Originally published on Backstage
Actors need to keep working on their skill when acting jobs are non-existent. Like any career, craft, or skill, acting needs to remain fresh and innovative. And the easiest way, going to acting workshops, takes tenacity.
Acting workshops have heaps of benefits. They help you stay active as an actor, they give you the opportunity to learn new types of acting approaches, freshen up on tips and tricks you’d forgotten, but they also help build your network and make you aware of the other actors in your area.
If you’re just getting started and auditions scare the crummies out of you, acting workshops can help build your confidence and skill level. Especially if you find one that incorporates teaching on auditioning and improv – I am a huge fan of workshops that use improv for exactly this reason. Improv forces you out of your comfort zone while engaging your imagination and creativity.
Some of our favourite lines or moments from films are because the actor improvised. Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy almost dropped the ball – literally – when passing the infinity stone over to The Collector, but he stayed in character and director James Gunn loved it so much he used it in the film. It’s also where that hiss from Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter come from.
Tom Felton used this as a kid playing Draco Malfoy. In one scene he finds Crabb and Goyle (really Harry and Ron) and asks Goyle about his glasses, and when Harry (as Goyle) says he was reading. Felton looked at him and said, “Reading? I didn’t know you could read.” In truth, Felton forgot the line so he improvised.
For the past few years, I’ve run The Actor’s Collaborative (TAC), an acting workshop for aspiring and practicing actors, and am also a Casting Director/Producer for The Initiative Pro, an independent film company based in Australia. Many of the actors I’ve worked with in TAC have gone on to act in the films I’ve cast or produced because I see their hard work and want them to have as many opportunities as possible. They’re the first actors I think about when other filmmakers are looking for quality actors for their student short films, features, and/or commercial gigs.
Obviously, not every acting workshop is going to be run by casting directors, but you never know who might be teaching, or even taking the workshop, and the opportunities your fellow actors have.
Going to a workshop is fun until you’ve had a long day and all you want to do is stay in for a quiet night. Or you have an early shift at work the next day and rationalise that sleep is better than going to a workshop. I get it. The struggle is real. I’ve found myself looking in the mirror and wondering why I agreed to run another workshop. But then I think of the goal and I drink more coffee and head out the door.
I was watching a speech given by Peter Dinklage, which he gave to his alma mater in 2012, which reminded me of the importance of tenacity and perseverance. Dinklage inspired the audience that finding success as an actor comes by not giving up, by sharing his own struggles for breakthrough as he slept on friends’ couches, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was going to different workshops and continuing to hone his craft.
Many of the workshops I’ve run start off strong, but over the weeks a few actors stop showing up. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard every excuse in the book and while I encourage actors to miss a night if they’ve got an audition or to stop showing up altogether if they’ve landed a theatre role and have rehearsals that night, others I really want to challenge and encourage to come back. Especially, as their lack of follow-through is a reflection of their character and affects who I look at for potential acting roles. I’m not saying that I am super judgy, but that a hard working, tenacious actor gets my attention.
In saying this, I’ve heard from several actors that get scared of performing or doing scene work and stop showing up to workshops because of their fear. Please don’t let fear stop you. Keep going. Be tenacious.
And if for no other reason, acting workshops are a great place to discover more of the acting community around you – giving you new friends you can work with, create with, and even do life with.