense that you have routine that focus’s the mind and body – brings them together for the task ahead. Your career could depend on it.

What to Consider When Choosing an Acting Class/Teacher
A class size should be no larger than 12. 8 to 10 is ideal.

How much time do you get up in front of the class to work on your material or have analyzed during playback? Anything less than 20 minutes is suspect. Ask yourself, “Was the time you spent up there valuable?”

Are you more confident or assured than you were before you went up? Do you feel more confident about how to do the work without your teacher’s guidance than before?

The acting teacher should always challenge you. However, they should never speak harshly to you or abuse you. You are paying him/her for a service.

What they teach must meet the criteria of common sense and conform to the laws of physics. It must be doable. A metaphor should be used to inspire or clarify. You can’t apply or do a metaphor.

When you get a note from the teacher, can it be applied to the task at hand? You should not feel rushed. Remember it is your time. You must not feel afraid to ask questions, even if they challenge the wisdom of the teacher. You are entitled. You are not wasting their time. You paid for it! It is your time.

Is your teacher available before or after class to discuss questions you don’t feel comfortable asking in front of the class. If not, will they arrange an alternate time during the week?

Does the teacher play favorites? Does your gut instinct tell you his/her judgment is getting confused with their libido?

Make sure they are spending more time on you and your development rather than talking about themselves.

Do they have a passion for their work? Do they seem to care or are they teaching by rote?

Above all, listen to your heart and heed common sense. Distinguish between being challenged and abused.

Think of your Acting Coach/Teacher like you would any other service provider, not like a guru! Expect value for your hard earned money.

An acting coach or teacher is the only service provider I know, who, when they fail to help you become a better actor they can turn around and tell you that you aren’t talented or that you don’t understand. Anywhere else in your life you would ask for your money back.

Advice to Parents
Coming Soon
Book Recommendations from Lewis
Wisdom of Insecurity – Alan Watts
Blink – Malcolm Gladwell
The Shallows – Nicholas Carr
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values – Robert M. Pirsig
Save the Cat – Blake Snyder
The Hero with A Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell
True and False – David Mamet
I Am a Strange Loop – Douglas R. Hofstadter
Online Accent Resource
IDEA – The International Dialects of English Archive
Many more resources are provided in our VOICE & DIALECT Workshop Booklets
Need helping learning lines? Looking for a reader?
Join us on our Facebook page
When you want someone to help you learn your lines, you need a reader for a self-tape or any other ‘favour’,  POST your request on our Facebook page. There is a large network of actors that will be willing to help out. We have mentioned this to a bunch of our students and they love the idea. They are open to helping out, as they know they will need the favour returned one day soon.
Also, a friendly tip – we have had several students that have found the  REHEARSAL 2 App very helpful.
STAY TUNED AS WE ARE DEVELOPING NEW WAYS TO HELP ACTORS CONNECT!
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