What Is Acting? – My Subjective Opinion

We now live in a world where the majority of acting (and music for that matter or “insert here”) has been relegated to being solely a popularity contest. A recent article came out stating that Hollywood was now casting 7% based on talent and the rest based on “how popular you are” on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and the like. Don’t get me wrong, the entertainment business has always been about money but before social media, you would have to admit that, for the most part, anyone who was big on TV, Film, Theater, Radio had to actually be talented and work their “craft” before they could be taken seriously. I mean, there were no Kardashians because there was no outlet for them. Music? forget it… you played your instruments, you sang your songs… people wrote “songs” with melodies and inspiring lyrics not “beats” with repetitive samples… We had Jimmy Hendrix and Billy Joel NOT Kanye West and Auto Tune… but I digress.

This blog is about acting. I’m so tired of hearing, “less is more”, “just be”, “don’t DO anything”, “throw the line away”, “just say what’s on the page”, “just listen and respond.” There can be no other art form that is taken less seriously than acting. I can’t think of one. I mean, painters and sculptors aren’t told to “just paint”…. singers (for the most part) aren’t told to “just sing the notes on the page”… dancers aren’t told to “don’t over do it.”

As an actor who has also taught the “craft,” or at least attempted to, over the course of fifteen years to various ages, I realize that only about 7-10% of actors are actually good at what they do and only 2% are actually great (and I might be exaggerating). However, it becomes increasingly infuriating to hear other instructors and actors talk in a manner that relegates what I studied the better part of my teens and twenties to “just learn the lines and listen.”  Would you all please give me a break?!? What happened to an actor preparing, creating a character and building a role? Where are you, Stanislavsky, Uta… anyone???

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Nope. Let’s just take an hour a week class and a few crash weekend courses taught by a casting director and all call ourselves actors, shall we!?! Why not? I mean, I’m sure that’s what Meryl Streep did? Gary Oldman? Al Pacino? Daniel Day Lewis? Yup. That’s what they do… just learn those lines and listen like hell! Character choices? Being interesting? Unique? Larger than life? Nah… let’s all just be normal pedestrian people. Cuz that’s what I want to see when I go to the movies, theater and watch TV.  Just a bunch of normal people talking to each other in a normal way. Sign me up for that.

As a comic actor, I really want to play a bunch of fart jokes, witty repartee, pop culture references and work with people who think they’re funny just bounce around doing two hours of college humor. Perfect! Steve Martin? Peter Sellars? Martin Short? Who are they? That’s what they did, right?
Meryl-Streep_l

Are any of the actors I mentioned, any less “real” because they make bold character choices? Are they “unbelievable” OR are there actually real people out there in our “normal” daily lives who are indeed larger than life, crazy, fascinating, different, bold, over the top? I have met a lot of people like that in my life. They have scared me, made me walk on the other side of the street, made me want to leave the room, annoyed me, made me angry because they were loud, opinionated, weird, maniacal, fantastical, physically awkward, unintelligible and more… BUT, they were ALL interesting and fascinating and sometimes, they were the only people that I wanted to talk to or hang with.

As an actor, that’s who I want to create! Yes, will they seem over the top at times? Of course. Doesn’t the weirdo who talks with a raspy voice, hunches over and talks to himself in the subway seem “over the top?”  However, to him, he’s as normal as you and I. He doesn’t know. To him, it’s all REALITY! I’m not speaking about having to “pretend” to be someone else? I’m talking about finding those big bold differences and finding them within YOU. Stretching yourself and your emotional boundaries, your vocal boundaries, your physical boundaries and embodying those characteristics to become this other being… that comes from within. To bring those characteristics to life in a truthful and believable way.

That’s who I want to give an audience when they pay $8.50-$150.00 to come and see me perform. I want to give them an interesting story told by interesting characters who are not normal everyday people. Why would I want to write or create normalcy?!? If we, as actors, want to be taken seriously and really make an impact with our work, make it memorable… we need to stop believing in, “just say it” and “just be” and actually come to the realization that, perhaps…  “I may not be where I need to be as an artist.”  Maybe I need to break down and get back to learning, practicing and expanding because, the hard part is not the “theory of everything” it’s the “execution of everything.”  It’s difficult to do what our great actors do… it’s draining and exhausting. But, it’s a responsibility that they gladly take up.

There’s a reason why our business is saturated with “actors.”  The reason is because the majority of what the lay person is watching IS easy. Anyone can do it. Anyone can memorize those lines and deliver a “normal” performance and look “pretty” and “handsome” doing it. A few of my recent projects were filled with it. If that’s all that we do, then yes, anyone that is intelligent, well spoken and put together can be an actor. There are so many of those. I won’t name names. However, there are not many of the ones that I mentioned prior. Think about it.

Even after 25 years of study and professional work. I’m still learning and growing as an actor and as a writer! BUT, I strive to create something memorable with every story that I tell. That’s all I ever want to do. I want to be the 2%. Otherwise, why do it? What’s the point?

