What does it mean to have "special skills" as an actor? What qualifies as a special skill?
Having a special skill specific to a role is what will set you apart from your competition. A lot of people respond to this with "But I'm not good at anything else".
First of all, yes you are. Secondly, if you really feel you don't have any other skills to bring to the table, go out and learn one.
There are skills that are specific and interesting for a topic of conversation for meetings, and then there are skills that can be useful on screen for acting. Making tiny miniature food dishes for example is a unique skill that's interesting to talk about in an agency meeting or interview. Horse back riding is interesting but is also required for certain roles. If you have that under your belt and you nail the audition, your name goes to the top.
If you aren't sure of what skills you should even start learning, pay attention to what's on TV. What are people doing that you barely notice because you're watching and enjoying the show?
You'll see actors playing instruments, handling firearms and other weapons, having a choreographed fight (martial arts or a fighting skill of any kind is a great tool to have). You'll see actors do accents, speak other languages, jet ski, playing a sports of some kind, doing yoga even. There are skills that you may not even think of as a skill but they are. Commercials are big on this in recent years. I don't know how many breakdowns I've seen for commercials that ask for people with "real skills" of yoga, soccer, surfing, marathon runners, etc.
You can even go on Actors Access and on the resume that you fill out, it has an actual skill sheet. Look over that sheet, what do they consider skills? It has over 100 listed to help you rack your brain on not only what you can already do, but where you can learn something new too. Did you swim in high school? You can add that! Video games is even a skill. Who would have thought my years of time wasted playing video games would be useful one day?
Having and learning new skills not only sets you apart, but it's going to keep you sane in between auditions and slow seasons. Now you have something else to focus your energy on rather than just waiting for an audition.
Here are my special skills:
Tumbling (back handspring, front handspring, front and back walkovers, cartwheels, round offs, aerial cartwheel)
Stand Up Comedy
Dance (freestyle, modern, jazz, salsa)
Walking on hands
I'd like to learn a new language, an accent, and a fighting style next year. These are new goals of mine. What are some of your skills? What's a skill you always wished you could do? Go out and take a class, learn how to do that skill!