Q:The business of acting in television and film is not equal to all who have an interest in it. I’ve noticed in LA there being a huge focus on networking, social media presence and finding some form of nepotism to help you. In your experience, how much of the work of an actor is based around just being really well at playing the “social game”?
We’re in a time now where the benefits and deficits to social media are glaring. When there is substance behind the communications, its effectiveness is a blessing. But when empty propaganda is put out to the masses, it is soulless.
I think an actor can get lots of attention on social media- I suppose almost anyone can. But as your question implies, this has very little to do with the artform. In fact, they are two totally different careers entirely: one is marketing, one is interpreting characters for the stage and screen.
In the first chapter of Stanislavski’s AN ACTOR PREPARES, the foundation for all American acting techniques, he talks about discipline. He tells a story of an actor being late for rehearsal, and how disruptive that is to the collective energy of the cast. I often point out to the actors that I work with, that discipline is the first point of discussion for a reason.
You already know that as an actor, you need to discipline yourself to read scripts, to practice acting them, to train your voice, stay in physical shape- these parts of your discipline are essential. But there is also a spiritual and mental discipline, and that is what we exercise to stay focused on the work.
Your job is to stay connected to what is truly interesting to you. You can feel in your body when you are passionate about a project you’re working on. Just like an athlete, you get connected to the moment you’re in. If you think about how people are going to talk about your game, or even winning the game, while you’re playing, you’re not in flow and you’re going to fumble. Your job is to find the love of a script or project or character, and to find a way to bring it to life. Then do it again and again and again. Spend your time and your concentration on that, and you will get better and better. And then you’ll have something inspired to share, if you choose to share it. Don’t share for sharing sake, do it from your heart. If you want to bring your agent a gift, great! If you want to post about something you’re working on, great! But that is not the concentration. The concentration is the work itself.
There is only one you. When you truly connect to what inspires you and turns you on from within, there is power in that. Trust your voice, and only use it when it is connected to what truly motivates you.
As far as nepotism, it exists in every field. It’s not fair that some actors get jobs because of it when others don’t. But there’s nothing you can do about that, so use your discipline to focus on what you can do which is make art with the talent that you and only you alone possess. And do it every day. And you will keep getting better. So when you have an opportunity you will be ready, and when you create an opportunity it will be inspired.
Keep your eye on the ball. That is the discipline that will connect you to your work most beneficially, and the discipline you must continue to hone. Connect to what you are truly passionate about, despite the noise outside of you. That kind of passion, when it’s truly routed in craft, becomes naturally contagious.
“The actor, no less than the soldier, must be subject to iron discipline”- Stanislavski
“Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.” -Martha Graham
Please send your specific questions about the art of acting to [email protected] and Kymberly will respond to a different question each week! There are no invalid questions, as long as they pertain to your craft and life as an actor.
Kymberly Harris is an actor’s director. She specializes in character-driven stories, whether the genre is drama, comedy, thriller, or action. Her extensive experience as a method acting coach to professional actors of all ages has led actors to seek her out to direct them towards their best performances in film, television, and theatre projects.