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A Practical Guide to Self-Expression in the Craft of Acting

By Eric Stone



"Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it."


Thank you for having chosen Hollywood Actors Studio. This manual is designed to facilitate your understanding, study and pursuit of acting as a craft.

In this manual, you will find distinctions about the craft of acting which aim at giving acting a context as an art form that can be learned and practiced, not a vague talent that some people are born with and others not.

You will also find in it definitions and insights about the basic language and terminology of the craft of acting. These aim at clarifying concepts and ideas about what acting is which can sometimes confuse us rather than help us.

By developing a clear understanding of the craft, and by creating a healthy context for the study of acting, it is much easier to train to become skilled and competent. It also helps develop respect for acting as an art form, something that can touch and affect people.

The worst enemies of actors are not the job market, Hollywood, corrupt and incompetent agents or producers. Competition is not the problem either. Lack of competence and the willingness to become competent and effective as an actor is what stops the majority of would-be actors.

Other traps are:

  • Tension
  • Self-consciousness
  • Lack of stage manners or body control
  • Improper use of imagination
  • Low level of skills: no tools and techniques to draw from
  • No communication skills
  • Lack of professionalism
  • No passion, desire or will power

We hope you enjoy and benefit from this manual.

Warm regards,
Eric Stone
Beverly Hills, California


Hollywood Actors Studio is dedicated to training and developing first-rate actors and actresses who are genuinely committed to making acting their chosen professional path. While there is no fundamental difference as to where the actor is sourced emotionally when working on film as opposed to television or stage, there is a definite difference in delivery between staged and filmed work. The technical demands are obviously distinct. Even though stage acting, through the influence of the great Russian director Stanislavsky, has taken on a realistic and naturalistic approach since the 1920's, stage work still demands slightly bigger than life performing, and therefore requires more effort on the part of the actor. The actor on stage, in order to communicate, has to be seen and heard by everyone present. Therefore mannerisms, character traits, physical conditions, voice, body gestures,...etc...have to be magnified, exaggerated, without losing realism and believability. Even though theater acting can be very real and spontaneous, it undoubtedly creates a style of acting. A good actor can adapt to the demands of the different media without changing his or her approach.

The film actor has to adapt to different demands: Shooting out of sequence, long waiting periods on set, the seemingly chaotic aspect of the set, special effects, three-camera soap opera work, location work, working on close-ups, doing the same take over and over again from all different camera set-ups, editing, working with difficult directors, lack of rehearsal, etc...

On stage the curtain goes up and there you go. No chance to stop in the middle and "cut", you're on for the whole length of the play. You have rehearsed the whole play in sequence and you're doing it straight through. The audience is out there watching. Some actors have their preferences as to which they prefer; stage, film, soaps, sitcoms. I have my own opinion. What is relevant for our purpose is that you distinguish the different technical demands and work within them. If you train well and dedicate yourself, you can do well in all any of these media.

It goes without saying that all the tools and techniques delivered and practiced at the Studio apply to film and television acting. You do not need to change your approach, but simply adapt to different environments and technical difficulties. Only the focus and intensity of your technique changes.







Acting is a game. It is rooted in make believe. The practice of a game is not serious but like any other game, it has rules. The paradox is that one plays a game "for real", but the game isn't real in essence.

The desire to act belongs to the context of game which is a form of communication. It is also a kind of celebration of the fun and joy of being alive. Acting, viewed from this perspective, acts as a pretext to explore, learn, entertain and communicate. This understanding gives meaning to our practice and it elevates and illuminates the spirit.

The premise that acting is a game rooted in make believe allows us the freedom to explore its creative possibilities. The ability to make a fool of oneself becomes a valuable talent, ally and a source of creative freedom. Pride and self-importance dooms the creative activity and ruins the fun as well as the game. The instrument of the actor, the body, mind, imagination, and so on, need to be relaxed and free of tension and self-importance to function properly.

Tension and self-consciousness breeds attachments to positional points of view on life, people and especially oneself. A tense actor is self-conscious, righteous, worried, insecure, cerebral, uptight, often depressed or sad and unimaginative, to name only a few.

Relaxation or rather the need to work in a relaxed manner is the most important responsibility of the actor. Relaxation of the body, mind and emotions opens new dimensions and offers considerable creative advantages. Genuine creativity resides in higher planes of consciousness. Tension can be related to and thought of as a state of mind, a holding onto of old patterns of thought and behavior and a clinging to certain painful emotions for lack of better understanding. Tension resides and expresses itself in the body on a physical plane. The actor is a physical organism first. It breathes, moves, sees, touches, smells, etc. Tension paralyzes spontaneous physical activity and robs energy. The aim of practice is to learn how to let go of the grip that the mind has on the body. We view relaxation as a gradual surrender to that higher plane of consciousness and creativity. The aim of training is also the giving up of self-importance for richer, freer and broader horizons.

