You have thought it through and have come to the solid conclusion that you want to become an actor and are ready for the perseverance it will take to launch an acting career, but not with a drama school or university. Rather, on your own, utilising the resources at hand — reading acting books, taking local acting workshops, auditioning and learning on the job.
While it is possible to read all the acting books out there until you have come to a point where you feel like your bank of fundamental acting knowledge has reached full capacity, you can’t quite say the same with acting workshops. If you’re going to be competing in an industry with individuals that have had 3 or 4 years of focused training at Drama Schools or Universities, it would suffice to say that one acting workshop is definitely not enough. Even individuals who complete their 3 or 4 years continue to attend workshops. Knowing that begs us to ask, how many acting classes would be enough?
How many acting workshops do I have to attend?
Since acting is a craft wherein your instrument is your body, intuition and imagination as a whole, there is no single prescription that will fit all. We are all different, and our differences are what make us stand out. If individuals in drama school and university have at least 3 years of committed training, it would be wise to expect your training to take a little longer. Best if you take it as a lifelong journey of improvement, at your own pace.
We recommend you approach this with a train-audition-reflect mindset. As an actor going at it on your own, you have the advantage of being able to audition as you train, so you can apply what you learned at workshops to your auditions and then identify aspects that you would like more help with. This can be further training on a technique you know, or an exploration into being able to improvise, etc. The list goes on. It really does.
You will most probably have a day job to pay the bills so it is important to plan your training-auditioning around that. Remember, this is supposed to work for you and not burn you out.
If you are being trained privately, you could decide to have one class per week on a certain learning objective for a few weeks. Some group workshops offer this frequency, like our acting workshops. Except we’ve engineered ours to be progressive, so individuals who have taken them before, are always learning something new and can continue to take the same workshop over the course of a few months and always be developing the techniques further.
Some workshops may offer intensive exploration into a single technique, which allows you to decide for yourself where and how this technique fits into your personal toolkit. We are currently offering an intensive session on the Laban movement technique that you might want to check out.
Different types of acting classes
To start you off, here are the different kinds of acting classes that you can take to improve your technique as you go. This is more directed at actors who are planning to incorporate TV/Film/Plays into their careers, not so much voice-over acting (that’s a whole other career path) nor musical theatre (you’re better off starting a musical theatre career at a drama school).
Mind you, under these categories exist several techniques out there that you can google for further research. It will be easy to get lost and confused so just just keep this in mind:
You don’t have to learn all of the techniques
There is not one technique that is the best, a good place to start is with what is available
What is most important is that the technique that works for you; it supplements your intuition and imagination
That you like who you are learning from
All credit to this comprehensive list goes to Acting in London.
1. Acting Techniques
These are the most common acting classes that every actor takes, or at least must take. If you’re not going to a drama school, an acting technique class should be the first one you should take.
This type of on-going class can be labeled as an actor's foundation in the world of acting schools. It’s usually taught in many different ways, depending on your teacher and the approach they take (for example, Method Acting, Stella Adler, Meisner Technique, etc.)
Each acting teacher has their own take on how an actor can become better at this craft and their own techniques they’ve learned from their own acting teachers. You always have to choose which method you connect with the most, therefore, it’s best to audit several different classes and see where you connect the most.
In an acting technique class, you will learn all the basics of acting by using a specific method. The skills you learn here is what differentiates you from someone who doesn’t know how to act and someone who has some skill in acting.
2. Audition Technique Classes
Just as the name suggests, audition acting technique classes focus on the art of auditioning itself (which – as most working actors will tell you – is different from the art of performing).
It’s always a good idea to include a course of audition classes in your training, because auditioning is not easy by any means and can sometimes be even more difficult than the performance itself. Most actors dislike auditioning because they’re not good at it, and there are many ways to either screw up your audition, or succeed at it.
For example, auditioning classes teach actors how to break down a script (script analysis), what to do during an audition and how to get approval from the whole casting panel. Most teachers will get down to the very basics, such as “should you sit or stand when auditioning in front of casting directors?” or “should you mime that you’re talking on the phone?”
3. Scene Study Classes / On-camera Classes (Screen)
Just like the two types of acting classes above, this one is also often recommended for most aspiring actors just starting out. Even if you’ve trained in a reputable drama school, chances are you didn’t have enough professional on-camera training with real filmmakers, or haven’t broken down enough scenes. Here is where you fix this.
These acting classes differ slightly depending on the teacher and the school, but usually it’s either on-camera scene study class, or simply a scene study class where you don’t get to work on camera and only analyze and practice acting scenes.
