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UncategorizedDecember 02, 2019

10 Books Actors Should Read Right Now

Suggested Reading from an Actor / Acting Coach. Calm down everybody, just start with one.

As an avid reader, I’ve been deeply impacted by many books throughout my career. Some are books about acting, but many are books that have nurtured the artist in me and have opened my eyes to some wonderful tools for living my best creative life.

Of course I have to first suggest the book that I co-wrote with casting director, Catrine McGregor CSA. I find that the most common questions actors ask me are answered in this fun little nugget that is equal parts information and inspiration. I learned so much from Catrine in the process of the writing this book and I know you’ll learn a lot from our conversations about the biz.

  • The Actor’s Art and Craft by William Esper and Damon DiMarco
William Esper, one of the leading acting teachers of our time, explains and extends Sanford Meisner’s legendary technique, offering a clear, concrete, step-by-step approach to becoming a truly creative actor. Esper worked closely with Meisner for seventeen years and has spent decades developing his famous program for actor’s training. The result is a rigorous system of exercises that builds a solid foundation of acting skills from the ground up, and that is flexible enough to be applied to any challenge an actor faces, from soap operas to Shakespeare. Co-writer Damon DiMarco, a former student of Esper’s, spent over a year observing his mentor teaching first-year acting students. In this book he recreates that experience for us, allowing us to see how the progression of exercises works in practice. The Actor’s Art and Craft vividly demonstrates that good training does not constrain actors’ instincts—it frees them to create characters with truthful and compelling inner lives.

This is the most valuable tool in my toolbox. I believe this is a book every actor should read. This clear and inspirational breakdown of the work continues to teach me. I go back to it over and over again. Get it!

  • Audition by Michael Shurtleff
The book is filled with practical advice for actors who want to know exactly what to do at an audition. Shurtleff, a casting director who worked on both movies and plays, gives a detailed exploration of some precise accounts of every day behavior which can be useful to non-actors as well. There are four sections of the book: 1) Basic, practical advice on the technicalities of the audition, 2) The twelve guideposts for actors to guide their emotions (including case studies), 3) Things actors need to know, and 4) General observations from working in theater.
 

At this point, it’s a classic for the aspiring actor. The twelve guideposts should be printed and posted in the home or office of every working actor.

  • ACTING: The First Six Lessons by Richard Boleslavsky
In his beloved classic, Acting: The First Six Lessons, master acting teacher Richard Boleslavsky presents his acting theory and technique in a lively and accessible narrative form. Widely considered a must-have for beginning as well as established actors, Boleslavsky’s work has long helped actors better understand the craft of acting and what it takes to grow as an artist.

If the reading list is overwhelming, start with this fun read that should be in every actor’s book collection. It’s a lighthearted way to fall deeper in love with the craft and will make you want to commit to your own growth as an artist.

  • Audition for Your Career, Not the Job by Tim Phillips
AUDITION FOR YOUR CAREER, NOT THE JOB covers steps you can take and specific skills you can put to use immediately to feel more confident about your performance in your next audition and make a great and lasting impression on casting directors and producers. If your work is consistently first-rate and memorable, then every on-camera audition is an opportunity to advance your acting career. This book will teach you techniques that improve your ability to read and interpret the sides quickly, helping you to trust your instincts and craft strong, bold, specific acting choices, and setting you up for an active and profitable career.

My favorite thing about this book is the way that Tim Phillips talks about Sherlock Holmesing the text. Not only will this book help you craft a nuanced and emotionally alive performance, it’s filled with practical advice for getting the job done in the audition room.

  • Screenplay by Syd Field
As the first person to articulate common structural elements unique to successful movies, celebrated producer, lecturer, teacher and bestselling author Syd Field has gifted us a classic text. Syd Field is revered as the original master of screenplay story structure, and this guide continues to be the industry’s gold standard for learning the foundations of screenwriting.

I believe all actors should understand the basic elements of story, even if they don’t intend to become writers. Having this background will enlighten your process of creating a character, understanding arc, and knowing your role in the storytelling process. There are many books on the fundamentals for storytelling but this is a great place to start.

  • The ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron
Julia Cameron’s novel approach guides readers in uncovering problems areas and pressure points that may be restricting their creative flow and offers techniques to free up any areas where they might be stuck, opening up opportunities for self-growth and self-discovery.
 The program begins with Cameron’s most vital tools for creative recovery – The Morning Pages, a daily writing ritual of three pages of stream-of-conscious, and The Artist Date, a dedicated block of time to nurture your inner artist. From there, she shares hundreds of exercises, activities, and prompts to help readers thoroughly explore each chapter.

The work of the actor is the work of the self, and I can think of no greater tool to self-discovery for an artists than this book. Buy this book and make a commitment to yourself to to discover and recover your creative self. I’m a daily practicer of Morning Pages and encourage my students to do them as well. I find that, at the very least, they help get the noise out of my head – and I have an extremely noise head.

  • The WAR of ART by Steven Pressfield
In this powerful, straight-from-the-hip examination of the internal obstacles to success, bestselling author Steven Pressfield shows readers how to identify, defeat, and unlock inner barriers to creativity. THE WAR OF ART is an inspirational, funny, well-aimed kick in the pants guaranteed to galvanize every would-be artist, visionary or entrepreneur.

One of the most profound milestones of my own personal growth was my acceptance that resistance is part of the creative process. Knowing that it was universal took away a lot of excuses I was making to not give myself permission to create. This book is incredibly painful and nurturing at the same time. Read it and enjoy the ride.

  • The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
The Untethered Soul begins by walking you through your relationship with your thoughts and emotions, helping you uncover the source and fluctuations of your inner energy. It then delves into what you can do to free yourself from the habitual thoughts, emotions, and energy patterns that limit your consciousness. Finally, with the perfect clarity, this book opens the door to a life lived in the freedom of your innermost being.

Actors should meditate! If you are struggling with a commitment to a regular meditation practice, read this book. It’s not necessarily about meditation, but reading it made me think about meditation in a different way and allowed me to commit to a practice that has been a game-changer for me. This book is soul food.

  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
With profound empathy and radiant generosity, Elizabeth Gilbert offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

I read this book when I was in a very dark place and it helped bring me back to life by giving me a profound shift in perspective. I was able to let go of what I wanted creativity to give me and learn how to live a creative life just for the sheer pleasure of living a creative life. This book is delicious. Get it!

The book you don’t read

won’t help.

–Jim Rohn

After reading one of the books from this list, please give me a full report on how it helped you by starting a discussion on the LosAngelesActingCoach forum. Is there a book that has impacted your acting journey that isn’t on here? Please share it with me. I’m addicted to books!

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