So, if you disagree with my opinion or think I’m pretentious, that’s totally cool. But if you do agree, here’s hoping the person who disagrees gets out of the way for the rest of us so that perhaps, one day, the “craft of acting” is taken seriously.

Thanks for reading and I apologize if I offended anyone but, it is my blog, after all. 🙂

Stay tuned for my upcoming projects with Kvibe Productions and Khoa Le.

Please visit me at IMDB, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram so that I can be popular and taken seriously by casting directors. 🙂

14 Comments

  1. Karen Chimato says:

    Learning, practicing, expanding. Despite the current climate of the industry, it is always the work that is the key to being taken seriously in the craft. I believe most of the viewing audience believes the same, they just don’t express it. Thank you Frank for speaking of and to the true nature of this fascinating, freeing art.

  2. Marcie Gorman says:

    I agree with everything you said!
    An actor should not be a parrot by memorizing lines and speaking them. An actor “acts”. An actor creates the story I watch. An actor is not playing themselves- they “create” another person- with new body language to match the new dialogue which then creates the scene in my head. If I am interested in the scenery on the stage–the actor is at fault for not capturing my attention while practicing their chosen career.
    Acting is not an easy career choice- many people try to do it, but miss the point. Acting is translating the words memorized into a character. A character is not the person who memorized the lines. A character is created by reciting the words and adding the body language, dialect, attitude, rhythm, facial expressions- and so much more.
    Shakespeare correctly stated “to be or not to be, that is the question”.
    A real actor knows the difference in “being” or simply “not being”. You must BE the character, create the character, become BFF’s with the character, in order to convince the audience who you are— that persuasion of an audience to learn who you are is the “success” of being a good actor.
    As a Producer/Director, I try to cast only people who can convince me- via improvisation, good choices of characters to match my request, etc., that they ARE the character they memorized the lines for and can create that character in MY mind.

  3. James Ferrigno says:

    That was a great read Frank! Thanks for taking the time to put it down. It gave me some insight as to where I may have come up short as an actor in the past. I’ve been known to “underplay” and be safe rather than to cut loose and “go for it.” Lately with our improv troupe I have be going for it more ,and it seems to be working better. I have always been afraid of “chewing up the scenery” but I am trying to find a notch a couple of steps down from there.

  4. Lindsey says:

    I’ve always greatly respected acting, but after delving into the art form and reading books by Uta Hagen, Stanislavsky, Stella Adler, Michael Chekov, and Richard Boleslavksy, it has just raised my respect! I knew tons of preparation always needs to happen when preparing for a role, but I am amazed at how much detail is required! It is truly a fun, satisfying craft, especially when you know you worked extremely hard to make your character unique and unforgettable. Thank you for putting some of my thoughts into words!

  5. Alexander Leaty says:

    I couldn’t have said it better. You have some great points. In order to be great you have to think outside the box, take risks and keep your craft sharp. This reminded me of the reason why I wanted to become an actor in the first place. Which was to escape and to become someone else for a while. I remember the times I spent observing people’s mannerism while out and about. Watching the way they walk and talk, watching their habits, nervous tick etc. in order for me to use those behaviors for my characters when the time came. I still do it from time to time till this day. Your right normal is boring.
    I played an undercover cop in a feature film that was a comedy. The script was not funny at all. The cop I played was normal. I decided to give him a handicap by stuttering. The director kept telling me that i keep stuttering my lines. I said I’m not stuttering, that’s how my character talks. He didn’t like it at first but his assistant and the rest of his crew did. In the end he liked my choice and thought it was funny. You have to make those bold choices to stand out. Make it your own. Bring something to the table.
    Unfortunately in order for many actors to play their dream roles or play roles they feel will showcase their talent is by writing and producing their own material.

    Sorry I went in a rant. Thought I share my story. Great points again. If no one agrees, then that gives people like us a chance to stand out and be part of that 2%.

    • QuiteFrankly says:

      No need to apologize for rants. This subject should bring about a very energetic discussion at the very least from anyone looking to grow, expand and succeed in the art form. All good thoughts, my man.

  6. Erin Tiernan says:

    Well said, Frank. Very, very, very well said…and Quite Frankly, I might add. 😉

  7. Irene says:

    I may be coming a year late to your blog, Frank, but glad to be here! Your writing is excellent and your message profound. Wish more Millennials were attuned to it. I just watched a movie on Netflix that was so bad it’d make a great lesson plan in what good, effective acting and writing are NOT! I couldn’t decide which was worse: the script or the amateurs robotically mouthing the cheesy lines. All of it begged the question: Doesn’t anyone learn from the greats anymore? LOVED you in Graceland and Bloodline and hope to see more of you on screen soon. Heartiest best wishes!

    • QuiteFrankly says:

      Thanks so much for reading Irene. I appreciate all of your comments. Hope to see you very soon! If you’re on Netflix, please watch Walt Before Mickey. I have a nice part in that film. I also helped write and produce the project. Thanks! See you soon.

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