Would you let a dentist work on your teeth if you knew he/she had no training? Then why should a film or television company trust an actor who has not received proper training? Just as a dentist must attend an accredited dental school, actors too must attend training with a reputable coach.
Meet Margie Haber, one of Hollywood’s most recognized and respected acting coaches. Margie has traveled the world, teaching actors to “stop acting and live the life.” Responsible for helping develop such award winning actors as Brad Pitt, Halle Berry, and Heather Locklear, Margie took the time out of her busy schedule to have coffee with I Am Entertainment Magazine and share her passion for teaching actors.
Please tell us where you’re from and what inspired you to become an acting coach?
I’m from New York, I’ve been teaching for 194 years, and I color my hair and you’d never know it (laughs). I coach actors because I love teaching people to express rather than impress.
As one of LA’s premiere coaches, what are some of the things you teach actors about the craft of acting?
Most actors live their lives through the song, (sings) “Oh God, I Need This Job,” and they make it all about just getting that one job. But that actor may have 45 opportunities each year to get out on 45 different auditions. By the way, I don’t like to call them auditions, I prefer the term “slices of life.” We shouldn’t think of them as auditions because the mere mention of the word makes most actors nervous. I also believe in replacing the word “perform” with the word “communicate,” because when an actor performs it implies that they’re trying to impress someone. My perspective is that, “I am this person and I’m living this person’s life” so my goal as an actor is to communicate that. It’s about me owning the life of someone else and bringing myself in to make it special. People come to me to learn how to audition, and instead I teach them to stop acting and live that life. You have to trust the homework you’ve done about that life, and when you go into the casting room, be available to see what happens in the now. If you come into the room only focused on your “idea,” you’re not going to be able to lend yourself to anything that may happen in the room. If the director asks you to do something that doesn’t fit with your rehearsed idea, you won’t be available to communicate what that person in that life would do in the situation.
Having coached such celebrities as Halle Berry and Brad Pitt, what is the most common mistake that actors make when preparing for an audition?
Sometimes actors over-prepare. They set it so that there is nothing in the room that’s going to affect them. Most of them (actors) think they have to memorize their lines and they don’t. I tell actors not to memorize it, instead do the ‘Haber Phrase Technique,’ which means I can stay on the paper and still come up and communicate. The actor is allowed to stay on the paper as long as when I’m looking at the paper it’s the same as I’m delivering the message. Then you are more open to discovery. I think the common mistake that all actors make is that they feel the need to know everything that’s going on and they don’t give themselves a chance to embrace the unknown. Of course, you need to know whose life you’re in and the relationships involved, but you have to be willing to be in the unknown.
In your book ‘How To Get The Part Without Falling Apart,’ you mention that many people have the Success/Failure Syndrome. Could you please explain what that means?
We are all that way, every human being. It’s so frightening to do well because when you do, then you’re afraid you might lose what you’ve gained. We tend to self-sabotage and not do all the work because we’re afraid of either succeeding or failing. We have to be willing to do the work and trust it. The big word is trust; trust you and trust the work you’ve done in preparing, then let go.
There are two ways of preparing. One is intellectual, which most actors do, and the other is instinctual, which most (actors) don’t do. Too many actors give up their instincts and aren’t specific about what’s going on with the ‘slice of life’ they’re responsible for. I tell people that the relationships should be more important than the story, otherwise you’re performing the idea of that life instead of living in it.
With new actors, it is important that they find enthusiasm about everything; themselves, the world, and whatever else excites them. Actors like to play their profession; but the profession is just a part of their lives.
In your book, you also mention that actors tend to seem “green” to Casting Directors. For those who don’t understand, what does “green” mean?
This kind of green means, not ripe. When you’re not ripe, you tend to wonder if people know you don’t know what you’re doing. Green actors often walk in apologizing for themselves, they don’t know when they’re getting too close to the casting director, they ask questions about where they should stand or sit. Seasoned actors don’t ask those questions because they live the life. “Green” means you haven’t learned to own the life of the person yet, so you come in with a fearful child (see Margie Haber’s book, ‘How To Get The Part Without Falling Apart.’)
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job, as well as the most difficult?
I work all the time and that’s what’s difficult. I’m a workaholic, obsessed and addicted to intimacy. The most
rewarding thing, I was thinking about this as I was doing my will (laughs), how fortunate am I that I get to change other people’s lives each day? It’s not just an acting class, but a journey that actors take. The wonderful thing is that we’re all imperfect, so I teach people to embrace their imperfections. I love people, so just being able to touch people on a daily basis is something I’m extremely proud of.
If you could change one thing about the film business, what would it be and why?
If there was some way to change how competitive this business is, then I’d change that. Too many people are competing and not living life. Also, giving new people a chance versus playing it safe and going with people they already know will deliver. Take some risks, with more people so that more actors have a chance to work and prove they too can deliver.