Working in a relaxed way is eighty per cent of good acting because the direct impact of a relaxed instrument is a natural return to our ability to child-like make believe. Authenticity of emotion and reactions in a given or imaginary circumstance is rooted in relaxation.

It is much harder to teach a tense actor to relax than it is to communicate to him or her the technical demands of a particular scene. Oftentimes, lesser skilled actors are easier to work with than skilled performers who carry a lot of tension, self-importance and ego and who are unwilling to let go and trust the director and the process.

Working in a relaxed way will give you a sense of ease and will help make your acting seamless, effortless and a delight to watch.

We offer twenty different techniques of relaxation which represent a body of tools to be used daily. Some require little time and others are deeper and more time consuming. We are in the process of compiling a manual strictly focused on relaxation techniques.


1-Acting is not serious. Acting is a game of make believe. It isn't serious by nature or in essence. The actor needs to empower the fun aspect of his or her work through the training, practice and rehearsal of tools and exercises which aim at freeing the playfulness, joy, artistry and genius of the actor to its full & unique self-expression. The actor is his/her own instrument. S/he has to be convinced that whatever the situation and whatever the demands or characteristics of the role, the doing of acting isn't serious. That is the most significant understanding fundamental principle an actor can assimilate, and this principle represents the gateway to how much joy in acting and depth of feeling an actor can achieve.

2-Acting happens inside the arena of scenes. The scene is the common denominator of the craft for the actor. Without a scene nothing gets revealed (an improvisation is a scene if it possesses the required elements). A scene for the actor is one or more characters in a place, at a time(season, day,...etc...), wanting something from something or someone for a reason. There needs to be a conflict of interests expressed in opposing wants in order for a scene to be an actable scene. Opposing wants are also referred to as the clash of wills. Another word for want is desire, objective, intention, goal, pursuit. The tension and the relationship between the opposing wants is what makes a scene interesting. The way the characters pursue their want is what also keeps us interested. In life we are always involved or witnessing scenes, but they are not always (1) Dramatic, (2) Interesting or revealing, (3) They do not belong to a whole or structure (the play or script). The conflict comes from (1) The character him/herself, (2) The other character(s), (3) An external force or source. Every scene is a negotiation of some sort because when we desire something we have to negotiate it step by step. We do not walk into an office to be interviewed for a position and speak our real intention (I need this job-give it to me and take my word for it-and if you don't I'll start screaming-I don't care to answer your stupid questions-I'm here to sign the contract). Instead we negotiate with 1) our desire to get the job, and 2) whatever obstacles are in our way (weak resume, headache, sexual harassment from interviewer,...etc...). What we call at-stakeness is simply the degree to which we desire something coupled with how bad it would be for us if we do not get what we desire.

3-The actor's only mode of expression is the action. An action always aims at serving our wishes in a given scene. Actions can be gestures, uses of objects, facial expressions, touching, smelling, speaking, any physical, psychological or emotional doing that can be performed physically and it includes thinking (as in visualizing, picturing, counting, even though thinking alone couldn't constitute the bulk of one's technique or style. Emotions and attitudes are always the result of an action(s), not a means of expression. The actor(s) does something, and then and only then does s/he feel. Emotions are the logical consequence of our actions or of what is being done to us.

4-Character is revealed through actions. Characters, like people, act in the pursuit of goals they are intending to reach. Who they really are gets revealed through the kind of actions they perform in the pursuit of their intended objectives. The more interesting the choice of actions the more involved the audience becomes. Talent has a lot to do with the choice of those actions. Choice is conditioned by (1) Character (social class, background, profession, fears, aspirations, etc) (2) the objective or goal the character has (3) the nature of the relationship (who he or she is negotiating with (4) the place within which the character is dealing (5) The conditioning forces which together make up the circumstances of the given scene: any detail and fact relevant to the scene which leads, influences or colors behavior. The way to access circumstances (place, character, conflict, situation, relationship, intention, etc.) is by reading the script and asking a multitude of questions relevant to those categories.

5-Relationship. Relationship is the quality and condition which determines (1) The quality of the behavior (antagonistic, friendly, etc.) (2) The kind of actions you perform within that relationship, (3) The tone of voice you use (4) The degree of self-expression allowed within that relationship (5) The qualities you choose or do not choose to reveal about yourself within that relationship.

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