Being an actor requires a range of skills:
- Deep listening and being present: Listening and being present are the most important communications skill every actor need. Actors need to be able to listen deeply, which means that they get affected by what’s being said. Listening is not only about being able to repeat the words that have been said. It’s about listening to what is being said behind these words, to be in the moment. Great actors are great listeners. They are completely present, focus, concentrated and open, and not preparing their lines or what they are about to say. And that works for real life too. A great way to develop your listening skills is to take some Meisner classes.
- Awareness of Body language: Non-verbal communication skills are the most important communication skills as more than 70% of communication is non-verbal. It means that non-verbal communication is responsible for the most part of what other people think and feel about you (much more than for the words you are saying). Non-verbal communication is everything in acting since that is what you bring to the text. For this reason, it’s very important for actors to work on their body language, movements and habits, and be aware of them. People and actors are communicating all the time, whether they are talking or not.
- Excellent verbal communication skills, truthful and congruent: Verbal communication must:
- Be clear and completely understandable by the audience (in terms of loudness, clarity, pronunciation, pace and speed)
- Be truthful and congruent: Congruence happens when your verbal and non-verbal communication are conveying the same message. Being truthful is not the easiest way to communicate but it’s the most rewarding.
- Feel the words that you are saying: Actors should tell the story as if they were in it and bring people in these stories. Using your imagination while you talk will help you bring people in. Great story tellers often use images, details and impersonation to make their story more vivid. You have to see images in your imagination when you tell a story.
- Confident: Actors need enough confidence to be open, exposed and vulnerable performing in front of the audience or the camera. Actor, like every human being, also suffer from shyness or lack of confidence. However they work on it. They have to. Actors need to know how to be confident in life in order to thrive in his business.
- Energy, dedication and self-motivation: These aspects are essential for actors as acting work is very demanding both physically and mentally. It requires a lot of preparation and work. They will be required to work long hours at any time (evenings, weekends, etc…), the work can be physically and emotionally tiring, or boring. They have to do rehearsal after rehearsal, be patient to repeat the scenes many times and memorising the long lines, analysing characters and acting techniques, preparing and attending auditions and be mentally strong enough to accept casting rejections as a normal process of their profession.
- Knowledge of your body and yourself to know how get relaxed, to express emotions and find your breathing and voice: Actors are often very nervous. And this nervousness is blocking the flow of energy inside the body, affecting negatively their voice, breathing, emotion expressions and movements. For this reason, actors must be experts on listening and understanding of their own body. They not only have to be able to identify how they feel physical and emotionally at any moment (tense, stressed, blocked, bad posture, sad, in panic…) but also to know what to do to get the wished status for performances (relaxed, unblocked and open inside, present, releasing tension, clear voice, articulation…). Everybody is different, so every actor should have their own exercises and techniques that work on their bodies. What is essential for every actors is to emphasise on the importance of being relaxed. Many actors see their work as a lifelong progression, using self-discovery and internal reflection to improve their skills, broaden their repertoire and build their reputation.
- Ability to memorize lines: Actors have to learn new lines constantly, sometimes long texts in a very short time. For this reason, they should have their brain and memory trained to be able to memorize lines fluidly on time.
- Connect with people: Actors have to work with very different new people all the time and making connections with them for the safe of the play. For this reason, it’s very important for them to connect with people quickly, by observing them, listening to them and understanding them.
- Psycho-physio analyst: Actors have to know how to analyse and understand characters psychology and physiology in order “to be” the characters themselves. It is essential for actors to develop the ability to enter into a new character and engage with the audience.
- Good understanding of dramatic techniques: There are acting techniques that actors can use to help them to perform difficult, hard or very emotional scenes. To know theses techniques and know how to use them rightly, it will give the actors much more credibility and quality on their performances.
- Creativity and improvisation skills: As the directions given by the directors can be incomplete or very brief, it’s part of the actor’s job to build the character themselves in a way that is suitable for the scripts. Also some unexpected things can happen during the play or the scene, so the actor must adapt and improvise out of the script without losing the character.
- Good stage and screen presence: It’s important that the actors keep healthy and look at their image. Healthy diet, healthy habits and body care along with the proper body language, clothes and style is important for actors as they are always physically exposed to the audience.
- Industry knowledge: Talent is not enough in this industry. It’s essential for actors to have contacts in the acting industry to be known and get successful jobs. Know and meet the right people (casting directors, other actors, agencies, etc…) along with knowledge about cinema, theatre, literature, etc… will increase hugely the possibilities to get jobs and be taken int account in the industry.
- Other skills: There are many other skills that, although they may not be considered essential for acting in general terms, they can be very useful and an extra advantage over other actors. Even for some specific roles it’s a decisive factor to master those skills, such as accents, singing, dancing, play instruments, sports, stage combat (unarmed, with swords, martial arts, boxing…), riding horses, magic tricks and circus skills (trapeze artist, juggler, clown…), flexibility, writing, etc…
Every actor wants to be truthful when acting, but what about being truthful in everyday life ? And it doesn’t mean saying the shit you think out loud. It’s more than that. It’s about expressing your feelings in the right way so that people you care about know what you really feel.
My job search, Actor jobs, My job search, viewed 24 April 2019, https://myjobsearch.com/careers/actor.html
Binh 2015, 5 Communication Skills Every Actor Should Have, Hypnosis for Actors, viewed 24 April 2019, http://www.hypnosis-for-actors.com/communication-skills/
Binh 2015, How to be confident in life and acting, Hypnosis for Actors, viewed 24 April 2019, http://www.hypnosis-for-actors.com/how-to-be-confident-in-life/