How much time do you spend searching for acting class material? Are you giving yourself enough time to fully read the script and find content that challenges you?
If you're still waiting until the last minute to find scripts, then be sure to read my post How to Always Have Scenes Ready for Acting Class. That post will teach you how to make reading scripts part of your regular routine.
In this post, I'll teach you how to quickly scan a script to see if it's actually worth your time to read the entire thing.
By the way, rehearsing or memorizing scripts should be part of your daily life as a working actor.
But first, you need to find scripts, and you need to quickly decide which ones are worth your time. I hate reading an entire script only to find that there isn't any usable scene work for me.
1. TYPE TITLES INTO IMDB
My acting coach always tells us not to watch another performance of a scene before we put it up in class. It's too easy to allow someone else's choices to infect our choices.
When you're trying to quickly find scripts to read, however, it's a good idea to start with titles you already know but maybe haven't seen in a while. Whenever you hear about good movies or plays that you haven't seen, add those to a running list of scripts to research later.
Let's breakdown that research process now:
2. PICK MATCHING CHARACTERS
Please be realistic about which characters you can play. If you're young, don't try to play someone's grandma. If you're in a scene with two females, don't pick a father/daughter scene and "try to make it work."
These characters will be written in certain way to denote the relationship between the two characters, so it will be obvious this script wasn't written for you. Plus, finding characters that fit your profile will help you work on material that you're most likely to get cast for, which will be highly beneficial to you in auditions.
Run through the top-billed cast on each of the IMDb pages to see which characters fit your general description. Eliminate scripts that don't have a good match.
We're only looking for top-billed roles because these characters have more lines, thus helping us to avoid scenes that are too short for class.
3. SEARCH SCRIPT WITH "FIND"
Here's where the magic happens, baby!
Steps to quickly scanning scripts:
I like searching for scenes with supporting characters whenever possible because they won't show up in the script as frequently as the leads, which will allow you to scan the script faster. The leads are typically on every page.
Use the Find feature under Edit to quickly search
for a specific word on a page, like a character's name.
Save yourself time in the future and take these next two steps:
Go ahead and practice the process right now with the first few titles that pop into your brain. Going through the motions now will help you research faster in the future.
Speaking of acting class, have you ever written your acting coach a really meaningful thank you card? I promise you that learning the art of writing a very personalized thank you card is going to change the trajectory of your career.
Think about what it feels like to be someone on the other side of the camera in this business constantly having actors saying, "Me, me, me!" Not you, Actor Boss! I want you to be an actor that's a breath of fresh air that people love to see coming because you've learned how to be interested versus interesting.
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Do you sometimes wait until the last minute to find and prepare a scene for acting class? This critical mistake is costing you valuable learning time.
Let's say acting class is on Sunday, and it's Thursday.
You quickly start searching YouTube for scenes from some of your favorite shows to transcribe.
Now it's Thursday night, and you're messaging all of your acting class buddies to see if they're magically free for a last minute scene.
Oh, and you need to thoroughly memorize your lines, break down the scene, and schedule time to rehearse.
In this post I'll show you how to always have a scene ready for acting class so you can actually grow as an actor.
There's no harm in having scenes prepared weeks in advance.
AVOID THIS CRUCIAL MISTAKE
Most actors get way too caught up in backstory when all of the backstory you need is in the script.
A couple of my acting buddies put up a scene from a movie in class one week.
These two guys were veterans of our acting class, which means they understood the correct way to prepare a scene.
However, they didn't read the entire script. Instead, they only read up to their scene.
The scene was from Pulp Fiction, famous for having a storyline that's out of sequence. Avoid the crucial mistake of not reading the entire script.
My actor friends did not have all of the information they needed about the scene because they failed to read the one script that absolutely demanded a thorough reading.
Most films and stage plays have easily accessible scripts, so no excuses.
If you're performing a scene from a television show, either do your background research on Wiki Fandom, or grab a scene from a show you're familiar with. Just try not to watch the scene before you perform it so your choices remain your own.
TRY THE WEEKLY RULE
If you don't schedule something in your calendar, guess what? It's not going to happen.
Set a goal to read one new script a week. Plan to read a variety of scripts: films, stage plays, comedies, dramas, classics, and contemporary pieces.
You'll eventually learn to speed read, which is especially useful for skimming film script notes that aren't necessary for understanding the plot.
Don't dismiss genres or styles that you hate. It will be beneficial to you as an actor to try those in case you receive auditions in similar styles.
You'll at least have an informed opinion about why you hate a particular genre, or you may just end up loving it because you now understand it better.
KEEP A CHECKLIST
I know you're busy, and it's hard to invest time reading scripts, but this is your job!
