If you don’t know this already, here’s a pretty important fact about me: I’m an aspiring actress. Or, no, I am an actress, you just haven’t seen any of my work.
I had my first agent when I was fourteen and immediately found success. The first audition I had for a lead in a future Family Channel (the Canadian Disney Channel) show lead to multiple call backs that spanned into the next year. My second audition landed me a small supporting role in the Family Channel original series called “The Latest Buzz”. But after that, I didn’t have much success. However there were many factors at play in this other than just my acting (which I must admit, back then, was rather uninspiring). For one, I am biracial and was being submitted for “African American” (or as “African Americans” say, black) roles when, but for my curly hair, I look more Hispanic (in addition I don’t have a hint of African in me, which is why I hate that term, but that’s for another post). At fourteen and fifteen I looked slightly older for my age in an industry adamant to cast me younger and reluctant to cast me my own age or older because of older actors with my looks and capabilities who could legally work on set for longer hours. My agent’s solution? “Kiah, you should consider taking more acting classes.”
The first class I took was in Toronto just before I began going out to auditions. It was called “Audition Prep Part I”, or something along those lines, and was a (very expensive) four day intensive program. Without it, I likely wouldn’t have gotten called back for that first audition as before it my knowledge of auditioning for film was non-existant.
As you may have noted, the class was just the first part of many. Meaning there was more to learn. Meaning my parents would have to shell out another $400-$500 for another four days. My agent, kind lady, didn’t force me to take the next level of classes. But I knew she would have preferred that I did.
So there’s my problem with acting classes: a lot of the time they are arranged in levels with guarantees they cannot truly commit to. To me, it’s a trick to get more money out of the actor. In a lot of cases yes, the actor may be on part five of five, but is that actor really any better than when they began?
My point is, I don’t believe that acting is something that can necessarily be taught. You either can or you can’t. But the idea of fame and fortune gets so many people without much talent wanting to be a star and losing a fortune in the process.
That’s not to say classes and coaches can’t help you, I just don’t think an actor can be forged from nothing. Rather, we are molded, all unique, responding to different types of training.
Having put myself through a number of classes throughout the years, from audition classes to master classes to method classes to “forget the method, it’s bullshit!” classes, I can confidently say that I know how to act. Personally, I think that I am a good actress (as I believe all actors and artists should think–it’s good to be critical of your work, but if you don’t believe in it what do you expect others to think?). I don’t believe that taking yet another classes will help to develop me in a huge way.
Put me in a class and I can shine for those few lines you’ve given me on the page. If you want me to repeat a line as if I’m trying to seduce someone, I’ll do it. Now, if you want me to become a character, that requires a little more work. That requires performance. But, in an acting class, there is no true time for performance. You always have a second and third and fourth chance to get it right. In acting class you’re always looking for approval.
To me, the only way to improve as an actor is simply to act. I think, to grow, you need to have fear, to be thrust into it without much thought or practice. From there you can adapt. From there, you simply are.
Anyways, who can teach you to become an artist but yourself?