10 Lies You’re Told About Film Acting, Part 1

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Photo Source: William LaChasse

Do you want to book film work? Who doesn’t? Let’s face it. But how does one proceed when you are constantly being misled about the very truth and nature of film acting. Deep down you know that you are. You can feel it. Here are 10 falsehoods that are commonly passed off as solid advice for film actors.

1. The lie that theater is a strong foundation for film acting. A film actor should get on the fast track. In today’s youth-driven market you should get to L.A. and get in a great on-camera class now. Once you have a name in film, you can get a lead in a Broadway show and sort out your theater acting if that intrigues you. Text analysis is fairly universal, I’ll grant you, but the application of technique is so vastly different between the two forms, I shudder to imagine anyone still believes this. I myself went to drama school and did professional theater along the way. Better than going to film school—for a director like me. Theater is a lot of fun, but my advice here and in my own classroom is always geared toward helping you achieve true success through “A” picture style acting. Skip theater if you don’t want to do theater.

2. The lie that you should play by the “industry rules.” I played by the “rules” of the film industry during the most stagnate and uninspiring chapters of my life as a filmmaker. When I broke all the “rules,” I was rewarded at nearly every step. People who never worked in the first place, usually heed the phrase, “you will never work again if you do that.” Be ethical, to be sure, but stand out for God’s sake. Rule followers lose this game and will eventually land in a cubical.

3. The lie that you have to have “it” to make it. The concept of “it” is something hack teachers talk about because they have not drilled into the concept of capturing an audience in a meaningful way. “It” has a lot to do with the availability of your eyes, the way in which you render the story, and the full range of emotions you display. Little tricks can go a long way, and “it” can be learned. I know this. I teach “it” everyday in my weekly classes. “It” is a great number of teachable concepts executed successfully, from big things like minimum movement to basic practices like never letting a sympathetic character feel sorry for themselves.

4. The lie that this is a hard business. It’s hard being on the outskirts of this business, looking for a way in. Once you scale the castle walls, it is fun. It really is fun. Waiting tables is hard.

5. The lie that you have to know the right people. This may be sort of true, but it seems to imply that you will already know them. You can learn the skill of networking the same way you can learn “it.” The saying should be, “you have to meet and make sure the right people get to know you.”

Stay tuned for next time, when I go through five more lies you’re told about film acting.

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The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Ryan R. Williams
Ryan R. Williams has directed three award-winning feature films with appearances by Brad Pitt, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jodie Foster, Owen Wilson, Tracy Morgan, Kristen Bell, and Kevin Smith. Williams is currently directing pilots and episodes for network television and regularly casts members of “Screen Actors System,” his Los Angeles-based film acting school.
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