When you are an actor, acting can take over your life. You spend your free time reading plays, watching movies, going to the theatre, taking classes on acting, hanging around with other actors and talking about acting. Now, it is healthy to have a love and thirst for what you do and I often think that is often what sets us apart from a lot of other professions out there, we genuinely love and enjoy what we do. But what I am here to tell you today is that you need to take some time out, you need to put some of your energy and passion into something other than acting and I guarantee you will see the benefits in your acting.
I remember all those years ago when I was an eager 17 year old finishing my studying and looking at drama school as my next stepping stone to my chosen career. I auditioned for all the top schools and although I was praised on my talent I was told that I needed to live a little, get some life experience and come back and audition when I was older. You know what, I did go and live my life, and as a result my acting got better and I never went back to drama school – the lessons I made in life, and the contacts I made, led to me starting to get acting work, landing an agent, getting paid to do what I love, and I never looked back. They were right though, getting life experience is one of the best things we as actors can do.
Have heroes outside of magic. Mine are Hitchcock, Poe, Sophocles, Shakespeare, and Bach. You’re welcome to borrow them, but you must learn to love them yourself for your own reasons. Then they’ll push you in the right direction
I recommend you have heroes outside of the acting world, read about creative people in other industries. Teller from the magicians Penn and Teller talks of the ‘Magic of Counterpoint’, getting inspired outside of your chosen field.
To translate it to acting he says if your heroes are actors your options are limited. You will never be the Ralph Fiennes of the acting world, that position is already taken, but if your hero is Tracey Emin you could become the Tracey Emin of the acting world because that position is open, likewise if you are an artist you can’t become the Tracey Emin of the art world, but how about being the Ralph Fiennes of the art world?
Look outside of your profession and look at creative people in other industries, how do they express themselves, feed their creativity, who do they read, who do they admire, what is their style and philosophy? The lessons you learn will start to feed your acting. You will begin to see parallels, you will discover new ways of approaching your craft.
Sometimes it takes some distance to see things clearly. A change of perspective and focus can often make the world a lot clearer. When you are consumed with acting and the acting world, it is easy for tunnel vision to set in, and with tunnel vision you will start to have a lot of blind spots, and creativity might dry up. Once you start living a life outside of your profession you will begin to notice how similar things are and start solving your problems in a new and easier way.
If you want to become a better actor, don’t read a book about acting, read a book about kayaking
I took up photography in the last few years, and I have honestly noticed an improvement in my acting since. I approach scenes in a different way, I approach how I build characters in new techniques. I think by learning about photography and composition I without realised it started translating these techniques into acting albeit subconsciously. Look for a hobby which has always interested you, and immerse yourself in it, look for something which engages the body as well as the mind.
You will start to find Eureka moments. You will find parallels in the oddest of places. Fantastic lessons will be learnt, and they will be uniquely yours. Your acting will improve. Your life will improve. And you will have something interesting to talk about at auditions which might just make you stand out for the crowd of Actaholics!