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By Faith Hibbs-Clark, CMFA Founder

When it comes to memorization, one style of learning does not fit all. Acting teachers often teach their students the memorization technique that works best for them. This is why the teacher's technique for memorization will work for some students in class but not all. If you have ever felt like the memorization technique your acting teacher and other students in your class use is just not working for you, it's not your fault. There is nothing wrong with you!

1) Understand How Memorization Works in Your Brain

So what is the neuroscience behind memorization? You have two types of memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. Short-term memory is like saving something to your iCloud, and long-term memory is like downloading it to your hard drive. Short-term memory is flimsy and vulnerable to your own anxieties & fear. If you memorize and only commit the words to your short-term memory, you are at high risk of forgetting your lines if you start to feel anxiety in an audition. Fear constricts the blood vessels in your brain, and that makes it harder to recall the information. If you have ever experienced "audition amnesia," you know this to be true.

2) Determine your Brain's Learning Style

Determine what your learning style is and use memorization tactics that work with that style. For example, if you are an auditory learner, you might record your lines and play them on a loop while driving in your car or while you are sleeping. If you are a visual learner, you might want to practice with your eyes closed and create a “mind mansion” where each room is associated with the delivery of a particular line. If you are a tactile learner, you might run your finger over each word as you memorize it. There are many ways to memorize, but the most effective ways will be those that are connected to your individual learning style.

3) Practice Perfectly Until it Becomes Muscle Memory

Your brain will memorize mistakes, so don't allow yourself to make any. Instead, make sure that you are saying the words correctly. Some directors don't care if you change the words a little, as long as it doesn't change the meaning of the scene, but others want it to be exact. Your job as an actor is to try to memorize the words as they are written. If someone is testing you, or you are testing yourself, don't allow even the slightest mistake. As you are practicing, fix errors immediately; otherwise, your brain will also memorize the mistake. With practice, you can commit the lines to muscle memory.

What is muscle memory? It is not a muscle at all, but it can be trained like one. Memories are not stored in your muscles, but we use this term to indicate when things are able to be repeated easily without thinking much about it. Sometimes, we can do things without thinking about it at all. It is a "subconscious" ability that can be triggered as needed. When people "play by ear" without music sheets, they are doing this by muscle memory. You can easily adapt this to your work as an actor.

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By Faith Hibbs-Clark, Founder

As an actor, your body must become an extension of your character. Have you ever considered the power of hand gestures in portraying a character? Hand gestures can provide valuable clues about a person's behavior and personality. Understanding their meanings can help you develop a more authentic and convincing character. In this article, we will explore some common hand gestures and their hidden meanings and provide some tips for actors on how to use them to communicate more effectively.

The human hand is an incredibly expressive part of the body, and we use it to communicate our feelings, desires, and intentions. For example, a clenched fist can represent anger or determination, while a palm-up gesture can convey openness or vulnerability. By understanding these gestures, actors can bring a greater sense of authenticity to their characters.

Let's explore some examples of common hand gestures and their secret meanings:

1) Crossed arms: This gesture communicates defensiveness, resistance, or discomfort. It is commonly used when a character is feeling insecure or threatened.

2) Choppy hand movements: These quick, sharp gestures are often used to convey aggression or impatience. They can also indicate a lack of control or restraint.

3) Clasping hands: This gesture can represent a desire for comfort, support, or reassurance. It is often used when a character is feeling vulnerable or uncertain.

4) Pointing: This gesture can be used to signify aggression, frustration, or urgency. It can also be used to direct attention to a specific object or person.

5) The Palm: Showing an open palm is a gesture of sincerity, honesty, and peace. However, a raised palm can show stop or stay-away signals.

6) The Rub: Rubbing one's hands together can indicate greed or anticipation. It might also convey your character's nervousness.

7) The Flick: A flick is a subtle yet powerful gesture that can be used to show indifference, impatience, or irritation. It involves a quick, dismissive movement of the hand.

8) Hidden Birdie Gesture: This gesture is formed when someone gestures with their middle finger slightly extended. It can be used to signify hidden anger in a passive-aggressive manner. This is one of my personal favorites because it is not a commonly known hand gesture, but the meaning of it can easily be felt.

As an actor, understanding the hidden meaning behind these hand gestures can help you to embody your character better and bring a sense of authenticity to your performance. Incorporating hand gestures that align with the character’s emotions or personality can enhance the credibility of the scene.

Using Hand Gestures to Convey Character & Personalities:

Hand gestures can help actors convey their character's emotions and personalities. For example, a person who is hiding something might fidget with their hands or keep them in their pockets. A confident and powerful character might use expansive gestures, while a shy and introverted character might use more subtle gestures. The key is to use hand gestures that feel authentic to the character and the situation.

Hand Gestures for Specific Contexts:

To use hand gestures more effectively, actors must first consider the emotional context of the scene and the character's personality.

Hand gestures can also be used to create emotional context-specific behaviors for characters. For example, a doctor might use specific hand gestures during a surgery, or a chef might use hand gestures while cooking. Using context-specific hand gestures can help actors bring realism and authenticity to their performances.

Hand Gestures to Show Different Cultures:

It is essential to be aware of cultural differences in hand gestures and to make sure that your character's gestures match their cultural background. For example, the okay sign in the United States shows approval. However, in some countries, such as Brazil, it is considered an obscene gesture. Researching cultural differences in hand gestures could be the detail in an audition that helps them get the part.

It’s important to remember that hand gestures are just one aspect of the body language that actors use to convey emotional context, meaning, and personality. However, by mastering the use of hand gestures, actors can create a more compelling and realistic portrayal of their characters.

