Do actors read acting books?

If you go to the Drama Book Shop or Barnes & Noble, you will find a vast selection of books on acting.  There are books about monologues, books on auditioning, there are books teaching different acting styles, and even more books on the business of acting.  After many years in the business and countless auditions, I’ve come to the conclusion that most actors do not read acting books.  I believe that many actors buy these books, and then the books sit on a shelf collecting dust. Of course, there are actors who are always prepared and they are very knowledgeable about their craft and the appropriate business practices in the industry, but unfortunately, these actors are in the minority

I have come to this conclusion after collecting years of evidence.  I still receive emails and letters from actors seeking representation.  I’m a casting director, not an agent.  I don’t represent talent.  I get emails addressed to “Casting Director”,  “Agency”, “To whom it may concern”, “Client”, or my favorite “Dear Sir”.  I know that the “business of acting” books make it clear that an actor should take the time to find out to whom to address a letter, so why don’t actors follow that advice?  If I only received the occasional poorly addressed note, I might think that it was just a fluke or that these missives only came from inexperienced actors.  However, actors who are members of all three acting unions have written me in hopes of representation and called me “Sir”.

Also, I’ve read books on auditioning, and if all the actors who have come in to audition had read them, they would know not to make the following mistakes:

Showing up late, not being prepared, asking in the audition if you’re getting a callback, or not bring bringing your headshot and résumé.  However, I have difficulty recalling an audition where at least one of these transgressions has not occurred.  This happens at every level of production from student films to episodic television and Broadway shows.  Many actors are conscientious and dedicated, but the buffoons who flood our mailboxes and inboxes are doing all actors a disservice.   As an actor, you can’t control what other people do, but you can separate yourself from the pack by always conducting yourself with the utmost level of professionalism.  Take the advice of acting books, most of them won’t steer you wrong.

4 thoughts on “Do actors read acting books?

  1. Russell Jordan says:

    Actors most definitely read acting books! One of my faves: Damon DiMarco’s THE ACTOR’S ART AND CRAFT. And Drama Book Shop is an amazingly great resource with an incredible staff that has always been able to help me find a range of monologues to work with.

  2. Jennifer Weedon says:

    The problem isn’t that actors don’t read acting books, but that anyone can call themselves an “actor” whatever their level of training or experience. So you have complete beginners who have no idea how the business works writing to you as well as seasoned pros.

    I find books about how the business works (I highly recommend Bonnie Gillespie’s “Self Management for Actors”) much more helpful than books about acting as a craft. The art of acting is something you can’t really learn from reading. You’ve got to get out there and DO it!

  3. Jamie says:

    @Jennifer: The author gave you all the info to discern if she was talking about beginners..she said “union members”, indicating they weren’t beginners. (unless unbelievably blessed). She is right, actors do not take the time to read the books on acting on the business of such. Also, this is a creative medium which is different form say, becoming a doctor. That requires a certain amount of training in addition to the talent. Picasso may have been a horrible businessman, but that didn’t necessarily make him less of a painter when he first started out.

    @Roslyn: Try Meisner on Acting by Sanford Mesiner & Acting for Film with Michael Caine.(VHS/DVD)

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