There are many books available to actors about learning the craft. Who I am kidding – there are tons of books out there about acting! There are biographies and autobiographies written by actors who have come before, there are books that teach different methods of acting, and there are books full of exercises aimed at making you a better actor. All of these books are beneficial! Yes, I said ALL of them – you may have been told not to read this book or that book, but I disagree. While it’s true that some books do a far better job of helping and teaching an actor in some respects, any book you can get your hands on is going to teach you something, even if it’s “what not to do,” and sometimes these are the most valuable lessons of all.
Acting is a very individually-based career. As I’ve said before, what works for one person may not work for another. This should always be foremost in your mind when educating yourself. Just because you read or learn about a particular way of doing something, doesn’t mean it’s the right way for you. You need to take everything you read with a grain of salt. I recommend trying everything, every method or tip, try them over and over, but when you find that something just isn’t working for you – move on! And if you’re only reading what everyone else is reading, how will you ever grow further and set yourself apart? There are no bad books, only bad advice and it’s up to you to determine which advice is bad for you.
Here’s a few books to get you started:
Breaking Into Acting for Dummies
Sanford Meisner on Acting
An Actor’s Work
Respect for Acting
The Actor and the Target
How to Sell Yourself as an Actor
Voice Actor’s Guide to Recording at Home…And on the Road
Actions: The Actors' Thesaurus
I consider most of these books to be essential reading for an actor. The last book is a handy reference you'll use often throughout your career.
2. Websites & Blogs
The same rules apply here as for books. Everything has something to teach you. Read it all, but keep your wits about you!
Here’s a few websites & blogs:
Casting Call Pro
Acting Up Blog
I highly recommend Backstage first as an excellent resource for the beginning actor. Some of these sites are provided as actor listing services, but they all contain content to guide actors in their careers.
3. Watch Movies & Plays – Read Scripts
This seems obvious and self-explanatory. Watching other actors work can be a very powerful tool in your education. And the more scripts you read, the more you get a feel for the industry and what to expect on the page.
Here’s a few script resources:
Dramatists Play Service
The Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb)
There are a ton of resources for scripts – search the web and you’ll find them.
4. Taking Classes
Taking classes is extremely important because it allows you to apply what you’ve learned. There are lots of classes out there and just like books and websites, they are all going to offer you something. Again this is something you just have to try out and see if it works for you. Different teachers use different methods and motivate their students differently, so again what works for one person may not work for another. As I’m based in Pittsburgh, I’m going to share with you some classes that you can take in the Pittsburgh area. There are classes available all over though, so if you’re not in Pittsburgh, do a web search, join actor groups, ask friends, but find a class and get started!
Here’s a few Pittsburgh classes:
Nancy Mosser Casting – Randy Kovitz
Pittsburgh Filmmakers – Jeff Monahan
Donna Belajac Casting – Jill Wadsworth
CCAC – Donna Perkins
Market Street Sound – Amy Hartman
Steel City Improv – Justin Zell, Kasey Daley, Greg Gillotti
Point Park University – Ben Blazer & Carin Bendas
I have personally taken all but one of these classes at some point and I’ve learned valuable lessons from each. I have not taken the movement class, but it's taught by a friend and colleague, Ben Blazer (who I've worked with on more than one occassion), so I feel confident about recommending it to you. There are other classes available in the Pittsburgh area, but I am only including those that I have experienced.
I encourage anyone to comment to this post with any other books, websites, blogs, script resources, and classes (in and out of Pittsburgh) that you can personally recommend.
Next week… The Age Old Question and What to do About it!