What Can an Acting Coach Give You?

TA short while ago, The Stage ran a piece entitled “What can an acting coach help me with and how do I find a good one?” It featured two experienced acting coaches – Dee Cannon and Martin Harris. The fact that the paper is devoting an entire page to sharing “about what they and their peers can do to enhance your chances” is significant, as this publication identifies itself as “The weekly for the entertainment industry.” Their target readership will be performers who most likely will have attended drama school and are already in the profession. It is indicative of how acting coaches are increasingly used not only to get into drama school, but throughout an actor’s career.

Dee Cannon teaches at RADA and has coached actors such as Jon Voight and Matthew Modine. Acting coaches are far more common in America; but Britain is catching up.
“Drama school can offer you a vast amount of knowledge. What they don’t often have time to teach is how to precisely sift through this knowledge to prepare you for auditions. I believe auditioning is a specialised technique, condensing all your skill sets. The advantage of using an acting coach is to guide you methodically through the specifics of the techniques you will need to help you ultimately nail the role.”
At Audition Doctor, Tilly often has actors that come to her for screen auditions. Tilly’s approach to coaching actors for screen and stage barely differs. As Cannon states: “When preparing for stage or screen auditions there’s very little difference in approach. For screen you really don’t have to focus as much on your vocal or physical technique. You don’t have to project since the camera will pick up everything. However, you do have to know who you are, where you are, and what you want, etc. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, you need to connect to your character for both mediums and make strong choices on the text and find belief in the imagined circumstance.”
She warns against choosing acting coaches who give line readings or overly impose their take on the character. This is something that Audition Doctor categorically refuses to do. More than anything else, the sessions are all about bringing the you into the character.
Martin Harris focused on what Tilly constantly talks about in her sessions – the paramount importance of selecting the right speeches. “I think it shows much more imagination to find a less familiar piece and one which may also spark the interest of the director who has been watching audition pieces all day.” As much as they try, the first rounds of drama school auditions will make you feel like cattle. It’s not their fault – the incredibly high volume of applicants can dwarf any sense of individuality or originality that you thought you possessed. Picking unusual speeches will buoy you; you won’t feel so much like a number if you aren’t the third Sheila from A Day in the Death of Joe Egg going in.
At the end of the article, John Byrne – an entertainment industry career adviser at The Stage – emphasised how, ultimately, “the success of long term work with whichever coach you choose is also going to depend on the relationship between you and that individual coach…It is noticeable that in both contributions the key quality the guests have indicated as the goal of effective acting coaching is connecting with the truth.”
This is what the vast majority of Audition Doctor sessions are about – understanding the intentions and motivations behind what your character says. It is also why Tilly doesn’t take on every single student that she meets. Good work usually comes from sessions over an extended period. It’s important that both you and Tilly’s work ethics work well together and when they do, you can really stretch the capabilities of your acting.

The Audition Process – Starting Out

Applying to drama school is undoubtedly an exacting journey that can span over the course of several months. Every applicant will be constantly reminded of the punishingly unfavourable odds of successfully securing a place. I wanted to seek professional advice from someone who was experienced in coaching actors for auditions. I looked through dozens of acting coaches on the internet and Audition Doctor was the only website that distinctly stressed how Tilly Blackwood ensured that every student that she took on benefited from intensive classes that were specifically tailored to each individual. Already feeling like a very small fish in a sea of 4,000 applicants, I thought it would be a wise idea to get in touch. Her warm and approachable manner combined with her enthusiasm and thoughtful advice allowed me to start the process with structure and confidence.

As Tilly stressed, investing time to pick speeches that show off your strengths as well as your potential is key. Depending on how many drama schools you apply for and how successful you are in getting recalls, the odds are that you’ll be doing the same two or three speeches twenty times in auditions, not to mention using lines from them during audition workshops. Knowledge of the play as a whole is vital for when you are hopefully redirected. It puts you in a position to be able to make intelligent decisions and justify them. The ability to analyse and articulate thoughts on character is rooted in a deep understanding and familiarity with the text.

Going into Samuel French or Waterstones and being faced with seemingly unending bookshelves with centuries worth of plays is, without question, intimidating. There are some reassuring guidelines that help narrow the search such as “Modern” being rather arbitrarily defined as being post 1956. Certain drama schools such as the Central School of Speech and Drama have a list of audition speeches that you must choose from. RADA offer helpful criteria such as advising candidates to pick speeches that feature characters that are close in age to them and not picking modern speeches that require an accent that isn’t your own. As some people found out, some drama schools are averse to certain audition speeches. With Shakespeare, this is clearly unavoidable, however, Tennesse Williams, Steven Berkoff and Chekhov were at times deemed to be “overdone.”

I bought a selection of plays. (As long as you are careful not to bend the spine and smear the pages, Waterstones allow you to return “unwanted items” and obtain a full refund within 21 days. I would advise only doing this a maximum of two times as you will be strictly reprimanded for “using the bookshop as if it’s a university library, which it isn’t” and banned from purchasing not only books but also stationary for a month.) I auditioned them with Tilly and it was immediately clear which speeches were not suitable and which were real contenders. We did this for about 3 weeks until we narrowed it down and when the final 2 were chosen, I felt a bit like I had climbed Everest as the general consensus is that when you’ve chosen your speeches, you’re half-way there. Little did I know it was only Base Camp.


Testimony from Denise Orita

I have been a professional actress for over twenty years and during this time I have had some fantastic jobs and met some wonderful people along the way. After I left drama school I have always continued to train by doing classes or one to one with a coach. I have enjoyed these sessions over the years and definitely felt that there was an improvement, however, in between I have felt very low about my ability- especially in the area of television and have often felt that I am missing something.

Then by lucky chance I came across Tilly Blackwood. Tilly is without any doubt the best drama coach I have ever worked with. Tilly has an incredible ability to help you find the truth in what you are doing; her methods are subtle yet very effective. In one of our sessions I found myself so deep in character, that it took me a while to recover. I was able to trust what Tilly gave me and go with it- pure joy. I also have felt incredibly motivated since Tilly became my Coach. Although I have enjoyed Shakespeare in the past, now I love it and find myself seeking it out wherever I can. Suddenly my ears have been opened and I am able to truly enjoy and appreciate it.

I have also noticed a 100% improvement in performances in my auditions and film work. I did some filming the other day and for the first time I arrived feeling confident in my ability. I was able to go for it and not feel worried and the result was clear for all to see.

I cannot recommend Tilly highly enough- she is a very special and talented person who is able to share her gift with her students in a very positive way. I am just so happy that I have found her now.

Acting Coach London – Special Offer!

Audition Doctor provides bespoke acting classes that are tailored to your individual needs; helping build confidence for your next audition in TV, Film or Theatre.

We provide a service that is unparalleled with a proven success rate for getting actors back into the professional workplace and offer a variety of acting classes, from 121’s, groups and workshops.

Audition Doctor was set up by Tilly Blackwood; an experienced working Actress who teaches regularly at The Actors Centre in London, where she continues her work on a one to one basis, as well as further text based work with larger groups.


Special Offer
For 2 weeks only, buy one acting class for £40 and get one free!

For more details or to make a booking please contact Tilly Blackwood on:

Mobile: 07764 193 806
Email: tilly@auditiondoctor.co.uk