Choosing a coach for actor training is so important and challenging to an aspiring actor, and the individual that you team up with can wind up being more than just a colleague, teacher or professional connection.
In many cases, acting coaches become an ongoing source of great inspiration and have the intention of being a nurturing role model for their pupils. To be truthful, it is unlikely that you will gain much from paying someone that you have no respect for and ultimately think that you can do better than! When you are up collecting your first Emmy, you want to look back and be able to say: “You taught me so much”.
I can’t emphasis enough that you don’t just need to get on, you must look up to your guide, connect with them on an emotional level, recognise their personal achievements and understand that they have the necessary tools and experience to improve your resume and guide you throughout your own journey. In some ways, you and your coach will be in it together, listening to each other’s dreams, aims and objectives and any successes you receive will feel like a success to your tutor too.
Your acting coach will be a source of inspiration, someone you look up to and someone who can share in your success. Photo credit: ricardomoraleida on Visualhunt.com
They will not only be your instructor, they will likely become a supportive influence in every step you take towards your life in the entertainment industry, down to how you dress, how you present yourself and much more. As such, picking the right person to coach you is very important, and it won’t do you any good switching coaches all the time. If the chemistry isn’t there and they don’t get you, then it’s probably not the right pairing so use your instinct to determine if this is the inspiring role model you need or not.
You will spend an awful lot of time with your acting coach working on weaknesses and strengths. Exercises you might do together are: reading monologues, building up your confidence, exploring your imagination, doing script analysis, understanding how to cold read, practising camera scenes, developing the art of expression, learning how to showcase emotion and working on speech, dialect and accents.
There are many other things to consider when looking for an acting coach; there’s the question of their personality, how much they cost, what acting techniques they use to train (the Meisner technique, Alexander technique, Stella Adler, Method acting, the Lee Strasberg conception, the Stanislavski philosophy etc…) where they work, do they have their own acting studio, how successful and respected they are in their own right (i.e. have they worked on broadway, been in theater productions or starred in movies or musicals, are they a popular casting director?), what qualifications they have and if they are recommended by others. But, these should come second to finding someone who you think is gifted and can inspire you.
Remember that an acting teacher can help you out with much more than just acting tips: you can look for someone who is specialised in casting, improvisation, film acting, theatrical performance (i.e. dancing), directing, cold reading, voiceovers, commercials, musical theater (i.e. singing), and more. The seasoned professional doesn’t have to be a an Oscar nominee, an award winning star or have graduated from Juilliard to offer useful coaching sessions and guidance, but you should check all the same that they are passionate and have the fundamental skills needed to teach you about your chosen field.
While only you can know if signs of a good working relationship are there, here are some tips on what to do and what not to do when looking for your acting coach.
It goes without saying, doing your homework is a must. If you don’t research your options and gather evidence to back up that one (or maybe two) coaches stand out as being better suited to you, then how can you ever be sure that you are making the right decision? Being confident and positive is important to making the relationship work and in tackling your aspirations for the future in harmony.
Perhaps start by searching the Internet for coaches in your area or asking teachers, friends and other connections at drama establishments for testimonials. As mentioned before, the bigger cities are normally where the most successful coaches and agents are at, but that doesn’t mean to say that you won’t find a superb coach in a town near you.
Don’t just go with anyone, an acting coach will only benefit you if you look around and find the person best suited to you and your needs. Photo credit: Street Photography candid on VisualHunt
While you aren’t auditioning for a specific acting role, in some ways, auditioning to be taken into the care of a professional acting coach can be way more important. Impressing a coach can be the first leap towards the career you have been dreaming of, and the professional needs to see your drive and passion before they put their trust in you. Likewise, if you are to put your trust in them, you also need to plan your side of the audition too. This means getting some questions ready to ask them, so that you can work out if it is to be a good pairing.
I would highly recommend that you attend more than one audition or meeting, even if you have your heart set on teaming up with a particular coach. Have you ever set your sights on a particular pair of shoes, gadget or even a venue and then when you’ve gone to see them in the flesh, read the small print and/or explored your other options, realised that they actually weren’t the right choice for you? Keep your options open and be flexible when on the hunt for acting coaches as some may be able to offer something fresh and new that you wouldn’t have otherwise considered looking for.
It is incredibly difficult to explain, but you will know when you have found your perfect acting coach, as you will instantly connect, and they will understand you too.
Obviously, you don’t want to go beyond your means financially, but if you happen to come across someone who seems perfect but is a bit out of your budget, then don’t immediately shy away and rule them out. There could be ways around hiring a more expensive tutor than anticipated, especially if you are really serious about your career and can see no other way of achieving success than when paired up with this individual. You might, for example, want to consider asking what deals they offer, seeing if a relative might sponsor you throughout your training or, depending on your financial situation, apply for a loan from your bank to set you off on the right track.
There is no denying that certain coaches offer a more extensive level of experience in some fields than others; a coach is bound to have their sought after specialisms and their biggest success stories to wow you with. As such, remember to choose your coach wisely, not for the fact that they are a better known coach and have seen a particular star through their big breakthrough, but because they can offer you something special and something which you can relate to on your own personal level.
Don’t be guilty of agreeing to any terms with a coach until you have met them and had the opportunity to really decide if they are your kind of person. Upon meeting them, the coach might not be what you expected (in a good or bad way!) from having liaised by email and phone. This is why a face to face meeting or a one to one Skype video call is so important, especially if you plan to travel far from where you live to rehearse with them.
Be sure to meet with prospective coaches to see if the chemistry is there. Photo on Visualhunt.com
Once again, be reminded that although you and your coach should click, this is not supposed to be the beginning of a blossoming friendship. You can expect the individual to be approachable and friendly but don’t be taken aback if they are straight-talking too. Some of the best and most talented teachers are the strictest, no-nonsense ones, after all…
Not only will you be unable to see a full and honest representation of the individual if you don’t take the time to meet them, they also won’t be in any position to really get you as an actor without seeing how you look and how you come across. This will only serve to start the relationship off with poor boundaries and culminate in neither of you feeling very grateful for the relationship.
Young actors might wish to have a family member with them when meeting up with a prospective teacher because not only will their loved ones not want them to take risks (though it is rare, some teens and adults alike have been lured to meeting places and then sexually assaulted) but they may also want to be a part in the decision (especially if they have contributed to acting school and acting workshops). It is good to pick a spot that you feel at home in, but if you are in a strange city like New York City, Los Angeles or Manhattan, then be sure to check the place out first so that you can feel more at ease when you finally do meet. One last note – if it is up to you to organise the meeting then be sure to make a booking so that you don’t look silly when you arrive and the place is full!
What Experience Should A Drama Tutor Have?
There are no guidelines or qualifications for acting coaches, which makes it even harder for aspiring actors to know what to look out for in the moment. That said, most sensible trainees will want a coach who has a certain level of experience of the media industry, for example having been to drama school or taken acting classes, auditioned and acted professionally, been on a recruiting panel, and generally have an actors connection to the indsutry etc…
It is important to note that acting teachers aren’t failed actors.
There are many reasons for individuals to become teachers of dramatic arts, not forgetting that many coaches continue to act alongside tutoring their pupils (this means that you can both, in the present, relate to the stresses of auditions and solidify your bond). Some coaches choose their path because it offers them a more manageable workload and more flexibility, whilst also being a more reliable and steady source of income.
Here is my recap on the Dos and Don’ts of choosing your acting coach.
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