For those of you who don't know Mark Westbrook (@actingcoachmark on Twitter), I wanted to give you a chance to check him out. He and I come from slightly different disciplines (although I have nothing but respect for his approach) and remarkably similar ways of viewing the craft of acting. Please take a second after reading this entry to go and see his blog, where my guest entry is currently posted.
First off, let me say, it’s an honour to feature on Ben’s blog, we acting coaches are not known for flocking together, in fact, the collective term for our profession is probably a ‘discordance’, if anything. So I really was delighted to have found another acting coach online, with a very similar philosophy of acting, if the actual practical application differs.
With each new student, I always start from the same point. Where are you at now? And where do you want to be? A simple coaching question. It could be asked in anyway field, but it cuts through what I call the ‘wantingitNESS’ and starts to make the actor figure out practicably (so it’s capable of being done) what steps should be taken to become an actor. I hear lots of people say they ‘want’ to be actors, want to be writers, want to be directors, but unless they actually take the steps to achieving this, you are only left with a burning want, and zero achievement. The want is not enough. You’ve got to take action.
But what action should you take? There are of course, two sides to this. The business side of the actor, and the technique side. If you’ve read Ben’s blog before, or caught his Twitter feed, or listened to his Radio Show, you’ll know that he handles both sides and his advice is always very valuable.
At my own studio in Glasgow, Scotland, we don’t really focus on the business side, we do help students that have those questions, but our primary aim is to help people to learn to become truthful actors.
Well, what the heck does that mean?
I mean that when someone watches you act, that you do nothing to disturb their appreciation of it. The audience will put up with a lot, but they sense bullshit and pretending from miles away, but give them truth, show them the truth, and you’ll notice an amazing phenomena, people start to lean forwards in their seats, the room goes quiet, and everyone is drawn to this actor, who may be doing very little, but they are doing so with truth and have become entirely captivating.
The starting point for our actors at ACS is the truth, we do this by combining the acting philosophies of many great people into a very simple little package. I said simple, but I didn’t say easy. It takes about two years of classes to ground the basics. After that, it’s a matter of growing experience in relations to different acting challenges. When I tell students this, (long before I mention Sanford Meisner’s quote about it taking 20 years!) some people look quite disappointed. They want the quick fix. Well it isn’t going to happen.
The starting point for you as an actor, is the understand that you are joining a craft of acting that takes time, requires an apprenticeship, needs a commitment that is long, steady and ongoing, and is often the cold truthful answer behind the hot burning ‘wantitNESS’ that’s driving you.
Acting Coach Scotland
Mark's blog can be found here. Go and check it out!