I think the root issue is that you don't want to invest time reading dead end scripts. What if it doesn't have a scene you can use?
Keep a running checklist of scripts you've read and whether or not you found a scene (or scenes) you can perform in class by logging the page numbers.
This checklist will be a great reference if you keep the right notes.
Whenever you do find scenes, I suggest saving just those pages in a PDF file to use for taking notes and breaking down the content.
You may find great scenes you're not ready for yet that you can use in the future, or you'll know which ones still aren't worth your time in six months, if you keep a checklist for quick reference.
READ WITH PURPOSE
Do you really need to work on that scene from your favorite television show?
Find scenes that actually challenge you as an actor. Consider performing one really dynamite scene that terrifies you and working on just that one scene for 4-8 weeks.
A good acting coach will drop hints to you in class about your acting weaknesses, or directly tell you the type of script you should consider doing next. If not, ask!
If your acting coach can't provide that feedback, it's time to find a new one.
You may also consider finding a script that highlights your strengths and challenging yourself to do it a million different ways avoiding the same way twice because you never know when you'll hear those good old generic words on set, "Give me something different."
So will you start reading a new script a week?
The best way to start is to just start. Today. Right now.
Now that you have a plan to become a script reading ninja, let's work on your marketing plan.
If you want to start correctly marketing yourself, you need to do it at the appropriate time. That's why I created the Actor Boss Workflow.
It has three stages, and marketing is last for a reason.
Actor Boss Workflow:
Stage 1: Get Your Financial House In Order
Stage 2: Get Your Actor's Life Together
Stage 3: Let the World Know You're Here
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All of us actors need to create a process for breaking down and rehearsing our scenes, whether for class or for bookings.
Class gives us the freedom to experiment and edit this process, so I want to share part of mine thanks to the teaching of my acting coaches at the Film Actors' Studio Charlotte.
In this post, I'll teach you a rehearsal exercise I use that allows me to perform my script in a number of different ways to avoid giving a "one note" performance.
But first we need to prepare based on how you've been trained.
TACTICS OR STRATEGIES
If you're a student of the Stanislavski method, then you've learned how to use tactics to reach your objective. This is what I learned in college.
My current training teaches me how to use strategies.
To make this exercise work, you'll need to decide if you want to use tactics or strategies. The difference is simple: tactics are action verbs, strategies are adverbs ending in -ly.
Either way, make sure they focus on your scene partner, not on you.
PS--I think you should know how to use both so that you can easily translate a director's notes into your favorite method, especially if they're discussing the scene with you in terms of a method you don't like using as much.
PICK THREE OPTIONS
Ok you've read your script, picked an objective, and broken your script into beats.
Now pick either three tactics or three strategies based on your method.
I'll give you examples of each to get you started.
Just make sure they actually help you reach your objective. I'm writing this assuming you already know what that is.
Also, do not try to mix tactics and strategies. Pick your favorite and stick with it.
USING YOUR OPTIONS
Now I know I said this exercise will help you avoid a "one note" performance, so this next part may seem confusing at first, but go with it.
Take just one of your options and use it for the entire script. Wash, rinse, and repeat with your second option, then your third.
You'll need to ignore your beat marks for this part.
The benefit is that it will force you to say lines in a way you haven't planned.
Maybe you don't think to say, "I love you," angrily when you first read your script, but after forcing yourself to in this exercise, a new meaning surfaces and you have a revelation about why that could work.
Forget about the way a line "should" be said.
You'll soon realize that a number of options can work for each line, and you'll feel the freedom to take the scene anywhere you want it to go in case a director ever says to you, "Do something different."
Now let's get to avoiding a "one note" performance.
PUT IT ALL TOGETHER
Let's get back to those scene beats.
Now you'll run your scene two more times, using all three options.
First, plugin one option for each of your beat changes, even if they repeat.
Second, don't plan which options you're going to use, but rather let them surface as they choose now that they're "in your system."
Third, if you really want to get crazy, scratch all three of your original options, and pick three new ones and run the exercise again.
This is how you'll avoid ever giving a "one note" performance: you'll have a variety of notes to choose from since you've said every line of your script differently each time.
If you want a quick and easy way to try this exercise, then pick just one line from your script to say three different ways.
You can also take the tactics/strategies listed above and try them on each of the one liners below. Think about someone you know or your scene partner:
Lastly, while I think acting class is crucial to the longevity of your career, so is marketing yourself effectively.
Imagine that you're one of the few actors that's built a strong foundation for long-term career growth. Get started for free with your Actor Boss Workflow.
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HEY ACTOR BOSS,
I'll teach you how to become a screen actor even if you have no experience or if you want to transition from another performance genre. First, what is Actor Boss? Learn more here.