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If you’re interested in becoming a full time actor and want to learn more about it before deciding to pursue it, or if you don’t know where to begin, you’re probably searching for books you should read to learn about acting.
Some actors are born great, some grow into greatness, and some have thrust into greatness.
Reading books to learn acting can help with a variety of skills such as acting technique, auditioning, and self-marketing, all of which are essential for any actor. Many books are available, but I found that these provide a well-rounded understanding of what it takes to be a full time actor, both artistically and professionally They each offer distinct concepts and acting methods. Some are practical, while others are abstract.
By: Constantin Stanislavski
This is one of the oldest books on the list and the first of Mr. Stanislavski’s three acting books.
This book covers everything from the basics of acting, such as determining your character’s motivation, to more advanced techniques like finding subtext and creating an atmosphere on set. It also includes exercises and techniques that will develop your skills as an actor and encourage imaginative and true performances.
By: Michael Shurtleff
Written by the famous casting director Michael Shurtleff way back in the 80s but the lessons we’ll learn from this book are still taught today by any teacher you will learn from. It’s a great way to get a head start on understanding mental discipline and techniques that actors used to act well.
Although it focuses more on Auditioning the techniques here can be applied to acting as a whole. This works so well because it’s almost like being in an acting class, and you can put yourself in the actor’s shoes and think about their role while picturing Shurtleff as your teacher.
By: Larry Moss
Larry Moss “I called this book, The Intent to Live because great actors don’t seem to be acting, they seem to be actually living“.
He stresses preparation and script work and offers insights into developing characters tackle difficult roles.
By: Uta Hagen
The legendary actress Uta Hagen wrote a book that helped actors in theater and in film. Hagen gives practical acting advice about dealing with stage fright and how to avoid getting bored when playing the same role for too long. He also boils down acting to nine specific questions. You’ll have to read the book to find out about all nine and how to look into them, but Hagen says that the most important question to ask about their characters is “Who am I?”.
SANFORD MEISNER ON ACTING
By: Sanford Meisner
Many people believe that Sanford Meisner was the best acting instructor ever, and his technique is widely utilized by working actors and coaches. No matter which technique you like best, this book will give you tips on being an actor and exercises as you follow a group of actors who are studying with Meisner. His famous quote, “Acting is being honest in fake situations,” pretty much sums up the tone of his writing.
AN ACTOR’S TAKE ON MOVIE MAKING
By: Michael Caine
The book is partially a manual for actors on how to work on camera. This book is not only captivating, but also highly entertaining and educational.
This book’s positive feature that sets it apart from others is its emphasis on strategy. Instead of discussing general concepts, he provides you with tangible strategies you can immediately implement.
THE NEW BUSINESS OF ACTING
By: Brad Lemack
This book is fantastic because it provides a practical, no-frills view of the acting business. This book will help you determine whether you have what it takes or are willing to make the sacrifices needed to be a professional actor. Acting is a skill that you can learn through formal training. For the actor interested in achieving greatness, any of the titles listed above are the perfect books to learn acting. You can use these books about acting as your starting point. Once an actor has mastered their craft in front of the cameras, at auditions and has realized the power of marketing, they can use those skills to help thrust them into the spotlight.
How to begin? Where to Start? Read a Book one at a time. Or even better, read it multiple times. Then proceed to another Book after penetrating the lessons it offers.
Don’t expect to learn everything in one read.