The On Acting Series – How To Get Into Acting
Eugene Buica interviews successful actors and directors about HOW TO GET INTO ACTING.
Sydney Pollack began his acting career on stage, then made his name as television director in the early 1960s. He made his big screen film acting debut in War Hunt (1962), where he met fellow actor Robert Redford. He called on his good friend Redford to play opposite Natalie Wood in This Property Is Condemned (1966). Pollack and Redford worked together on six more films over the years. His biggest success came with Out of Africa (1985), starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. For this film he won two Oscars: one for Best Direction and one for Best Picture. Pollack also made success in producing films such as The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), The Quiet American (2002) and Cold Mountain (2003). Pollack returned to the director’s chair in 2004, when he directed The Interpreter (2005), the first ever film shot on location at the United Nations Headquarters and within the General Assembly in New York City. Mr. Pollack shares his knowledge about how to get into acting.
Rainn Wilson stars as the mildly sociopathic paper salesman Dwight Schrute on the hit NBC comedy, THE OFFICE. He is also known as playing the mildly sociopathic mortician intern Arthur Martin on HBO’s SIX FEET UNDER. His film credits include Cameron Crowe’s ALMOST FAMOUS, Steven Soderbergh’s FULL FRONTAL, AMERICA’S SWEETHEARTS, GALAXY QUEST, HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, SAHARA, starring opposite Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn and Penelope Cruz, and as a hippie producer in the acclaimed film, BAADASSSSS. Rainn performed on Broadway in LONDON ASSURANCE and THE TEMPEST. He has also performed off-Broadway in THE NEW BOZENA, PLUNGE, VENUS, TITUS ANDRONICUS and TWELFTH NIGHT. Regionally, he performed at the Guthrie Theatre, the Arena Stage and Dallas Theatre Center. He attended the graduate acting program at New York University, and has taught acting extensively, but most notably at The Acting Corps Actors’ Boot Camp®.
Why do you put so much importance on studying when there are so many other things that determine whether or not a person has a successful film and TV acting career?
So how to get into acting? Acting is a craft. You wouldn’t think of calling yourself a cabinet maker and then set out to build cabinets with no training. That would be a disaster. Before you’d ever even consider building something, you’d go to school to learn the craft, and then as you got some work you would still focus on improving all the time, so eventually you would become a master at what you do.
It’s the same for acting. It takes a lifetime of dedication to your craft to sustain a lifetime career. Sanford Meisner said it takes twenty years to learn to act. I say that if you keep learning for the rest of your life, you will always be fulfilled in your work.
How is acting for theater different from acting for film and television?
Good acting is good acting. If you really need to think of it in terms of what’s different, the biggest difference is in the amount of time spent actually acting. In theater, even if you have a small role, you spend a solid eight hours a day, five days a week, for six weeks rehearsing, and then two hours a night, eight performances a week on stage for the run of the play.
For film and television, you go over the sides for an hour or so, do your five minute audition, and if you’re lucky enough to get a guest star on a TV show, you show up on the set way before they need you, go to hair and makeup for an hour, then sit around for five hours eating craft service. When they finally call you to the set, it’s for a five-minute blocking rehearsal where you don’t have a clue about how the show ticks for the series regulars. Then they set the lights and you spend ten minutes shooting the master and then ten more minutes to do your coverage before they dismiss you and move on to cover the star of the show.
Do the math. If you’re acting in a play, you spend an average total of over 300 hours actually acting. If you land a role in a film or TV show, you spend an average of 30 minutes actually acting, and that includes the audition.
But an even bigger difference is in the pay. For the reward of pouring your heart and soul into the play, you’re grateful to get paid enough to keep from getting evicted for another month, and for that TV episode you’re in for three minutes, you earn enough to live off of for the next six months. Ten times the pay for one tenth the acting, go figure.
How do you keep from getting stale or going nuts between jobs?
Land a role in a local theater production, join an improv group, take classes, take chances. In this town, there’s no excuse for not staying busy acting when you’re not getting paid to act. Whatever you do, make sure that it is enough to feed you, once a week cold reading classes just don’t cut it.
What is your best advice for a new actor?
Just keep working, get good, get really good…and eventually it will happen for you. It took me nine years of doing theater and never making more than $22K a year until I started doing television…which is not to say that it’s the only way, but certainly I would say that had I not really known what I was doing when the time came, I would not have been successful.
