This is an essay I wrote a few years back. Though my dreams have changed, the impact these classes had on me stayed the same.
Ever since I was young, I have wanted to be an actress. I would watch my favourite shows on TV and long for the day when I would be able to see myself up on that screen. I’d watch my favourite shows and mimic the actors, repeating all the lines as they were said. I would think to myself, I could definitely do this job, no problem. This dream of mine has continued to grow since then and, this past summer, I took a step towards reaching that dream. I took on-camera acting classes in Toronto that taught me a lot more than just film acting. It taught me about who I really am and the person I want to become.
When I started off the six week session, I was nervous and didn’t know what to expect. I’d never taken any acting classes that were on-camera before and I didn’t know anyone there. It’s nerve-wracking enough to get up in my drama class at school and put myself out there, but it’s twenty times worse when the rooms full of strange faces and a camera to capture every little mistake. It was terrifying.
Within the first 10 minutes of class we were given a short monologue from a movie to read over once before we were thrown in front of the camera, for judging. I sat in the chairs waiting for my turn to go up. I am a very nervous person on a normal day so, needless to say, I was extremely anxious as my classmates went up without the slightest bit of trouble. It seemed so easy for all of them to do it. Why was I the only one who was terrified?
I fought with myself to achieve the confidence I needed to get up there. I really did not want to mess up and embarrass myself in front of my whole class. My scene needed to be perfect. I was at an established acting school with a good reputation; it was obviously not for amateurs like me. I needed to be perfect, to prove to my teacher and myself that I was good enough to be there.
Finally, it was my turn to go up. I walked slowly up to the mark, my script clenched tightly in my shaking hands. I took a deep breath and began my scene. The words just started to flow out of my mouth naturally, without any hesitation. My teacher smiled, and nodded approvingly, then gave me a few pointers on how to improve my scene. It wasn’t perfect, but it was my best. Plus, I was doing something I loved to do, which was the important thing. I went back to my spot on the large couch at the back of the studio and breathed a sigh of relief. I was proud of myself for having the courage to get up there and perform.
As I sat there watching the other actors go up, I made an important realization. My performance didn’t really matter to anyone else. We weren’t there to sit and judge each other’s acting. We were there because we wanted to improve our acting technique and grow as actors. My best, no matter what that happened to be, was enough. In the following weeks, I continued my classes and continued to do just that: my best. I was growing both as an actress and as a person.
After a few weeks, I no longer felt as if I did not deserve to be there and that I was constantly being judged. Those strange faces from my first day became valued friends and fellow actors. Once I stopped caring about being perfect every single time I went up, I felt less pressured. I felt free just to be myself and have fun. Something that was often stressed in this class was getting in touch with what we were feeling that day and channeling those emotions into whatever the character was feeling. Through this I became a lot more in touch with my emotions and learned how to control them more. Also forcing myself to get up there each week and give my performances my all, despite my nerves, helped me achieve a level of confidence that I never thought I could have in my acting, as well as myself.
These classes weren’t Oscar worthy performances or my gateway to a career as a famous actress, but I surprised myself with how much I grew in such a short time. Really, it was like a wake-up call for me. I realized how much time I had been wasting worrying about everyone judging me that I was missing out on so many opportunities to do something I love. I was missing out on opportunities to let myself go and just be. These classes, ironically, intended to teach me how to effectively be someone else, ended up teaching me how to be myself.