31 May 2021 - 07:38 BY Louw
Taking A Mentor’s Advice To Heart: What Happened?
When you find a mentor and look up to them, most things they say will inspire you or give you something to chew on: Food for thought. The thing is, most actors stop there, only thought and no action.
In my second year of studying Drama, I was passionate but not confident. I loved acting so much but didn’t really believe in myself the way an actor should if they want to break through challenging times.
Then I got cast in a Marthinus Basson play. I’ve only heard he is like the magical director in South Africa, the father of theatre. He gave me a chance and confidence. I did not know him personally but have heard so much about him. I just decided to work hard and if he chose to cast me, then there might be some acting talent deep down.
During a rehearsal, he said something I will never forget. He said that as an actor, you should constantly be reading and educating yourself. “Read all types of books; psychology, history, biographies, read plays, lots and lots of plays, watch films and go to art exhibitions. You cannot work hard enough.” This advice leads me to explore the world around me in a way I have never before. All MY perspective and what I see the world to be… but reading different genres of books and exposing myself to new perspectives made all the difference. It helped me to create a sense of empathy, which is a tool that every actor should have—putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and allowing yourself time between stimulus and response. Not just to react with resistance but to enable new challenging perspectives, behaviours and philosophies to be listened to. We have been taught by society, or parents or faulty perspectives in religion that there is only one way to look at things and avoid allowing any other information to be listened to. That blocks the actor. That blocks the human being. We need to open up.
I haven’t stopped working harder. To read one extra book on the theme of the play or film I’m about to do has, what I believe, given me more tools to work with on the stage or a film set. This has formed to be the foundation of advice I have received and am lucky enough to keep on receiving from one of my dearest mentors.
This has helped me in many films, making interesting choices. Reading more on subjects gave me more emotional understanding and depth into characters. It inspired me to share thoughts during rehearsals that helped the whole team move forward or discover new alleys to journey into. It’s given me a seat at tables where I would have otherwise felt too ill-equipped to share any thoughts, as I had none before. I became less selfish and more giving with ideas and knowledge, and it opened up doors to more projects.
I am so grateful to a mentor like this. The advice has made an everlasting and invaluable impact on my life.
Tool to try:
Step 1: Carry a small notebook or open a Notes App on your cell phone for any acting inspirations, advice or resources mentioned by your mentors.
Step 2: Any advice or resource mentioned by your mentor or creative friends, write it down.
Step 3: Execute - Go and find that book, article, film or play mentioned by them; buy that book on psychology or the WW2 mentioned or any other advice, study it and read on these different themes and new ideas.
You’ll be surprised how much this 3-step simple plan can add more tools to your acting toolbox, even expand your creativity and skillset. Don’t let these resources fly by. Actually, go and study these resources mentioned.
Don’t pretend to know everything. I’ve been blessed to work with a lot of veteran actors, and I soak up lessons from them like a sponge.
Michael B. Jordan
How did you find the technique/tool/advice? Did it work for you? What was different this time? Share with the tribe and let’s keep on creating beautiful, honest and memorable performances. Let’s execute our best selves!
Edwin van der Walt