Subjective Acting: Individual Approaches to Craft and Business

Joel Hogan has been acting for over a decade. He is known for his roles on shows like Funny or Die’s “Unverified,” and for being a leading actor for Australia’s Channel 7 (“Home and Away,” campaigns for KFC) and the Nine Network (“Magical Tales,” “ARIA Awards,”). Such is the high level of respect the Australian performer demands, Joel has recently been selected to judge the Los Angeles Diversity Film Festival (LADFF) and Top Shorts. He has also performed on stage with “High School Musical” and “Jersey Boys.” In this article, he offers a practical and thoughtful series of insights about how to achieve artistic and business goals as an actor.

Subjective Acting: Individual Approaches to Craft and Business

By Joel Hogan

There’s no one way to play a character or experience an emotional life as an actor.

Acting is subjective from an audience’s perspective, and the efficacy of techniques are also dependent on the individual who uses them.

I personally feel like there are two main ‘systems’ of acting. One concentrates from within, and requires the actor to get themselves into an emotional state that affects their outer behavior in a way that serves the scene. The other is more focused on the actor superficially altering their outer behavior in an attempt to signal an inner emotional experience that they may or may not actually be experiencing.

Both are of course legitimate and used widely by actors worldwide.

I would estimate that most actors move between both approaches depending on the situation. Often the things students learn in acting classes have to be periodically, ‘thrown out the window’ once they actually get on set. Time restrictions are placed on actors, or an assistant might be reading the other character’s lines. So what does an actor do then?

Different people have strengths in different areas. For example, someone might find it easier to get in touch with their empathetic side and so while engaged in a scene where they have to console their wife who has just lost their father, that actor can more easily express the behavior associated with empathy. Others may be quite a passive and agreeable person in their ordinary life and so when they are auditioning for the part of a hyper aggressive Wall Street business person it may be harder for them to bring forth the type of energy called for by that particular role.

This is why it’s incredibly important for an actor to get in touch with as many aspects of their human nature and emotional life as possible, especially if one wants to play a great variety of characters in their career. To explore the fullest range of one’s personality is not only advantageous with developing a craft, but is healthy.

Such an approach requires an actor to engage in activities to which one might usually have an aversion. For example, I myself have grown up in the Australian countryside and have countless experiences of ‘getting my hands dirty’, ‘working on the land’, finding myself in dangerous circumstances while exploring rugged terrain and having to make tough decisions in order to make it through different situations safely. All of these experiences have helped to shape me as a person and can inform things I do as an actor.

At the other end of the spectrum, a co-star of mine claims to have not experienced these outdoorsy activities — at least not to the extent that they believe serves their career. This actor jokingly asks me to join in on some ‘working on the land’ type activities, in order to help them develop their “masculine side and leading man nature.”

Aside from developing one’s craft, there’s the business side of acting which requires as much, if not more, attention. I believe there are four main ways of finding work as an actor in the current climate. The first is through an agent or manager submitting you for jobs. The second is submitting yourself for jobs, usually through casting websites. The third is through networking and ‘word of mouth’. The fourth is through creating your own content.

Each actor has their own path and may use a number of, or all of these pathways in order to gain work as an actor, and build a career. Each pathway has its own pros and cons and can help to develop you in different ways.

For example, I have recently found great pleasure and freedom in developing my own content, with the help of some close collaborators. In my mind, one of the pros of this pathway is that, for the most part, you don’t have to wait around for somebody else to give you a role in their project, regardless of the medium — stage or screen.

Instead, an actor can create the project for themselves and mold it around their own interests and strengths and the interests and strengths of their collaborators. While one actor might get cast in a generic category, they know they are capable of something more specific, like a villain, or a downtrodden vulnerable human. In doing so, an actor can showcase their potential as an actor via film festivals and online streaming.

The disadvantage of this pathway relates to financing — without studio connections or a producer, the actor might be left creating something that is below the standard of mainstream content. It can also be difficult to market the film and get it out to the public on a large scale for the very same reasons.

Ultimately though, if dealt with appropriately, overcoming these challenges can help to develop an actor not only as an artist, but also as a business person and working professional who can make meaningful contributions to an industry.

Despite the hard work and focus an acting career requires, a person should never forget to live their life to the fullest in whichever way they see fit. This mindset will only add value to what they already have to offer the world as an artist.

So go out there, embrace life and try to filter it through your own unique ‘instrument’ and into the work you put out into the world.

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Portia is a journalist & poet from Los Angeles. You can find her work through №3 Magazine, ElephantJournal.com, Gypsyrich.com, Stillstoked.com and more.

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Portia Leigh

Portia Leigh

Portia is a journalist & poet from Los Angeles. You can find her work through №3 Magazine, ElephantJournal.com, Gypsyrich.com, Stillstoked.com and more.

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