Saturday, June 13, 2009

Act From Experience

"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet.
Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened,
vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved." - Helen Keller

I want to share some advice that took me a while to sink in.
I am the type of person where: when people tell me what to do and give me great advice, I don't FULLY understand it until I experience it for myself. I learn more through trial and error then I do from me just following people's advice. So if you're like me, then I'll tell you this advice and it may not register for a while. But if you are the type of person who learns from other people's experiences, then here's what I've learned:

I was star-struck when I first got to work with actor, Rider Strong (who played Shawn Hunter in "Boy Meets World", a show I grew up religiously watching). We worked in "Cosmic Radio" together, and we got to get drinks one night and talk for a bit.

At the time, I was still a newbie, and trying to soak up as much information as I could about the industry. So I asked Rider, "if you have any advice for a young aspiring actress like me, trying to break the glass ceiling, what would it be?"

I was expecting him to say "make sure you find a good agent" or "get into acting classes" or even "it's all about networking, who you know"..... at least with that kind of advice I feel like I can work towards and ask people for help with.

But, in fact, his expert advice was... dun nun nuuuuuuuuun......

"Go out, experience life, meet many people, travel, live, love, learn. An actor's job is to know the most about life as possible, because we are translating these real life experiences onto film, and sharing it with people who don't have the opportunity to see all of the world and do everything there is to do."

When he told me this, I'll admit I was kind of bummed. I was thinking to myself "I don't want to travel, go get my heart broken, go experience risky time-consuming things... I want to be in LA, auditioning, filming, networking... and that 'experiencing life' stuff seems like a lot of work".

Yes, that's actually what I thought.

Fast forward to 3 years later (right now), I see what he was talking about.

How are we, as actors, supposed to convey these emotions on screen, if we've never experienced them ourselves? We have the absolute privilege to teach millions of people about these true life experiences, we should know what we're talking about. It'd be like an News Anchorwoman reading the stories off the teleprompter, and yet, not even know anything about the subject. Sure, you can slide under the radar and hope that no one ever finds out you don't know what you're talking about... but believe me, they'll find out. If not now, then later.

Now, I'm not saying you should go do drugs if you're supposed to be a drug addict in a film, or go experience prostitution, or be in a gang... NO. But know about the subject. Research! You can actually google true-life stories of prostitutes on the web. I did it yesterday because I auditioned for a girl who was a prostitute yesterday.

Be well-versed in any subject you come across. If you only read acting books, then you're not doing your job. Expand your mind, expand your experiences. It's our job (as actors) to live life to the fullest so we can translate our experiences onto film for others to learn from.

So, go out: LIVE, LOVE, LEARN!