Professional advice and guidance for aspiring actors.
At the Laura Mac Method we know that in order to have an acting career in the film industry, it’s not enough to simply be a good actor, you’ve got to be a smart actor. Yes, talent is important, but it takes a lot more than talent to build a career. A smart actor is forever curious about the craft of acting, always striving to make stronger, deeper, fuller choices in their work while simultaneously keeping their finger on the pulse of the industry and what’s going on in their local market. The best part? It’s completely within your power to hone the skills it takes to become a smart actor right now.
Here are a few of the best acting exercises to empower your confidence and help you delve into the work of being an actor.
An actor’s instrument is composed of 3 things: Their mind, their body and their voice. Strengthening and caring for all three is imperative to an actor’s work. Devoting a small amount of time each day to warming up and training your mind, body and voice will build a strong, flexible and resilient instrument that is ready to tackle any scene.
Subconscious tension is the actor’s worst enemy. How can you embody the journey of a character if you’re holding tension in your jaw, your back, your face, your chest, your mind, from the stress of your day to day life?
A consistent physical, mental and vocal warm up practice will allow you to erase your tension and find a neutral, open space from which to start your acting. And what’s even better? The longer you keep up your warm up habit, the easier it becomes to release your stress which is a huge win not just for your acting, but for your life!
Dive bombs, shake outs, scene meditations, trilling and humming, there are tons of great exercises for your mind, body and voice. Check out the list we’ve created for you here.
A major part of mastering the craft of acting is learning that it’s never about the lines your character is saying, it’s always about the intentions underneath. A good actor doesn’t act words, they act actions.
Cold reading is when you read a script or scene out loud without preparing it in advance. It’s a great acting exercise to stretch the performing actions muscle, since you don’t have time to overthink or get stuck on how you say the words.
A great cold read exercise that you can do with a group of acting friends is to host a script or play reading night! You can find the scripts of tons of your favorite movies online in pdf form. Get together, bring some snacks and drinks, divvy up the characters, and read through the script from start to finish. Not only will it be a fun way to spend an evening with your friends, but you’ll be stretching and improving your acting skills.
Another great exercise is what we call “The Cold Read Exercise” laid out here. Not only is it the perfect exercise for instinctually connecting with subtext, but it’s a great way to memorize what’s happening in a scene, instead of just trying to memorize the words.
Improvisation is an unplanned, spur of the moment performance that, when approached with confidence, comes off as effortless, natural and authentic. Practicing improv is a fabulous way to improve your acting and connect you to your creativity.
While 90% of commercial, film and television projects will be fully scripted; the ability to improv as the character you’re either auditioning for or portraying on set is a huge asset. It’s always great to be able to adapt lines and add great moments to scenes when the time is right. Click here to learn more about how improv can improve your acting skills.
One of the key tenants of improv is “Yes and”; meaning, an improv performer never says no to a suggestion, they always accept what is given and then add more. To help get this habit engrained, try the Yes And story exercise.
The concept is simple, and the results are hilarious! WIth two or more people, start a scene where every line begins with “Yes, and”, keep the conversation going as long as you can.
This exercise is great for getting the creative juices flowing both creatively and cognitively. With two or more performers, have the first performer do any type of physical action, and the next performer give an explanation for the movement.
Actor 1: Jumps from one foot to another
Actor 2: “Ooo! Ahh! Why did I agree to this hot coal walk!”
Next, Actor 2 comes up with a new movement, and actor 3 improvs a justification. Continue on until every actor has a chance to create at least one movement and one justification.
Build a story one word at a time! Each actor says just one word that builds on the last one to create a crazy story. This exercise is great to help actors get their creative juices flowing and practice the always important skill of listening to their scene partners.
As mentioned above, you can’t act words, you can only act actions. To practice this, take a look at the list of action words below:
Now try saying the line “I saw you yesterday” using each of those actions as intentions:
To slay you
To reach you
To honor you
To belittle you
To seduce you
To enlighten you
To assess you
To tease you
To smear you
To knock you
To trick you
Notice how different the line “I saw you yesterday” becomes when you apply each different intention. Play with more! Make your own list of action words and make up your own lines to apply to them.
Your breathing is everything. It’s the core of your performance, sustaining you and buoying you up as you deliver your scene. All life happens on breath and connecting with how you breathe will ensure you are fully filling your instrument with the air it needs to perform.
Here is a simple exercise you can do to help you center your breath.
Stand tall, with your feet on the ground and your shoulders back. Think of a string coming out of the top of your head that keeps you standing straight and tall.
Put your hands on your belly. Try breathing in through your diaphragm. Imagine that your lungs and diaphragm are balloons that are filled with air. Feel your stomach grow and shrink as you breathe in and out.
Take a deep breath in for four counts, then let it out through your teeth with an “ssssss” sound. When you get to four, start exhaling sharply.
Breathe in for four counts, and then breathe out for eight counts. Exhale for longer counts each time you do the exercise (ten, twelve, fourteen).
These exercises are great tools to help you become a better actor and the next step is to put them into practice. The only way to do that is by tapping into a community, the invaluable resource to help you on every step of your acting career.
In this day and age, there are a lot of ways to become a successful actor. From enrolling in professional acting schools to taking an online acting class, the possibilities are endless and you can pick and choose whatever suits you best based on your own convenience.
The Laura Mac Method, developed by veteran actor and well-known mentor Laura Mac, is a comprehensive online acting course, school and community. Being in the industry for more than 20 years and mentoring hundreds of actors throughout her career, her witty yet perceptive approach to acting is a breath of fresh air. Our aim is to provide world class mentorship to actors everywhere, without the location constraints or price tag of traditional world class acting schools.
The foundations series of online video courses is exactly what it claims to be: an exhaustive guideline for beginners and professionals alike. It doesn’t feed you a bunch of fillers and hype you up about how you’ll become an overnight celebrity. Instead, the foundations courses give you practical information on how to build success as an actor, how to prepare for auditions, operate as a business in the industry and master your craft in front of the camera.
Whether you’re a beginner trying to get your foot in the door or a professional trying to find a new edge for your acting career, the Foundations program is designed to establish and elevate each area of a successful actor's life. You have more control than you think; so if becoming a professional film, television or commercial actor is your aim; check out the Foundations program.
And if you’re ready to truly level up, check out the Academy program. A 10 week, 20 class online acting class led by professional actors and coaches who are ready to get into the nitty gritty of what makes you the unique, irresistible performer the industry is dying to meet.
Pro Tip: The first course of the Foundations program: The Actor’s Toolkit is completely free and answers the most common questions actors have and solves the most common mistakes actors make when starting out their acting careers.