Backstage’s expert, acting coach
Michelle Danner !
The Importance of Nurturing Your Talent
By TOP ACTING COACH AND FILM DIRECTOR Michelle Danner*
MICHELLE DANNER is a renowned acting coach and works with many A-List Actors privately as well as on set. These include James Franco, Chris Rock, Gerard Butler, Seth MacFarlane, Salma Hayek, Melanie Brown, Penelope Cruz, Zooey Deschanel, Verne Troyer, Grant Bowler, Kate Del Castillo, Michael Pena, Isla Fisher, Common, Brian McKnight, Marcia Cross, Christian Slater, Catherine Bell, Zooey Deschanel, Gabrielle Union, Rob Estes, Rick Fox, and Michelle Rodriguez and many others.
MICHELLE DANNER’S LAST MOVIE HELLO HERMAN STARING NORMAN REEDUS IS IN 100 MILLION HOMES THROUGH WARNER BROTHERS.
I get calls from agents and managers all the time asking me if I think a certain actor has talent. Very rarely do I say no; most actors have talent. I remember Stella Adler used to say, You have to have a talent for your talent, which means: do the work. Everyday fulfill the steps you need to take that will bring you closer to your dream—which is to work a lot as an actor. When you are constantly booking, you use your instrument all the time, so it’s tuned. When you are not working on a show, your instrument gets rusty, oh so quickly, so you have to take yourself to the acting gym. You have to do the work before getting the work. Work out in an acting class, where you get the chance to flex the muscles, work on plays or screenplays you are right for, or characters you would never get cast as, but that would stretch you and expand you.
Actors need to constantly be working on writing that excites them. Be part of a community of talented folks you can call and say, “Let’s get together and work out today; let’s pick material and work on it.” That’s a great phone call to make. To nurture your acting talent is to work on your voice. With the mic or boom so close, it’s a mistake to think that voice is not a priority. Working on your voice enhances how your acting performance comes across.
Garrett Backstrom the young actor that played Herman in my movie “Hello Herman” was shooting one of his pivotal scenes. It was a night shoot, 4 a.m. to be exact. He had to keep himself awake with energy drinks. When I test-screened the movie, the audience was not as moved as I wanted them to be. That was because in that climatic moment, Garrett’s voice was not hooked up to his body. I decided to reshoot and rehearse with him that scene very specifically, vocally, and when we test-screened again, the difference was night and day.
Find a vocal warm up that you do every day so that your whole body can be an emotional vessel for the language that is going through you. Do exercises in acting that have to do with sensory and triggers. They are your pushups. Work on three senses every day, basic ones. Drink a hot drink, smell nature, and hear an intense sound. Create scenarios for yourself.
Flexing muscles in acting is equivalent to pianists playing piano, and violinists the violin. The only way to feel your potential as an actor is to find a way to act all day, every day. An actor acts. An actor sees. An actor takes in. Expand your horizons. You have to see as many things as you can see—go to movies, watch or read artist interviews and biographies, visit museums, attend festivals. Contribute something to a cause. That is how you nurture your talent.