General scene study class: In these ones the group and their teacher explore all kinds of scenes for plays, television and film. Normally, the teacher gives you the material, people working on it read the material, block it out, rehearse it, act it out and then present it as a finished acting scene.
Moreover, scene study classes are usually based on some kind of acting technique you learned in your Acting Technique class (discussed above). It could be Method Acting, Meisner Technique or anything else. Based on the theory of that particular technique, an actor is taught how to truthfully act out a scene for a play, film or television, and it’s up to you what you use.
On-camera scene study: These are the same as above, but the only difference is that after you break down the scene and practice it, you also get to be put on camera, which is extremely useful and gives you a chance to get used to performing in front of the camera.
Actors in an on-camera scene study class will learn how to control their vocal levels, how to know where to stand and where to go, and all other on-camera acting technicalities of which there are millions. Trust me, 9 times out of 10, a new actor will need to take this class, and a director on a professional film set will thank you for taking it.
4. Cold Reading (Sight Reading) Classes
Known as cold reading in the US and sight reading in the UK, these types of acting classes delve even deeper into the auditioning process and explore just one single part of it – reading from the script, analyzing it and doing it right in front of casting directors.
The main thing you’ll learn in a cold reading class is how to quickly prepare the text: how to read it, break it down and analyze it, memorize your lines and deliver them. This class is particularly useful for actors going out on a lot of commercials, as those types of auditions usually give you much less time to prepare, but the class is good for any aspiring actor in general.
There are many golden rules to cold reading. Such sight reading class will teach you how to get to the main part of the scene, what are the right questions to ask, how to understand your character, your obstacles, etc. You will learn to accomplish all these basic things very fast so that you have more time to think about your actual performance rather than figuring out what the text is about.
5. Improvisation Classes
Just like the acting class title implies, improvisation classes will teach you the skill of improv. Improvisation is a very highly valuable skill that will make any actor significantly better, whether you do drama or comedy, whether you do just commercials or film and theatre.
Improv classes are not only required for actors auditioning for film, television and theatre, but they’re almost a must for actors pursuing auditions for commercials. This is because improv is not only about comedy timing and being funny; it’s also about getting out of your head and being able to think on your feet, fast.
Commercial auditions will often ask you to improvise. In fact, every commercial auditioning you’re going into, you can safely assume that some improvisation will be required, which is why most acting schools with Commercial Acting Training classes either already have improv in them, or have a separate class that’s recommended for actors to take.
6. Commercial Acting Classes
Here is another essential class for actors who are pursuing acting jobs in commercials but – unlike improv classes – is not that necessary or even useful for actors that don’t go out for commercials. Ideally, you should have both – improv and commercial class training on your resume. However, if you were to pick just one, it should always be improv.
So what’s the difference between commercial acting classes and improv classes, or auditioning classes? Good question, because there is a difference.
Audition Technique acting classes teach actors how to behave during an audition, and they focus on the whole auditioning process in general. Improv classes teach you the basics of improvisation and how to get out of your head and think on your feet.
Now, commercial classes will teach you everything about commercials – from auditioning, to reading scripts, to improvising, to behaving on a commercial shoot, and so forth. Note that commercial acting is not the same as acting for film, theatre or TV; it’s very different (which is why you never put commercials on your acting resume/CV).
7. Voice/Vocal Classes
Vocal classes will teach actors how to use their voice to the best of its ability, how to breathe properly, how to control it; there will also be singing lessons. You will learn how to be more aware of your vocal abilities, which is a great skill to have regardless of which acting path you’re taking.
If you have the money and the time, it’s always a good idea to take vocal training classes, even if you’re not auditioning for any musical roles and focus on film or TV, for example.
8. Body and Movement Classes
This is the exact same situation as it is with vocal classes that I’ve described above. What vocal classes do to your voice, body and movement classes will do to your body. You will become more aware of every limb you have. You will explore the physicality of every part of your body that you are able to move.
While some classes may be called exactly that, most of these classes will not be labeled as “body and movement” and will have different names depending on which background they are based on. They will have something in the title to imply that it’s that type of training, however.
Furthermore, some acting schools can use specific techniques to improve actors’ movement techniques. These classes can be extremely useful to an actor for an overall skill set and becoming a more well-rounded performer.
All credit to this comprehensive list goes to Acting in London.
We hope this article helps you in your journey to lifelong improvement as an actor. Remember to audition as you go, because if you don’t audition, you won’t know where you should focus on next.
Speaking of auditions, we are in the process of selecting stories for an upcoming online Village showcase and we’re open to actors indicating their interest to audition. Just head over to this page and click Join as an Actor/Audience. We look forward to working with you!