Actor Essentials – Philippa Hammond

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Philippa Hammond is an experienced actor and voice artist who also runs Speaking Well in Public, delivering public speaking workshops and leadership and management training for businesses.

Here she discusses three of the essentials of actor conduct that often don’t get discussed at acting school.

Philippa Hammond
Philippa Hammond, actor and voice artist

Actor essentials 1: Learn it, turn up, say it like you mean it

There are a whole lot of acting theories out there but for me it all comes down to three things:

Learn it

  • Read the whole script, not just your bit.
  • Know the part your character plays in the story and what a difference there’d be if s/he hadn’t been there.
  • Know the effect s/he has on every other character.
  • For auditions, learn it – don’t read it. Most won’t bother, and will not look as impressive as the actor who did.
  • Know your lines and cues inside out and back to front – that’s when you start being believable, because groping for the next line ruins the effect.

Turn up

Reliability is one of the greatest traits for an actor. Being on time for auditions, rehearsals, filming and performances – and being in the right place ready to make your entrance, hit your mark, repeat your movements and speak on cue will build your professional reputation.

Say it like you mean it

  • The writer builds the house – the actor turns on the lights.
  • Only a small amount of our communication happens via words – much more is conveyed by intonation and non verbal communication, by expression and body language and by the way we use props and relate to each other.
  • Your eyes, voice, face, body and hands all light up a script.

Seems obvious? Sadly many actors don’t develop these essentials – and those who do, get a head start.

Actor essentials 2: Nerves

Richard E Grant calls it THE FEAR.

Whatever you call it, we’ve all experienced that all-encompassing, confidence-destroying attack of stage fright.

It’s normal. Everyone who’s ever stood in front of an audience, camera or mic has felt it to some degree.

It’s natural. We evolved as survivors, and that fight or flight response is there to save our lives.

It’s necessary. If you didn’t feel nervous you wouldn’t care about your performance.

It’s controllable. You can change how you think about nerves.

This will help you feel better – and perform better:

  • Think positive words: I’ve prepared, learned and rehearsed for this. People are nice – they want me to do well. They’re going to enjoy it, and so am I.
  • Think positive images: Visualise yourself looking great, giving a terrific performance to a rapt audience.
  • Think positive memories: Collect emails, reviews and comments in your phone to remind yourself you can do this.
  • Relax. Stand straight and tall, drop your shoulders and take control of your breathing.
  • Use that energy – shake out, run, jump, stretch – it wants you to move and you’ll start feeling better.

If you’ve put the work in – you’ll get results.

Actor essentials 3: In the Spotlight?

New actors often ask if Spotlight is really necessary. Isn’t it just one more expense to worry about?

Well, if you’re not in Spotlight you’re much less likely to get work.

Here’s why:

  • A casting director is the person standing between you and that job on Game of Thrones.
  • Every casting puts the casting director’s reputation under the microscope – they can’t afford a mistake.
  • They will release the casting breakdown to agents they know and trust.
  • Agents can’t afford a mistake either – so they will only send carefully curated lists of their most suitable, skilled and reliable actors for consideration.
  • A casting director could have hundreds of suggestions in the inbox by lunchtime and is usually on a tight deadline. They don’t have time to mess about with each actor’s website, You Tube and Facebook page, and want quick links to clear, uniform and comprehensive information – and that means Spotlight.
  • An agent will be unlikely to want to represent you without Spotlight, as they won’t be able to market you. And without an agent, you’re unlikely to see the casting breakdowns you want.

So yes – a Spotlight entry is an essential part of the professional actor’s toolkit.

Philippa Hammond

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