How do people listen to music while doing something else creative? Writing, for example. Not that I’m being overly creative writing another blog post over here, but I am almost sure there is a part of the right side of the brain involved in this seldom accomplishment of mine. I just had to turn off Mr Bon Jovi (after singing a few songs with him, duh), as there is no way one can concentrate while this kind of 80’s songs are playing. I skimped through my collection and put on La Primavera, then L’inverno, L’Autunno and L’Estate by Vivaldi from The Four Seasons. Didn’t work – as it turns out, I’m just useless when any kind of music to my liking is playing in the background. I obviously started to orchestrate the pieces, as one does (3rd minute of L’Inverno). One artistic task at a time for me please.
Remember back in the day when I ranted about becoming more “actor-ish”? Well, I finally realized that the thing was (is) partially idiotic. I since have tried to fight my laziness and did the things that I like – drawing, reading, guitar, flute, harmonica. It also has to be mentioned that I got my hands onto these mostly no more than once a month – I pick up the harmonica, spend fifteen minutes with it and get pissed off about how difficult it is to learn and put it down. Now that’s progress man! Bruce is awesome at this though.
In other news, my green card has finally arrived about a month ago (it actually is very green!) – the physical copy with the ugly looking dude on the right side and a poorly printed signature at the bottom (when did they get my signature for the ID? #scary) I’m definitely-maybe a partial citizen of this broke country in debt that I love so very much. I don’t get a vote though, which I really wish I did, like, for tomorrow. The minute I’ve opened the letter with GC, I have realized that the course of my life is changing fo-real and I am leaving Europe for good. *restarts Four Seasons* Since then I am trying to drop all the nonsense bullshit that I’ve been doing so far and seriously concentrate on the craft. So I have a question for you – have you been working on your craft? I was trying to come up with a few ideas what there is for an actor to do while no significant acting/business/networking task can be done, and I present to you several thoughts that I kept in my head.
Disclaimer: The list is mostly for those light years away from the show business industry – much like I am – therefore no “classes, mailings, other submissions” are included.
This was my priority number one, and for more than one reason. Being born as Russian mixed with some other lesser known nations, in an Eastern European country, and moved to United Kingdom not too long ago, it is not difficult to figure that English is not one’s native tongue and the hideous accent doesn’t help to mask it (at least I can pretend to be a good speaker behind this screen over here). Reading plenty helped me improve my language, my accent, my pronunciation and not only that – reading is or should be an essential part of every actor’s life, as it will help to expand your imagination. Next to Meisner/Esper exercises, this is one of the top activities for bringing your imagination back to child-like state (this is a good thing). Also, don’t limit yourself only to acting related books. In fact, it’s best to rest from the craft and the business once in a while and embark on some imagination adventure with a nice cozy book. I discovered Beat Generation a long while ago and am still trying to read everything and anything written by the Beats during 1940s-60s. Plays are always a good idea.
Not every one can be a writer. I have never been a good one; frankly I suck at it, big time. But what I do, is just keep trying, and it’s the key word for me throughout this whole journey of mine. I feel if I just keep pushing this crap out of myself, from somewhere very deep inside of me some Billy Wilder stuff will come out. It’s like running water from the tap after fixing the pipes – ya’kno, that brownish stuff: you run it and it keeps coming, getting clearer and clearer bit by bit. Never had that? Well, you’ve never lived in Eastern Europe. In any case, keep producing any kind of writing – blogging, screen plays, plays, books, letters, diaries, etc. It is basically what Julia Cameron advised in The Artist’s Way – A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity (arguably the best book for a creative person; ignore the religious stuff if you’d like): to “unblock” yourself, write anything for 30min everyday. Be open.
