Alia El Saady currently doubles as our editor and video producer here at TDC but before that, she starred in the production of The Crucible in the American University in Cairo. Her theatrical portfolio includes work both as an actor and director and she was an acting coach during her undergraduate studies. Here she outlines the 4 things people need to keep in mind when they want to get into acting.
Can I be successful as an actress if I never studied acting professionally?
You definitely can, my acting coach used to say that anyone can act. That being said, it’s up to you to educate yourself on different schools of acting like Stanislavski, method, and Meisner. Each technique has its faults and merits. The best way to truly hone your acting skills is to be in a performance, if you’re just not there yet you can start by doing acting workshops and then take the plunge.
What acting courses or classes do I need to take even if I studied professional acting?
There are actually a bunch of workshops that you can take that can be done outside of an institution so you don’t have to be theater student to become an actor/actress. You can take workshops at Studio Zat, Studio Emad Edin, Luke Lehner’s acting workshops, Khaled Galal’s acting workshop at the Cairo Opera House. You can even audit courses at the American University in Cairo (AUC) and get some practical acting courses. These are just to name a few. If these are too much of a cost then I suggest you gather your friends and get a little acting workshop going, you can find a bunch of books on acting exercises. Honing your skills as an actor requires things that you can also get outside of the professional sphere, the most important skill is to observe. The word acting derives from “action” you need to look at people’s actions and their intentions to really see how you too can achieve that action. Acting isn’t about “feeling” or emotions acting is actions and doing, and anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it, and that’s why anyone can act.
What is the best way to compose a headshot, and how do I build my portfolio?
Acting is one of those professions where how you look and how you sound matters and that’s what casting directors are looking for. Most casting directors need two headshots I believe and one full shot of you. One is to get a sense of how you look, and one for your height and how you stand. You can show your range not through the photos but by outlining the previous roles you’ve done. If you haven’t done any, you will land one eventually but, be patient!
Building your portfolio depends on what you want to get into, theater, television or commercials. But the general rule of thumb is to audition for everything! If you don’t know where or what to audition for then you need to seek out casting agencies or attend workshops, these are generally great for networking, nothing builds stronger bonds than a performance or a workshop, you’ll be seeing these people day-in, day-out which is a great way into the industry. If you decide to take a workshop though, your workshop coach can scout you some roles that can help you build your portfolio. Actors/actresses are generally always learning so you’ll find seasoned pros as well as novice actors at these workshops they’ll let you know about castings or if you’re perfect for a role that they’ve seen circulating.
How can I decide which medium of acting is best for me, either theatre, television, commercial, etc?
Well, which medium of acting depends on what you want. The consensus and my personal bias are that theater is the best. Most actors who have done both forms will tell you about why theater. The results are instantaneous since the audience is always viewing you. When you’re on stage you’re forced to be in character all the time not just when you’re on the screen. Theater also forces you to get out of your shell and really get to know your face, body, and voice. You think about articulation, posture, and movement.
With television, you have to be a little introspective, your feelings and emotions are going to be on screen in full view so your face is your main tool. Acting for T.V is a little different most acting coaches will tell you that if you can act for theatre you can act for T.V since it requires a lot less effort. You have the freedom to do several takes and there is the ability to really view your work and assess your performance. With theater, that is not the case. Commercials are there to mostly get your foot in the door when you want to be a professional actor, they’re a quick way to show your range and build your portfolio. The more you appear on T.V or online, the more casting directors will be inclined to hire you so I wouldn’t downplay the importance of commercials as an actor’s starting point.