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.