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Archive for the ‘Development Advice’ Category

The Ten Thousand Hour Rule

In Development Advice on August 17, 2010 at 3:43 am

Malcolm Gladwell - investagates what actually makes people successful

Practice Really Does Make Perfect

           “The idea of excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimal level of  practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”   

            Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

What Gladwell is saying in this quote from his book Outliers: The Story of Success and throughout the book is that one: practice makes perfect, and two: what that requires in any given field is ten thousand hours.

Opportunity and support is what gives people success. No one is successful by themselves. We do not grow or work in isolation. The one thing that is in your control is the amount of practice you start to invest in the development of your talent. This removes the mysterious component of who is talented and therefore ready for opportunities when they appear and who is not. Any given person will have strengths and weaknesses in their chosen discipline. For an actor, the greatest strength you can possess is that of persistence.

The ever persistant Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks was famously asked once by an aspiring actor what it took to make it. His response to that was persistence. The act of trying, trying, trying again, doing it over and over and over is in fact the lesson from any successful person, in any given field. 

A guitarist will sit in their bedroom for hours strumming away, learning to master new chords, and then years in a garage/mocked-up studio/grungy bars rocking out with their band to perfect their craft, performance cohesion and stage presence. A dancer does years of the same simple repetitive movement to train the muscles to move in specific ways. A pianist will practice hours of scales before any good teacher will let them go near a song.

 But often, actors assume that all they really need to do is to learn their lines and believe they are ready to tread the boards or jump in front of a camera. They then wonder why they don’t land auditions or secure more acting roles. Acting, like any other profession, artistic or otherwise, requires time invested.

This week, look at your schedule of everything you have planned, and make sure that you have a significant amount of hours dedicated to the practice of the art form you wish to be successful in. A few more hours checked off that ten thousand hour goal will bring you closer to the career of your dreams. Let that journey begin now.

For a peak inside Malcolm Galdwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success on what it exactly takes to be success, check out the link here at… http://www.gladwell.com/outliers/index.html

Or buy the book at… http://www.gladwell.com/outliers/index.html

For more information on courses available at The Wellington Actors Studio check out http://www.wellingtonactorsstudio.co.nz/

The Nature of Creativity

In Development Advice on August 17, 2010 at 1:59 am

What is the nature of creativity? It’s hard to describe; to say how you find it; how you generate it. Creativity is indefinable, un-teachable, intangible and hard to get a grasp on what exactly it is and how you make it, or where creativity and creative ideas come from.

As an actor, either in rehearsal, exercises in an acting class, or in the creation of any kind of performance, it is your responsibility to understand and use yourself as an instrument. For example, a musician’s instrument is separate from them but as an actor, your instrument is yourself, and you need to know how that instrument operates.

If you want to find the triggers that are meaningful to you ask yourself, “If it was my last day on earth tomorrow who would I want to see and what would I want to say?” This crystallizes meaningful relationships and unresolved issues that could be used to generate a genuine response within yourself for a truthfully emotional performance.

When you have a creative problem, say for instance, trying to find meaningful reasons for doing an exercise or scene, then patience is really a virtue. Let me be specific about that: ask yourself a question and rather than shutting down or preventing an answer from coming through, don’t accept the mind’s first response of “I just don’t know” or “I can’t think of anything.”

We live in a fast paced world, and even with our own thought processes, if the answer doesn’t come to us immediately, we incorrectly think that we either don’t know or that the answer isn’t within us, and hence, give up. Instead, the key is to ask the question and then stay present and listening, allowing time for the answer to bubble up.

The answer to your creative question or problem is in you, but it either needs time to simmer and boil into your waking consciousness, or it needs outside stimulus for you to recognize it as a possible solution. There are two things you can do to help this:

First, ask yourself the question, but remain open and listening, being patient and trusting that the answer will appear at some random moment, a few minutes, hours or days later. This flash of inspiration may in fact be a quiet voice that comes to you when you are in the shower, walking, driving to work, or sitting on the bus, etc. It happens when you least expect it, and more often when you are doing something mindless and automatic.

Second, the creative aptitudes of your mind need stimuli. Like a well of fish, you cannot keep plundering it expecting it to always be full of ideas, without refilling it on a regular basis. So, find the things that please your artistic fancy. These activities or stimuli are personal and unique to you, only you can know what these things are.

They could include anything from setting aside an hour to do nothing but listen to your favourite album; dancing around the room to one of those CDs or cassette tapes from the 80’s that you would never want to admit to anyone else that you’ve got, but that is joyously indulgent; a trip to an art exhibition; visiting a favourite café that you haven’t been to in ages, by yourself, just so that you can people watch; a DVD marathon of favourite movies from your childhood; a walk along the beachfront, through native bush, or a collection of pretty streets in your (or someone else’s) neighbourhood; wandering through an art supply store or even The $2 Shop, and picking up every second or third item and asking yourself “What could I do with this?” not with the intention to buy, but simply the intention to be inspired; an African dance class; treating yourself to a bag of your favourite freshly ground coffee beans, fresh berries or flowers from the supermarket that are not prearranged but which you have to arrange yourself; literally fishing; getting out all of your shoes and trying them on; a bath with oils; pyjama day watching chick flick movies; home-made pizza in front of an unapologetic testosterone filled action movie; the list goes on, fill in the blanks yourself.

