12 Things I Learned in my First Acting Class

Don AlleyLearning, PerformanceLeave a Comment

I remember my first acting class like it was yesterday.
Because it WAS yesterday. And it was awesome 🙂
At the beginning of the class, I had my journal handy, but felt nervous about taking it out and taking notes. “Is this what you do in an acting class?” “Will people think you are a noob?” “No one else is taking notes, Don…” I quickly decided I didn’t know any of them, and my desire to learn was greater than my concern of what they thought of me. So I promptly took out my journal and started writing everything that stood out. (And apparently, everyone else had the same internal dialogue, because as soon as my pen hit the pages, they pulled theirs out too. Go figure.)

Below is a quick list of everything that I learned, or was reminded of, during my first class.

Don't forget your notebook!

Don’t forget your notebook!

  1. Take notes in every class. Everyone is there to learn.
  2. The camera responds to two things: personality and confidence.
  3. Improv is the foundation of all acting. Prior to this class, I always associated the term “improv” with comedy. Once the teacher explained that “improv is responding truthfully in the moment, creating a conversational reality, one in which you make the other actor look good,” I had a new understanding of what improv is. And I immediately wanted to sign up for an improv class. improv
  4. The camera sees thoughts. Thoughts generate expression. Often, the camera isn’t necessarily on the person talking, but the person LISTENING. And your job is to show your thoughts. The most important thing: thinking the thought.
  5. I don’t know what I don’t know. For example, casting calls. She gave us about 11 different names if casting companies to look at online. I didn’t even know these existed. And after reading each website thoroughly, I was able to construct a list of new questions. I started to learn what exactly I didn’t know.
  6. Attach your resume to the back of your headshot. That way it doesn’t get lost or separated. Or use double sided sticky tape. I had no idea. And, don’t print it on the back, because your resume is ever changing, and you don’t want to have to throw your headshot away.
  7. Headshots. You need one. Actually two, one business and one more casual. And be sure that your current head shot looks like you. She told the story of an actor she knew that showed up for a part, and he was 40 pounds HEAVIER than his headshot…and he lost the role.
  8. Regarding the headshot and resume, if you have several “looks”, you can put one of two on the back as part of your resume, that way casting agents can see your different styles, ie scruff/clean shaven, glasses/no glasses, hair styles, etc.

    Read out loud!

  9. Practice reading out loud 15 minutes per day. This is to help learning to cold read, and annunciation.
  10. Know who you’re taking to. When you are talking to a camera, you have to have an actual person in mind, and “talk” to “THEM”. This is called “conversational reality,” and she stressed the importance of it…as well as we would cover it more in subsequent classes.
  11. sticker375x360Slate your name. What the hell does that mean? When you stand in front of a camera to do your audition, they will say, “Slate your name.” It simply means say your name and then do your lines. Her advice: “Hi! My name is Don Alley” is better than a lonely “Don Alley”. Then pause, take a deep breath, and deliver.permission
  12. No one will give you permission, so take it! When you are auditioning, if you have an idea, a way to bring more truth to the lines, always give your myself permission…because no one else will. Leave the audition knowing you gave your best, vs. feeling like you could have/would have/should have done something different.
If you have any acting experience whatsoever, this is probably the most basic list of ideas you have ever read. But it’s my first experience taking an acting class, something I have wanted to do for over TEN YEARS. So I’m less interested in this blog TEACHING, and more excited to simply share that I finally took action on a goal that I’ve wanted to achieve. Maybe in the future, I’ll write an article delving into what the hell took me so long 🙂

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