WRITTEN BY AMELIA BRANTLEY
New year. New me. New blog. That’s my 2019 mantra, and in that vein, I’m going to kick off this week’s writing venture with a three-part series (fair warning, I LOVE three-part blogs). I’m calling it ‘Mind, Body, Soul for the Actor’.
Now, before you roll your eyes at the cliché-ness of this topic, let me just say… Well, nothing. I kinda rolled my eyes when this idea popped into my head, too. But stay with me. We’ve all dabbled in self-help and most of us have thought that maybe there are more things we could do as creative people to improve and fulfill our lives. As actors and as artists, our minds work differently, so the things we need are specific to maintain a certain healthy lifestyle while pursuing this crazy, uncertain industry. Keeping our minds healthy, sharp, and flexible is the first key to a thriving artistic journey.
So, let’s begin this 3-part series with 5 ways actors can train their brain.
1. Be in class
A younger actress I know asked me recently why I thought the great actors were considered so great. Was it training, life experience, a gift from God? I think what makes a great actor is all of the above with a splash of dumb luck. We can’t control the luck stuff, so let’s focus on what we can control. Training. Every actor needs to be in class. It’s the only way to work the part of your brain where you become someone else– think like them, act like them, make decisions, talk, walk and react like someone else. This part of your mind cannot develop without consistent training and new challenges. Work the muscle and let it grow. There are so many great teachers and coaches in Los Angeles (and other major markets), so find one. Ask your friends who they like. Do your research. Audit some classes. Find what works for you.
2. Learn from others
One of my favorite things to do is read biographies or autobiographies of my favorite actors and actresses. If there isn’t a biography yet, I’ll read, watch, and listen to every interview I can get my hands on. I love podcasts like “On Air with Sam Jones” and “That One Audition”. The hosts of those podcasts are curious about all-things-actor and it’s fascinating what you’ll learn.
3. Life Experience
There is no job more empathic than that of an actor’s. To empathize, one must understand. To tell stories truthfully, one must truly feel. That’s why when I read and learn about successful actors’ lives, I realize that many have dealt with a lot of heartache, some self-inflicted, some just a series of unfortunate events. But just because your life has been pretty okay, doesn’t mean you won’t be a great actor. It’s all about gaining experiences and seeing the world through different eyes. Traveling really hits the mark in this case. Can’t afford it? Reading or watching documentaries about different people, cultures, countries, professions, and lifestyles opens you up to new worlds and possibilities. Become as curious as possible!
4. Learn a new skill
Nothing stretches your mind more than challenging your brain to learn something new. How about that language you keep telling yourself you’re finally going to learn? Or perhaps an instrument? Riding a skateboard or tap classes or fire-eating sound fun, too. Plus, your agents will love that you can add this on your resume. Who knows, before long you might be fire-eating while riding on a skateboard in the new Taco Bell commercial!
5. Read with friends
Get friends together and have a table read of a script or play. Coming together with like-minded artists on a weekly or monthly basis will not only hold you accountable for your own career, but it’ll expand your ideas and your network, and that’s a win-win for everyone. You can break down the script, discuss characters, put each other on tape, and give constructive criticism, keeping that creative muscle pumping. It’s great practice that will keep your technique sharp and your mind quick with audition materials whether you’re auditioning regularly or not.
As a creator, your mind is capable of making magic: literal, guttural magic. It’s a force to be reckoned with and a responsibility you must not take lightly. Remember, it’s not the industry’s job to keep you busy, that’s all on you. So find a way to be an actor at least once a day. Please, friends, feed your brilliant minds so you can one day (very soon) share that brilliance with the rest of us.