Facinelli made his feature film debut in Rebecca Miller’s Angela in 1995 and came to the attention of critics in the TV-movie The Price of Love later that year. In 1996, Facinelli played opposite future wife Jennie Garth in An Unfinished Affair. Other TV roles followed, including a part in After Jimmy (1996) and a college dropout in Calm at Sunset. Facinelli co-starred with Amanda Peet and Michael Vartan in the 1997 AIDS-themed drama Touch Me (1997) and co-starred as a high school student in two 1998 features with Ethan Embry and Breckin Meyer, Dancer, Texas Pop. 81, and Can’t Hardly Wait, which starred Jennifer Love Hewitt. Facinelli appeared in the sci-fi film Supernova starring James Spader in 2000. He made appearances in Riding in Cars with Boys in 2001 and The Scorpion King in 2002, followed by a leading role in the Fox drama Fastlane. Facinelli had a recurring role in the HBO series Six Feet Under in 2004 and a role in the FX original series Damages beginning in 2007. Facinelli starred in Hollow Man 2 with Christian Slater. It was released direct-to-video in May 2006.
After wrapping up Finding Amanda with Matthew Broderick, Facinelli played Carlisle Cullen in the film adaptation of Twilight, based on the book by Stephenie Meyer. According to an interview, “I almost didn’t read for Twilight. My agent said, “Do you want to do a vampire movie?” And I was like, “No.” I was totally thinking blood and guts and bats in caves, like some kind of horror movie. They literally talked me into reading the book and I actually enjoyed the book a lot.” Facinelli reprised his role in the sequels of the film, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. He will also continue to portray the role in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn which released on November 18, 2011.
He stars as Dr. Fitch Cooper in the Showtime dark comedy series Nurse Jackie. He is the founder of the production company Facinelli Films. Their first feature film Loosies, which was written entirely by Facinelli, was filmed in 2011. He starred in the film, which is a story of a New York pickpocket that being produced by Verdi Corrente Productions.
Here are some of the things Peter had to say:
If you want to know how to get into acting, if you want an acting career in Hollywood, you have to have tenacity or you won’t make it. Five years from now, half of you in this room won’t be pursuing acting anymore. The other half will make it on tenacity.
My number one priority in life is my family; my wife and my two daughters. When I blow an audition and I feel really bummed out about it, I go home and look into my daughters’ eyes and I remember what really matters most to me.
Good acting training is essential if you want to have a long career and not just be the next flavor of the month. Training can make a gifted actor even more awesome, but it can also make someone like me, with just a lot of desire, good enough to work in film and television all the time and be pretty successful, too. My parents wanted me to go to law school, so I took acting classes and told my parents it would make me a more convincing attorney in the courtroom. They bought it and things have worked out pretty well.
A few years ago I got an audition for the lead in a film about a guy who grew up in Queens and whose life was almost exactly like mine. I felt like I completely knew this character and thought I did the audition of my life. But the casting director called my agent to say the director thought I was not at all right for the role. Then the movie didn’t get made, and two years later, my agent called to let me know there was a new director on the film. He had watched all the audition tapes from two years earlier and was completely ecstatic, proclaiming that I was perfect for the role. I got offered the part on the spot and didn’t even have to read for the new director.
This is the most competitive and difficult business in the world. If you want to make it as an actor, my advice is DON’T have a back-up plan. Don’t give yourself a way out. It’s all or nothing. Go all the way, give it all you have and never look back.
Ethan Embry, star of Empire Records, White Squall, That Thing You Do, Can’t Hardly Wait, Sweet Home Alabama, Timeline, ABC’s Dragnet, and the soon to be premiered “Brotherhood” on Showtime joins Artistic Director Eugene Buica for an evening with Acting Corps actors.
Here are some of the things Ethan had to say:
Make strong choices when you’re acting. Don’t be afraid to make really strong choices and then commit to them all the way. If you feel angry and want to throw something, really throw it. But make sure the choice you make is true.
In acting, you have to tell the truth. But the weird thing is acting is all a big lie anyway. So the trick is to make sure you never get caught in your lie.
How to get into acting? Find someone who believes in you, that’s what it takes.
If you’re passionate about acting, and you’re not acting, you have to find another outlet. Find something else to be passionate about in between jobs or you’ll go crazy.
The most important thing in my life is my son.
If your agent isn’t working for you, find a new agent.
Of course I have sabotaged myself, it goes with the territory.
After wrapping my TV show a couple of months ago, I miss acting again. I want to act.