“What Skills Should an Actor Have?”
“What Skills Should an Actor Have?”
An excess of options.
Here’s a question worth several million dollars when you consider the amount actors spend on degree programs, general classes, literature, coaching and the like. Acting is an art form, of course, and whether you are receiving rigorous classical training at an esteemed conservatory or learning to open up your chakras around Shakespearean text in a Bushwick actor collective, I think we can agree that on a basic level it is simply one where people pretend to be other people in made up stories.
But there are many, many schools of thought on how to act effectively, and therefore even more skills people think actors “should” have. These skills can range from the practical (horseback riding, stage combat, accents and handstands) to the more esoteric (empathy, listening, concentration).
So if you’re a diligent, nerdy little actor like me who loves this stuff, this can be immensely overwhelming. There are so many things I can do to better my craft! I could learn to juggle bowling pins, immerse myself in clinical psychology, master iambic pentameter…how the here am I going to decide what skills I need to focus on today, tomorrow and next week?
Well, for years it’s mainly been “whatever my little heart feels like it needs to be creative”, and what often results is me trying to improve my craft without a sense of discipline, follow through and accountability or strategy. This is because I really don’t have any goals or purpose around the improving of my product, I am instead just doing what I feel like, when I feel like.
Don’t follow your heart, follow your business
Therefore, we believe all product improvement (getting better at our craft) needs to be approached from a business lens.
“Oh no Artist’s Strategy, you better back off! Now you want to taint and poison my craft with your dirty words like ‘goals’, ‘strategy’ and…. ‘BUSINESS?!’ This is art! How dare you?”
Ok, but it’s also your time.
Trust me, I wish I could spend my time having fun with my art, focusing all my time and energy on an “Acting Chekhov” class or “Space Object Workshop” but I have bills to pay and a business to run. Instead of listening to how my inner child wants to get better, I need to look at my business in order to sift through the literal tens of thousands of things I can do and instead get specific and targeted.
We encourage our clients to come up with a vision of what they want their careers to look like, what value do they see their business providing to the industry as a whole? How do they want to change the game? Implicit in a strong and specific vision for your business will be certain values and skills you will have to deliver on, some of which you already have, others you don’t and some that simply need to improve. These are the most important qualities of your craft and business you must obtain and maintain.
Our branding process with clients is incredibly thorough, where through a self-searching inventory and targeted marketing feedback we identify the descriptive traits and unique assets that make up a brand promise. We must deliver on that brand promise consistently in order for it to be credible, and therefore obtain and maintain the skills inherent in that brand promise.
Finally, we must look at our goals. What are the mile-markers you want to hit in your career? Break them down and identify what things you need to get better at to support you in your active work to hit those career goals. It’s that simple.
Approaching our craft improvement from this lens helps us identify what skills will actually propel us forward and make our product more desirable for our customers. In a world of infinite possibilities as boundless as our dreams and creative spirits, it sometimes helps to get down to brass tacks.