Probably the favorite one of most of nowadays’ folks. None of us can live without the thing, and the ability to incorporate internet in the journey of becoming a better actor is truly a blessing. Just like it can be a curse; depending on what kind of a person are you. I have to admit that I need to limit and control my daily intake of the internet, as I can very easily got caught up there and spend about 20 hours without even noticing it (fact). However, there is plenty of stuff to do in there to find motivation, to get creative, to research, find answers to any question you need. Basically, do a lot of reading. Apart from loads of other websites, I usually go and read BackStage and Showfax weekly columns – there is so much genius compositions there from even before I have decided to become an actor that it will take till the end of my career in show business to polish them all (my favorites include SAM and Bonnie). I seek motivation in reading interviews and biographies of my favorite actors, as well as taking notice in what they have done to prepare for the role or make it in this industry (trust me, there’s nothing wrong with that, as any experienced working actor will tell you). I love reading other actor’s blogs (there is a post dedicated to them coming up) – this will present you with an idea of the reality of the struggle in LA and NYC that you are going to experience; it’s a great motivation too (one of my favorites is StarsInTheEyes). If you have questions, an awesome forum on the business is always there to help you out.
Sober. And during the day. And not to the club. And without the entourage – on your own, so you can concentrate on your thoughts. I myself am poor at concentration (as we have established, ADD doesn’t help much either), therefore I like to force and train myself to become better at it. It is fairly easier when you love the things you are concentrating on. Apparently, James Dean was magnificent at this – it’s easy to tell, even if it’s from a very few of his performances (find D.Hopper’s quote below). Go out to galleries, shows, museums or do any other that sort of thing. You can also try and dedicate your time to trying to correct grammar mistakes in this post, but I recommend first to just go around and see things. Then, give a shot to trying to understand the meaning behind a painting, or a photograph, or a sculpture. Imagine, how it was being made or what is the thought of it. That is what I do, and I do enjoy it (I never thought that I would have before trying). I feel as if it is waking up the right side of my brain, and at the same time taking me away from the blocked person I used to be. It might be placebo, of course, but what do I care… Stop it, if you hate it; find any other activity in this field of creative works (see paragraph below). There is a great part dedicated to a similar idea in, again, Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” book, called “artist’s date“, if I’m not mistaken (it’s been a while the last time I’ve read the book). Go out. On your own, it’s essential.
“I have never seen an actor as dedicated, with the extreme concentration and exceptional imagination as James Dean.” – Dennis Hopper of James Dean
…small things also matter
There are so many little things in life that we might overlook when talking about preparing for the craft, but I feel these are all individual-based tasks. However the idea is all the same – to embrace them, and not drop everything that you used to love for the sake of working on the acting craft and business twenty four / seven. Live your life and enjoy whatever you used to before dedicating yourself fully to this serious and long-term relationship with acting. Personally, I do like going to the gym once in a while; I feel good both physically and mentally after. Running is another physical activity that I sometimes get a rush of hypothalamic hormones to accomplish: just go out and do Forrest Gump kind of running to nowhere. Watching good films, especially good old ones (still working on finishing IMDb’s Top 250, got about 50% left) isn’t bad: this one is always a huge motivator for me to go and do things that matter. Listening to music – a definite drug of mine that I spend ours on, as well as a lot of other people’s, I am sure: you do have to choose something more meaningful than Guetta though, I guess. Go for The Four Seasons. *restarts Four Seasons again* I’m just kidding – to each their own. Drawing, playing, painting, writing, thinking, singing, imagining, learning, composing, day-dreaming, researching, listening, being interested… oh man, there are so many little unrelated things that we can do besides stuff for acting, which in the end, I think (two key words here, mind you), would help us to become better actors. Balance.
I just got people involved into my life, and you already know so much more about foreign actor’s dream journey of breaking into the industry. These are the things that I try to do, ideas that I believe in and goals that I try to accomplish. I have skipped sentences like submitting yourself to agents, sending out postcards to CDs, getting together with your acting associates and do acting-related things, go out networking and some healthy stalking of Steven Spielberg, join **** class or community college or improv group or comedy show or a circus, and the rest. These are all vital no doubt, but I am too far away from Tinseltown at the moment, and too broke to keep going back and forth to/from London (it’s way more expensive down here in South of England, ya’kno). Hopefully there are no more aspiring actors in similar situation, but if there are, maybe you get something out of this ADD-inspired post.
“He had the greatest power of concentration I have ever encountered… The lines were not simply something he had memorized – they were actually a very real part of him.” – Jim Backus of James Dean
Now go learn a new monologue that’ll come in handy later. I will.