Carrying the Work Forward

Acting with authenticity is a lifelong pursuit. We must move forward, but equally important is how we move towards what we want.. There is so much conversation and pressure on what an actor needs to do. It becomes difficult to hear, let alone listen to your talent. Training is all about finding what works for you and strengthening those muscles. Once you have a sense of what that is, make sure you don’t change course when you move out towards being seen.

“I have a dream”. An actor’s career usually begins with a thought. I would love to do that. I want to be an actor. I want to be in movies. There is a wish... a desire. Very often that connection is incredibly powerful. It is at the root of why many people do this in the first place, but it is still just a thought until an actor takes action.

The realization of that desire begins the first step in an actor’s process. Understanding what you are and what you are not able to bring into fruition sets you on a path forward. I have met hundreds of actors who think they want to act. Not all of them are willing to put in the time and passion to making it in this career. Fewer still are able to come to terms with the reality of the dreams that they hold and their ability. Understanding that need for growth is necessary to determine an actors process.

That awareness doesn’t mean that we give up on the dream. Quite the opposite. It means that you hold firm to your goal, and you stay committed as you begin to express yourself in your work. An amateur has the luxury of getting frustrated when their work doesn’t represent all that the actor wants revealed. A pro understands that it is a journey to get there. They don’t judge their ability by one take, one scene or one role. They understand that there is always an other layer to reveal. They commit to the discovery. They learn how to own where they are. Both their ability and their limitations create the environment to grow.

Training is the forum to put all of this in practice. It is deeply personal how an actor puts all this together. One of the biggest mistakes I see actors make in their process is they focus on a right choice or the perfect take. Using their time in class to prove to themselves or others the validity of the things they want to do. I think it is by far more useful to discover how you need to work in order to open up and take risks. Focusing less on the destination and more on developing a process that allows an actor to respond with abandon and honesty in their work. Cultivating those skills demands that the actor lets go of the results. It requires that they experiment in their work. It requires trial and error. Inherent in that process is failure. One of the best teachers for an actor in their process.

My goal as a teacher, is that an actor learns intimately how their instrument works. Once that takes place, then we focus on exploring. I have seen some of the most beautiful work in class. I have seen actors putting things together in the moment that is truly powerful. That is the aim of my teaching, but it doesn’t stop there.

During this time, of course, an actor also needs to extend their team professionally. Developing your brand, marketing, finding representation and cultivating relationships within the industry are all part and parcel of becoming and being a working actor.

It is amazing to me the disconnect that can take place between who an actor is, what they are able to do, what they explore in their work and their professional persona. From pictures, to reels, pitches to representation, I watch with amusement as some actors move forward with no clear connection of who they are or what they are doing. DON’T FORGET WHO YOU ARE.

Often times, actors just haven’t thought deeply enough about putting all these pieces together. At other times, they abandon themselves to follow the latest gimmick to be seen. Sometimes an actor looks for someone outside of themselves to tell them how to do all of this. I am not saying you won’t need to be direct-able or have mentors, but at the end of the day, you are the artist, you have the vision, make sure that it is in alignment with what you are doing in your work.

At this point of an actors career, it is important to look at this collaboration as a dialogue. Learning how to incorporate what another needs of you without losing yourself is another part of the process. Everything you do in your career, if you are doing it well, will demand that you continue to grow. Process is about learning how to listen. Learning how to follow direction and your instincts simultaneously.

Once an actor arrives on set, keep in mind that all actors work differently. Suddenly you are collaborating with directors, and other actors who may have completely different training than you. Gently remind yourself that you are not trained to work their way. You have experiences at this point of how to get to the work. Use it. Listen. Be inspired by the talent and the opportunity around you. Stay present and engaged. Own who you are and what you do. Tell the truth. It’s easy when you start feeling insecure to reach for footholds outside of yourself.

One of the main tenets of the technique I teach is trust. You can be sure to feel almost everything when you are on set. What matters is what you do. Where you place your focus. I would encourage my actors to double down on what they know works for them. I would ask them to give up it looking a specific way. I would encourage them to articulate what it is like to really be there, in that moment. I would tell them to breathe and remind them that they are going to be fine. I would whisper in their ear, “have fun.”

Think of all of this as practice. Once you become a public figure everyone is going to have an opinion. As you move upward in your career you encounter all of these things over and over again with more money and pressure attached. And in the world of the internet, our world is not kind.

You will never please everyone. If you do, you are either Tom Hanks or completely boring. A vision for a successful career in art requires vision. Fight for what matters for you. Demand of yourself that you turn over every rock to uncover every strength and weakness you have. Keep taking risks that are in alignment with your work. When you need to shake it up, it will become clear, but you will find it is never “just because”.

If I could get all my clients to project their career forward in this way, it will help them commit to their training. It isn’t about just being in class. It is about becoming everything you were meant to be.

xx

Jen