Acting and How To Be Good At It

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Acting and How to Be Good at It: The Second Edition is a practical, uncomplicated actor’s handbook that covers every vital aspect of the work. It is written as acting is actually experienced, from inside the craft, without confusing, abstract theoretical concepts. The author draws on his own experiences working with some of the greatest actors, writers, directors, cinematographers, editors and others at the highest levels of the industry, to explain and demonstrate all the elements that create truthful acting. And he does it in very usable terms, as he provides and demonstrates specific answers to the most important 100 acting questions that every actor faces (but may not know how to ask).

Basil Hoffman’s vivid descriptions, observations, anecdotes and quotes from his own career, as well as from many years of theatre and film history, make this a highly readable, and often memorable, textbook on the craft of acting.





Two Conversations




  • How do you define professionalism?
  • What is acting?
  • Is acting a craft or an art?
  • Should acting be like real life?
  • What is "amplified realism"?
  • Is film (camera) acting different from stage acting?
  • What is slick acting?
  • What is autobiographical acting?
  • What are the differences between audition, rehearsal and performance acting?
  • Is classical acting different from acting in more contemporary works?
  • What is "at-oneness"?
  • How important is imagination in acting?
  • Are there special techniques for playing comedy?


  • What are the most important attributes for someone who wants an acting career?
  • Why is training necessary?
  • What do my goals have to do with my training choices?
  • Where should I go to study?
  • How do I find a good school or teacher?
  • Can an actor be permanently harmed by destructive teachers and teaching methods?
  • Should I accept acting jobs before I finish my training?
  • What is the difference between teaching and coaching, and are teachers and coaches the same people?
  • Should I lose my accent?


  • What is the fallacy of scene study?
  • What is the value of improvisation?
  • What is "monologue power"?


  • What is "Subjective Situation Perception," and why do I need to know about it?
  • How does an actor begin work on a role?
  • What are stage directions and narrative, and are they important to an actor¹s performance?
  • What is a character's "essence," and why is it important for me to identify it?
  • Does the character's essence contain elements of the actor's essence?
  • What is the difference between playing an attitude and playing a character, and are attitude and essence the same thing?
  • What constitutes the physicality of a character?
  • What does "living in the moment" mean, and what is its importance?
  • Why are the differences between "what" and "how" so important?
  • What are "inner cues"?
  • What is "privileged information"?
  • What do you mean by "natural sequence of behavior"?
  • Is there a difference between demonstrating and indicating?
  • What does "permission" have to do with acting?
  • How important is the element of surprise, and how can I get that into my performance?
  • What is memory of emotion, and what does it have to do with the actor's "comfort zone"?
  • Is there some technical way to express the meanings of the words?
  • What is subtext?
  • What is the "point" of a line of dialogue?
  • What is a "thought pause"?
  • What is "vocality" of character?
  • What do you mean when you say, "Forget the words"?
  • What is phrasing?
  • What is grouping?
  • What is a beat?
  • What are obstacles and what is their importance?
  • Can you explain the meaning and the importance of conflict?
  • What is "programmed behavior"?
  • What is the "tone" of a script, and how should that affect my
    approach to the work?
  • What is the difference between naturalism and truthfulness?
  • When you discuss "purpose," do you really mean "objective"?
  • What does reporting have to do with acting?
  • Why is listening so important? Is there some special way to listen?
  • What does the word "compass" mean when you use it in discussing a role or performance?
  • Do you recommend any specific acting exercises?


  • What is "actor's conceit," and why is it important?
  • What are the two fundamental truths about every script?
  • What is type casting, and how does it affect an actor's employability?
  • How do I approach the part if there are only a few lines of dialogue?
  • Is there a special way to approach homework?
  • Isn't the concept of "getting it fast" necessarily superficial, and why is it so difficult for actors to be truthful with only a small amount of preparation?
  • How do you characterize the relationship between the actor and the writer?
  • What are "Cornerstones of Truth"?
  • How will I know if I should use an accent or dialect?


  • How important is an actor's attitude in the workplace, and what constitutes a positive attitude?
  • Will I always be given a complete script?
  • Should I approach every script in the same way, and are there guidelines to follow?
  • What do you mean when you say, "Break down the script to energize it"?
  • Do I need to memorize the part word for word?
  • When is it appropriate to ask questions about the work, and how do I know whom to ask?
  • In film and television, does an actor have to give the same performance in every take?
  • Will the director direct me?
  • Will the director direct me before I begin to act?
  • What does a director mean when he says, "Make it bigger"?
  • What does a director mean when he says, "Bring it down" or "It's over the top"?
  • If I'm directed to do the scene faster or slower or bigger or smaller or louder or quieter, how can I make that quick adjustment without being artificial?
  • What is a line reading, and what purpose does it serve?
  • What is a "thought reading"?
  • Will the director ever direct me in a language I don't understand, and is there a reliable way to deal with that situation?
  • Is the stage director always in charge of final creative decisions?
  • Is the movie director always in charge of final creative decisions?
  • Is the television director always in charge of final creative decisions?
  • What should I do if the other actors aren't good, are unprepared or misbehave in some way?
  • Does the process of discovery end with homework?
  • How do you work on a part you have been hired to play but didn¹t audition for?
  • What is "collaborative cooperation"?
  • When do actors have to do their own makeup?
  • How much input is an actor allowed to have when it comes to things like props and wardrobe?
  • Should the actor deal directly with the cinematographer, and how can that affect his performance?
  • What effect does the film editor have on an actor's performance, and does the actor have direct contact with the editor?
  • What is A.D.R.?
  • How do you deal with being fired?


  • How do actors get auditions for commercials?
  • Do commercials make demands on the actor that are different from the demands of stage and screen work?


  • What necessities should an actor acquire as he pursues a career?
  • What is "thinking in the profession"?
  • Are there any guidelines for starting and maintaining an acting career?
  • What are actors' most serious career mistakes?
  • What do star actors have in common?
  • Doesn't luck play some part in an actor¹s success?
  • Can one negative professional experience damage my career?
  • Are there any special industry information sources that I should know about?




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