Hand gestures are a powerful visual communication tool in the actor's toolbox. They can reveal much about a character's emotional state, motives, and personality. By mastering the use of hand gestures, actors can bring an added sense of authenticity to their performances and maintain the audience's engagement which we call "neural coupling" in the CMFA "Acting Science" method.

Want to learn more and try your hand (pun intended) at incorporating this body language into your audition scenes? Take this 1-night special topics class and learn the secrets of hand gestures.

Updated: May 27

By Faith Hibbs-Clark

Procedural dramas are a hot commodity in the world of broadcast syndication. They provide a quick and entertaining snapshot of a problem and its eventual solution - all tucked away into a single episode. With these shows gaining popularity, aspiring actors can greatly benefit by understanding the importance of procedural dramas and the opportunities they provide. In this blog post, we will explore why procedural dramas are crucial for actors’ growth and how they can help actors get more experience and exposure.

1. Versatility in roles

Procedural dramas provide a constant stream of different characters with different backgrounds and motivations for actors to portray. Typically, these shows present new and intriguing characters in each episode, and actors often audition for multiple roles over the course of the show's run until they hopefully book something. As an aspiring actor, this kind of variety in roles is crucial for gaining more experience in the industry. Roles can range from the lead character's family members, witnesses, suspects, victims, or even the villains themselves. In this way, procedural dramas are the ideal training ground for actors to hone their skills.

2. Additional Exposure

Acting in procedural dramas is an excellent platform for actors to showcase their skills to a broader audience. These types of shows are typically popular among viewers and can provide invaluable exposure and name recognition for actors who are just starting out in the industry. With episodic content, it is also easier for casting directors and industry professionals to come across emerging actors' acting work. A single episode on a popular procedural drama like "Law & Order" can help to improve an actor's score, which can make an actor more desirable to casting professionals. (Photo: Bella Hibbs, Casting Director Good Faith Casting)

3. Audition skills

Auditioning skills are crucial for actors to land their dream roles. With procedural dramas, actors have more opportunities to audition for different types of roles on a steady basis with the same casting company until they land a part. They can cut their teeth on a wide range of characters in the process. Many actors are discouraged when they keep getting called to audition for the same casting director for different roles on the same project, but this is a mistake to feel this way. Getting invited to audition for the casting director again is a sign that you are producing great auditions and is standard in the procedural casting world. Consider it a compliment and use it as a learning experience to sharpen your audition craft.

4. Material to use in the demo reel

Additionally, the shorter storylines of procedural dramas make it easy to gain numerous clips with different characters and types of scenes. This type of work gives actors more material to show casting directors and showcase their acting abilities. The footage from these diverse roles can go a long way in helping actors put together a great demo reel that can be used to market their talent for other opportunities.

5. A chance to work with experienced actors

Procedural dramas are generally packed with talented and experienced actors. As a newcomer, working with such actors is an excellent opportunity to learn and grow in the acting profession. New actors can take this opportunity to learn about different acting techniques and styles and an opportunity to learn from their wisdom and experience. You might even get an opportunity to work with one of the leads and celebrities in the show. A scene with a star gives you well-deserved bragging rights.

6. The potential for long-term employment

Katrina Fristoe, talent agent and owner of SWAG Talent, a worldwide talent agency, says:

"So many of my talent have auditioned and booked a role for one day in a procedural drama and ended up being asked to recur, or they leveled up to TOS. Just recently, a SWAG actor booked a one-day co-star role with two lines, and within a few days, he was offered four more episodes with a minimum guarantee of nine days! This is an actor who has been acting for several years but has not booked network television in the past!"

While most procedural dramas do not rely on long-term storylines, some characters can be re-occurring or even become regular cast members. This can be a significant advantage for actors looking for consistent work. With long-term employment, actors have the luxury of honing their craft for a longer duration of time, and they can become a familiar face on-screen. Many television stars gain enough traction to be offered prominent film roles. Look at the cast of Friends, for example. All of those actors have gone on to do substantial film work.

7. Perfecting improvisation skills

With procedural dramas, there is always an element of unpredictability as to where the writers and director will go with the storyline. The nature of procedural dramas requires actors to be at their best in terms of delivery and stamina. The fast-paced, high-pressure environment of these shows demands actors capable of taking direction quickly and adapting to new scripts and directions. As an actor, working in a procedural drama can be a valuable learning experience, pushing you to grow and develop your craft. Actors who excel in the ability to improvise in unexpected situations or with last-minute changes will thrive in this type of role. This kind of flexibility helps actors to break out of predictability, try new things, and trust their training.

8. Opportunity to network

The unique nature of procedural drama production also benefits actors in terms of network building. Often, these types of shows can bring together a wide range of film and television professionals. This can include writers, directors, producers, casting directors, crew members, and more. By working on a procedural drama, actors can make connections and build relationships with key players in the industry. For example, the director that you work with in your episode might be getting ready to shoot a film and remember you for a role. This is often how new opportunities arise in television and film. Nurture those relationships by being professional and establishing sincere relationships with others.

Procedural dramas are an essential part of the acting industry, and they provide a unique and varied experience for actors. From improving acting and auditioning skills to perfecting improvisation, the benefits for actors of working on procedural dramas are numerous. So, if you're an aspiring actor, don't hesitate to take advantage of the numerous opportunities that procedural dramas provide for your growth and development.

Want to learn how to audition for this type of role? Take the 1-night special topics class this month. Live on Zoom.

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