The Great Acting Blog: "Anyone Can Act In The Same Way Anyone Can Write A Poem"
“Study voice and movement – learn the difference between the beautiful and the attractive. Learn to analyze a script the way a director should and almost none can…Make yourself the expert…Your friends will tell you you are making yourself foolish and no-one will appreciate the finer points in any case. And that is exactly what bad actors say to devoted actors.” – David Mamet
As an actor, you’ve only got yourself to commit to – people enter the arena casually, and leave casually, because there is apparently no investment, no capital outlay, there are, apparently, no tools of the trade, there are no material necessities. Filmmakers have their cameras, musicians have their instruments, even writers, at the very least, have a pencil and paper, but actors require no such material objects, anyone might get up from their armchair, and declare that they can walk proficiently, that they can talk proficiently, ergo they can act proficiently, and so put themselves out there, vying for work. Further, it is easy to walk away from the business (and re-enter again), because it is just a question of ceasing to use yourself, which is very different to, say, somebody who sets out to become a pianist – if they walk away, they will forever have their piano in the corner of the room as an aching reminder of their failure.
All that an actor possesses is himself; his body, his personality, his imagination. But what would happen to one who set out to become a filmmaker but failed to learn about light? Or one who set out to become a playwright but failed to learn about dramatic construction? Certainly they would not reach a level of excellence that would suffice for an audience to pay to experience their work. Why should somebody think that they could be an effective actor without a sustained focus on practicing and improving their craft? “Ah”, I hear you say, “what about the Hollywood star, paid millions, but has problems with articulation such that, in some scenes, we cannot make out what he is saying? Is this not akin to watching a film where the camera is, at times, out of focus, or the instrument out of tune? And what about the genius “non-actor”, plucked from some street corner to star in the role of a life-time?” These are valid points, and they certainly do happen. But I say, so what? These things should not be used as an excuse to not strive for excellence, to not work hard, to not acknowledge that acting is an ancient and important craft and that one must learn to serve it. Acting then, becomes an investment not in material goods, but an investment in the self. The usual howl of derision will go up as it always does, that actors are narcissistic and selfish and self-obsessed* – but nobody complains about the filmmaker obsessed with his camera, they say he is dedicated, and it would be absurd to criticise the pianist for ensuring his piano is in tune.
That anyone can act, is true in the same way that anyone can write a poem.
*I would aver that the number of actors who possess these qualities, is proportionate to the population at large who possess these qualities.