Dear Aspiring Actor
First of all thank you for your decision to enter the world of the performance arts.
Thanks to your predecessors, we have memorable moments .They’ve made us laugh,cry,cheer and yell at the screen in frustration,rage and fear. They've given us characters we aspire to emulate and those that make us dream higher than we normally would.
And for those bookmarks in our lives , we thank them.
However something has come to my attention.
This noble profession has been invaded. Like a virus that spreads through a body ,strange beings have infected the industry and are bringing it to it’s knees.
There are loads of people calling themselves actors but can’t seem to act their way out of a wet tissue paper. They can’t deliver lines in a convincing manner, their mannerisms are inconsistent with their character often to the point of parody. They portray caricatures and stereotypes instead of characters.
What is happening? Did they wake up in the morning and just decide to launch an acting career!! What is more horrific? Due to being handsome or beautiful, They succeed!!! Not in acting,Lord no, but being cast as eye candy.
I know you love this profession as much as I love watching great performances so,Please let me ask you a question.
What do;David Oyelowo,Sophie Okonodeo,Hakeem Kae Hazim have in common?
Ok, allow me to answer my own question. Apart from being British Born Nigerians they are ALL products of professional training.
They have all given stellar performances and have being recognised for their acting talents both on the stage and screen
Allow me to further break it down
David Oyelowo graduated from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), having received the “Scholarship for Excellence” from Nicholas Hytner, in 1998.
He played the title role of Henry VI, becoming the first black actor to play an English king for the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company). The role won him The Ian Charleson Award and an Evening Standard award nomination.
He has been in films like :”The Last King of Scotland”,2011′s “The Help” “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and in 2012 will be seen in George Lucas Airforce movie “Red Tails” and Speilberg's “Lincoln” alongside the iconic Daniel Day Lewis.
Hakeem Kae-Kazim:, classically trained in the UK at the highly regarded Bristol Old Vic and soon after graduation was invited to join the Royal Shakespeare Company. Whilst performing at the National Theatre,Hakeem received glowing reviews, sharing the stage with critically acclaimed actors for his performances as Edmund in ‘King Lear’ with Brian Cox, and Tyrell in ‘Richard III’ with Sir Ian McKellan.
However he's mostly recognised for his captivating role of ‘Colonel Ike Dubaku’ in ’24 – Season 7′ .He has recently worked with Jeta Amata on Inale and Black Gold and stars in the upcoming “Last Plane to Abuja” by Mirror Boy director Obi Emenloye.
Sophie Okonedo trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. In 2004 she was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Supporting Actress for her role as Tatiana Rusesabagina in Hotel Rwanda and nominated for a Golden Globe for a Lead Actress in a Mini series for her work in Tsunami: The Aftermath 2010 she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) during the Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Now keep in mind that they all started their careers in Britain,whose industry is notorious for institutional racism. An industry where Black actors find roles hard to come by and of those that do come are hardly ever positive or fully rounded roles. They persevered and not only eventually got great roles but were cast in Shakespeare and classical literature plays. Getting roles normally played by and retained for white actors. WHY!? The incredible skill and professionalism they displayed in auditions and previous roles.
Their great professional skill was what allowed them to stand alongside their caucasian counterparts . It raised their profile at home and was good enough for them to migrate across the pond and forge successful careers in the US.
Training is what seperates the performance you will recall in 30years from the average performance you barely remember minutes after watching or from the bad one that gets you so annoyed you switch off the television .
Training is what allows an actor to give the kind of performances that become a part of pop culture. Deliver the unforgettable quotes. Shine in scenes that still awe us as we recall them decades down the line.
Training is what allows an actor to search and dig deep into the psyche of the character he/she plays. Engage the mindset,feel the emotions,see through the eyes of the character completing such a metamorphosis that sometimes even their own family and friends don’t recognise them.
Training is why some writer/directors have a particular actor in mind when writing. Actors that understood the material and gave great performances, exactly and sometimes better than the director required and so actor/director proceed to forge career long collaborations. I’m pretty sure some examples popped up in your mind so I won’t list them.
So young man/lady,I know some of you think training is a waste of Tomiwa probably saying to yourself.
“I was born naturally with this acting talent, everybody has told me so since I was young, why go train when I can work make money and become famous NOW”.
Ok,reasonable train of thought.However, let me make this appeal.
You want the diversity of roles,respect and international careers of these guys? Follow their footsteps, get proper training.
Peak performance coach Tony Robbins who has helped millions attain life ,career and financial success is known to say
“success leaves clues don’t try to reinvent the wheel”.
What he means is:
Find someone successful at what you want to do,Find out what they did to achieve said success and do what they did. Like when baking a cake,find the recipe,follow it and you get the same cake.
These guys took the pains to become professionals. They endured the long nights,endless training with emotional & psychological stretching.
Hours of improvisation classes,
Meisner,Stanilavski,Substitution,Affective memory etc. There’s no possible way “natural talent” can imbibe all these intricacies. These are the things that distinct the professional from Joe Schmoe that plays a role with natural talent alone.
Aspiring actors are like a lump of clay ,raw potential that’s without form. That clay is then moulded by the potter into a fine piece of art. Their training environment is the kiln,fired under then. Hot but necessary for the process. Their teachers are the potter moulding them into that magnificent piece of art we can all admire once displayed.
So, young aspirant,do what you can to acquire this training.
If you are still in secondary school, get your papers and then apply for a Theatre Arts course and major in Acting or Performance Arts.
If not that path, find an acting school run by proven and seasoned professionals. A course of a few weeks is a fine, for a start, but remember many legends spent years perfecting their craft in school and still do as we speak. Find a program that will prepare you for the day you have to compete for a role with those that have trained intensely for years in what your few weeks barely scratched the surface. That day you'll be like the interhouse sports champion showing up at a race to find out he's competing with those trained for the Olympics.
If you have already graduated from University in a completely unrelated course. Take acting classes/courses part time. Go on the net and find a reputable course,investigate who runs it and take a decision. Find material read and study to show yourself approved.
The director is not Merlin or Gandalf. He's not Zeus or Odin,(though some may act like so) he can not say some words,lightning strikes and he conjures out of you what does not exist. There's are few things more frustrating to a director than an inept actor wasting his time and halting production.
I feel the need to address a huge misconception: Acting is A LOT MORE than the ability to look pretty, be articulate and pour out memorised dialogue. If so any pretty face off the street with a good memory could so. Like a caterpillar to a butterfly,so is the transformation from you to the character you play a very clear and unmistakable distinction.
Here's what trained actor Tom Hardy(Inception,Warrior,Bronson) had to say on acting.
"Whatever character you play, remember they are always doing something. They are not just talking. They are alive; going through a drama in which they will go through some sort of dramatic human experience. Keywords: Alive and Experience. It is your job to make them become so. Anything you do on stage or film has a direct relation to something you have experienced in one form or another in real life. Use your imagination to exaggerate or lessen that sensation. Then, disguise it in characterization
The naturally talented man who combines his talent with the techniques,methods and the psychology he has been trained in , will always be several light years ahead of the man who thinks he can get by on natural talent alone.
As you choose your path,I wish you the very best in your aspirations and hope to see you soon on the big screen.
A concerned Cinephile
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