Acting Lesson 1

I’m a Hollywood acting coach who works with both celebrities and newcomers. Since agents and casting directors often send me their completely inexperienced “discoveries”, to prepare them for an important audition, I often need to give them a lifetime of advice in an hour or two before an event that could change their lives. It isn’t easy, but more than once, these fresh off a plane from a little town, non-actors, have succeeded after our sessions. It’s not ideal but so much better than nothing. And after they book the role they must continue their lessons. Studying acting is a lifetime process of always striving to be better.

But watching YouTube college performances and after joining Reddit a couple weeks ago, I am seeing self-tapped videos that seem to lack evidence of even the most minimal training. They claim to be in class, but don’t know even the most basic of acting concepts. I want to be able to help them in some way. So I want to start from the very beginning…a thorough examination of what acting is…how it is different than simply reading or reciting lines. It is something all together different…an art form. A truly magical one.

I think there are aspects of acting that can be beneficial for all people…even those who will never be performers. Acting requires deep self-knowledge and an understanding of what makes people tick (especially ourselves). Who wouldn’t benefit from that?

So I’m working on writing a book for people who act. Which means it’s a book for everyone. Maybe you’ve been doing theater, TV and film for decades. Or you could be a beginner. Maybe you’ve never even read a script and have no intention of ever being a professional thespian. No matter which you are, you act. You’ve been acting your whole life, whether you know it or not. The following is just the introduction to that concept. What will follow in future posts is everything I teach newcomers when they are thrust into a professional situation. But I think anyone will benefit.

Let’s look at the word “ACT”. What does the word mean? Let’s imagine you tell someone you were doing something and they ask you, “Did you complete the act?” What do they mean? Most likely they want to know if you finished what you were doing. You were in pursuit of a goal. You wanted something and that desire set you into ACTion. You either accomplished it or not. It is a focused and diligent attempt to DO SOMETHING.

So acting is to be in pursuit of a goal. Accomplishing a goal might take strength and physical effort. It might take getting other people involved to help you. You may need to speak to people…try to persuade them to come around to your way of thinking. People and circumstances will oppose you, so you will try different means of convincing them to be on your side. When you really want something, you will do whatever it takes to get it. That’s acting. And it’s not pretending to do something. It’s actually doing it.

Sometimes we say we want something but we don’t ACT like we do. We won’t do whatever it takes to get it. That’s because we don’t really want it. We want something else, more. For instance, we might say we want to study for an upcoming important test. The plan is to buckle down and hit the books. But what we really want is to avoid studying. We begin to try to convince ourselves and others that it is alright to procrastinate. We are going to get started soon…and we will do better after we’ve watched a little TV. We might employ more tactics to NOT study than to study. Avoidance is actually a pursuit. Either way we are trying to get something. We are ACTING.

The point I’m trying to make is that for as long as we are alive, we are always acting. We always want something. We are always trying to get it. As soon as we complete one goal, we have another. Even when we are sleeping we are in pursuit of getting the rest we need so we can wake up ready to go out and accomplish more stuff. So you see, no one lacks any experience at acting. We do it womb to tomb. It is when you must do it on stage or in front of a camera when the real artistry is required.

Some people think of acting as playing a character. If that is your definition, my argument holds. Everyone is an actor. Everyone has some kind of character. Everyone plays different roles. Sometimes you play the part of a parent. Sometimes a boss. You play the lover and the villain…the hero and the victim. The only difference between you and the greatest actors who have ever lived, is that they have the skills to do what you do naturally, ON CUE. They can take on someone else’s desires and go to work at achieving them with someone else’s words. It isn’t easy, which is why most people are pretty bad at it when they first try. They, in most cases, are only reading the words…reciting the lines. They are not going after anything. They are not using their words for a purpose, so they are ineffective.

But sometimes the character we play in real life is ineffective. At some point everyone has had the experience of being too shy, too frightened or lacked the confidence or determination to achieve their goals. They needed a different character to get the job done. In that case, wouldn’t it benefit everyone to learn to employ one during these times…to have the character that could do what needs to be done?

Many acting classes spend so much time trying to help the students to “be free”…to break through their blocks and barriers. Beginning students often become so obsessed with it that it becomes their objective in the scene rather than becoming absorbed in their character’s goal. And when your goal is “to be free” it assumes the condition of entrapment. No wonder they appear to be struggling. Get into your character’s mind…go after their desires and goals and you will have no room for your own self-limiting thoughts. This is true freedom as an actor. Just DO!!!