By feeding your creative appetite regularly with beauty, fun, and play it will give your creative muscle fuel to fire your next performance, scene, or exercise.

Julie Cameron's - The Artists Way

For more information on developing your artistic instrument check out the seminal book on creativity by Julia Cameron, The Artists Way… http://www.theartistsway.com/

Or buy the book at http://www.amazon.com/Artists-Way-Spiritual-Creativity-Workbook/dp/0874776945

For information on courses available at The Wellington Actors Studio go to www.wellingtonactorsstudio.co.nz

Stage and Screen Presence

In Development Advice on August 3, 2010 at 4:15 am
The intangible X factor some actors possess does have, to a certain degree, to do with good looks. However, that special something, the X factor, is really about presence. Screen or stage presence is an actor’s innate ability to be present fully in each new moment. These actors are fully present sitting inside what the character is experiencing.  They are living truthfully under the given imaginary circumstances of the play or screenplay.
 
Regardless of ones training or experience, this concept is relatively easy to agree on. But if you are not one of the lucky few to be born with this innate quality, or nurtured in a family that understands and encourages its development, how can you cultivate screen or stage presence?

Within the question is the answer. Presence onstage or screen is determined by one’s ability to be fully in the moment. But what does this mean, to be fully in the moment, to be present? What are you doing when you are just being? It is not a passive endeavour. It is, in fact, the conscious act of listening.  

Listening, really listening! Not just hearing sounds and other actors talk. But listening with all of your senses and paying attention to everything you are receiving onstage or in front of the camera.  

Clint Eastwood.

Clint Eastwood... No Stranger to Screen Presence.

One of this generation’s most beloved actors and renowned directors, Clint Eastwood, says that “a good actor will absorb their surroundings, their situation, and respond accordingly.” Absorb is just another word for listening.     

This week, turn the sound off on the TV and see if you can “listen” to what the actors are saying without actually hearing the words. Or watch strangers in a café; what is their body language saying? And what does their behaviour and the way they interact tell you about what they mean to each other?  

Finally, become aware of how your friends and family are speaking to you; listening to the tone and intonation of their voice. Does the meaning of their tone match the meaning of their words? For instance, can you hear in their response to “how are you?” that, in fact, they are not “fine.” What else can you hear in the tone of how others respond to you that is different to the meaning of the words they speak?    

These simple exercises are the beginning of your ability to really listen, to really pay attention, and to be truly present.    

We each have a responsibility to tune in, not only to our surroundings but to the subtle difference between observing what is going on and judging others. The point is not to find fault, blame, or ridicule in others, but rather to honestly work off “what is”.   

Visit The Wellington Actors Studio at www.wellingtonactorsstudio.co.nz for more information on classes, workshops and coaching for actors.

 

Self-Respect & Performers Confidence

In Development Advice on July 27, 2010 at 3:00 am

Sanford Meisner said, “It takes twenty years to become a master actor.”  Two decades of practice and experience to know yourself as an artist and how you specifically operate.  But it’s not just about repetition of using the same instinctive muscles… self respect and confidence are equally important building blocks to your development as an actor.

Sanford Meisner amuses his students in the middle of a class.

Start today to be mindful of the way you think about your own ability, talent, and performance. This is a great habit to develop; that of taking responsibility for managing the relationship you have with yourself as an artist and a creative professional.

What is performance confidence? As actors, we want to be good; to be interesting; to be talented and proficient. But often this desire can get in the way of actually creating good work and having a healthy work ethic. This means approaching rehearsal, practice sessions and then the performance with a positive but open attitude; always ready to learn more.

You are, no doubt already aware that working with actors who are arrogant, stubborn or disruptive can be annoying and unproductive. Other actors, however, who are insecure or unwilling to challenge themselves for fear of what other people think of them, or of getting it “wrong” can be equally frustrating for any production, whether it be in the theatre or for the screen.

We work together, not in isolation as actors.

The creation of theatre and screen projects is a collaborative process, which is about working as a team, being professional, prepared, punctual and supportive of each other.  It is also about understanding you have a unique gift, point of view and input to offer that team.  If you hold back on it, for fear that you or your ideas are not good enough it is a wasted opportunity, not just for you, but for the production and the team you are working with as well.

The Meisner Acting Technique was born out of the Stanislavski System.  My favourite quote of his that I repeat in my classes almost weekly is, “You are a thousand times more interesting than the idea you have of yourself.”  If through your training and experience you can get out of the way of yourself to let this person shine through in your performances you’ll be a happy actor but the real gift will be in the possession of your audience.

Barbara Woods

The Wellington Actors Studio

The Wellington Actors Studio is a professional acting studio providing classes, workshops and one-on-one coaching for actors, writers, directors and other creatives.   Visit the website for more info www.wellingtonactorsstudio.co.nz

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