Actor’s Meetings & Interviews with Agents & Casting Directors
Actors must take meetings to advance their careers. Seeking representation, management, auditions, or projects, they meet with agents, managers, producers, and casting directors. However, these important meetings are often unsuccessful because the actors present themselves inadequately. Lacking self-awareness and authenticity, actors frequently conduct themselves as victims or manipulators, which leads to their being seen as undesirable working partners, regardless of their acting abilities and credits.

Stephen Book addresses the actor’s self-presentation at an interview or meeting. He describes self-defeating behaviors and the importance of being the initiator of an exciting experience that may lead to offers of representation, auditions, and project participation.

What is Improvisation Technique?

Improvisation Technique allows the actor to employ the tools of his or her craft so skillfully that he or she is able to improvise his or her acting while speaking scripted lines. Each performance, each take is improvisational, which means that every performance or take is spontaneous. True improvisation is always spontaneous.

Of all the facets of the actor’s craft, spontaneity is the most important. One actor may have great emotional range but little spontaneity in his performances; another may have great chameleon-like dexterity in the range of his character portrayals but no spontaneity; a third may be limited in both his character portrayals and emotional range but give spontaneous performances. The third actor is the one with potential for a career.

First Level Improvisations

First level improvisations are an introductory use of Improvisation Technique. They require no script analysis or breakdown of any kind, and they are a valuable addition to the actor’s rehearsal technique.

Rehearsed scenes profit and improve with the addition of a first level improvisation because it infuses the scene with a massive dose of spontaneity. This heightened spontaneity leads to unexpected discoveries in different aspects of the scene such as the filtering out of inauthentic acting. It is significant that all discoveries are made solely by the actors with no assistance from critique, notes, or direction. These discoveries would now be available for further exploration, heightening or polishing in subsequent rehearsals.

More Benefits of First Level Improvisations

First level improvs open doors to previously unexplored areas of the work. Frequently, during a first level improv, actors discover for the first time the true meaning or significance in the scene, especially if it had eluded you or you made a limited choice in your preparation and rehearsal. We usually know what we know about a scene; however, we seldom know what we don’t know. Simply because you did not imagine or think of some aspect of the scene, should you be denied the opportunity to work in that area? First level improvisations are tools that allow you to go beyond the limitations of your thinking, imagination, and preparation and give you access to the unknown.

Script Breakdown for Improvisation Choices

Acting, like anything else, is much easier when you know what to do. Acting with memorized lines is essentially about creating a character, making choices, and playing those choices spontaneously. These are skills. How well you perform these skills is the art.

Improvisation Technique provides you with a methodology for determining when to make a choice, deciding what kind of choice it should be, and playing the choice spontaneously.

Reactive Teaching vs. Curriculum Teaching

Traditional ‘scene study’ acting classes rely to a great extent on reactive teaching. Work is prepared outside of class and then presented in class. The class and the teacher react to, or critique, the work and then the teacher redirects the work in order to improve the acting in the scene.

In experiential and curriculum oriented training, the coach’s job is to facilitate the actor’s journey by coaching and providing the curriculum, e.g., subtext, conflict, emotional access, emotional range, emotional controls for intensity changes, character, agreement, vocal, and much more. The exercises and improvs, not the happenstance needs of a particular scene or the reactions of the teacher or coach, facilitate the learning.

Importance of Experiential Learning

There are two destructive aspects of American actor training:

  1. Learning through listening and watching instead of doing. Acting is the only performing art in America where students spend most of their class time sitting and watching others work.
  2. The “guru” teacher who pontificates or rants while the students spend still more time sitting and listening.

The actor’s instrument is his body. What other artist has his body as his instrument? A dancer. An acting class should resemble a dance class. Dancers spend most of their class time actually dancing while actors spend most of their class time sitting and watching others act. The technique of anything the body does, like acting, dancing, playing music, painting, sculpting, singing, or mime, is best learned by doing it.

Limitations of Critical Teaching

One of the differences between a limited class and an expansive class is that the verbal follow-up or critique should avoid judgment while pointing the way toward improvement. In an even better class, if the teacher sees the place for improvement, he or she does not tell it to the participants. He or she asks questions that, if answered truthfully, will allow the participant to arrive at the insight himself. However simple or profound the insight may be, it is better taken and more meaningful if it comes from the actor him or herself.

Acting Teacher Stephen Book