So I write these posts for all you actors, whether you confine your performances to the real world or delve into the fantasy world of stage and screen. There is so much more, so stay tuned. I’ll be sharing it here, so follow me if you are interested. Shakespeare tells us “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”. Guess we all might as well learn to act.

Winnie Hiller
r/ActingClass

Keep your eyes on your goals

there-will-always-be-someone-better-at-something-than-you-are-zero-dean-zerosophy

The above is an excerpt from: Comparison is the thief of joy — from my book series

Always remember to keep your eyes on your goals and the steps you can take to achieve them. Focus less on what you don’t have or what you can’t do or what others are doing.

Yes, it can be difficult not noticing what others are up to or how “easy” some people seem to have it or how successful they appear. Just know, perception isn’t always reality. And if you do notice others, then use what you see as motivation to push forward.

Remember, you’re living your life and walking your own path, not someone else’s. Whether it’s your acting, your art, your fitness goals, or something else — just because someone else is making progress towards their goals is no reason for you to stop making progress towards your own.

Change your strategy if you have to and take time to rest if you must, but don’t stop. Every little step you take towards your goals is progress. Keep going. ~ #ZeroDean @zerodean.official

Acting Upward update 1

So, hi.

This is the first Acting Upward update. You can tell because I put it in the title. But also because no other updates exist before this one. So there’s that.

And there’s also this…

I’ve been corresponding with Winnie Hiller for the past day. Winnie is a Hollywood acting teacher who has taught acting in both NYC and LA for 30 some years. She is also a personal acting coach to a celebrity actor and works on set daily.

Winnie has a sub on reddit at r/ActingClass where she teaches the fundamentals of acting to an audience eager to hone their craft. That’s where I discovered her brilliance.

And she’s on board to help the Acting Upward community — both virtually and in person. We will not only be sharing some of Winnie’s wisdom via the Acting Upward blog, we’re also planning to have an on-site acting class for Acting Upward members  And yes, for free.

We’re still in the planning stages — so stay tuned.

You can connect with Winnie Hiller Productions on Facebook and be sure to check out and subscribe to her r/ActingClass sub on Reddit.

So this is exciting news and something I thought was worthy of an update! I’m also excited because this is just the beginning of what we have in store for Acting Upward members.

OTHER NEWS:

While we are making a lot of progress, there are still many things we plan to do. And if you want to help, we certainly could use it.

For starters, we’re looking for:

  • WRITERS & Bloggers.
    • People willing and able to write about their acting or filmmaking related experiences, give advice, or just provide engaging content. We’re not necessarily looking for professionals, just people who are able to write and express themselves well. If that’s you, we’re ready to hand over some article & blog writing responsibilities to you.
  • Audio/Video PODCASTERS & GUESTS.
    • People willing and able to speak in an engaging and entertaining way about their experiences in the industry — in whatever capacity that may be. It doesn’t matter if you act. You can be a hair & makeup artist (we know you have the best stories!), a photographer, a musician… if it pertains to the entertainment industry or filmmaking in any way, we’d love to have you.
  • INSTRUCTORS & YouTubers.
    • Are you knowledgeable about your craft? Are you willing to share your knowledge in a teaching capacity? We hope to provide on-site learning experiences as well as YouTube videos.  If you’d like to be involved with that, we’d love to hear from you.
  • Local Chapter Leaders & Organizers.
    • Do you live outside of Los Angeles? Do you wish there was a local Acting Upward meet-up group where you could socialize with other actors & filmmakers, learn from each other, and collaborate on projects and productions? If so, we could use your help finding a natural leader & group organizer to make such a group a reality. And if that’s you, all the better. Get in touch. We’d love to discuss the details with you.
  • Did we miss someone? Maybe YOU?
    • Do you feel like we missed something you are capable of contributing? If so, get in touch. You are exactly the type of person we need to keep pushing us forward. We only have so many ideas — the rest come from people like you.

So yes, we have a blog and additional content coming — even if I (Zero) have to begin the process myself. My goal is for all of the content on this site to be engaging, educational, or entertaining in a meaningful way.

There’s enough superficial bullshit out there on the internet, we don’t need more of it here.

I suppose I need to create a blog sign-up form somewhere now. Dammit. What have I gotten myself into?

Note:

Wondering what else might be new? You can always check on the latest Acting Upward progress on the progress page.

If you received this via email: You are subscribed to Acting Upward updates. If you would like to subscribe to the Acting Upward blog, please update your subscription settings — or simply reply to this message (yes, there is someone at the other end) and I will add you manually. ~ Zero Dean

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