The Skills That Lead Jason Momoa to Acting

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With a towering presence and muscular physique along with a deep, powerful voice, Jason Momoa often plays warriors and distinctly tough fighters. He’s most known for his rugged Game of Thrones character, Khal Drogo, the Dothraki leader. Last year, the Hawaiian native appeared as Aquaman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. And he will continue portraying the water-dwelling superhero in Aquaman to be released next year.

The star continues to pack his schedule as he portrays the part-Irish, part-Native American outlaw Declan Harp in the Netflix series Frontier. He told CNN, “I could play Harp with my eyes closed,” as he felt an immediate connection with the burly fur trader. While shooting in severe weather conditions in Newfoundland, his character must endure physical and emotional torture.

With all this in mind, it’s not surprising to hear Momoa be described as “one of the toughest actors in the business.” But recently, the star is revealing a much softer side of himself. Brian Andrew Mendoza’s documentary short, Canvas of My Life, serves as both an intimate portrait of Jason Momoa’s life as well as a heartfelt advertisement for Carhartt pants. The video explores precious moments of Momoa’s personal life with an emphasis on celebrating him as a father. It was shot in Hawaii with Momoa’s family members, and reveals the skills that he cultivated while growing up, and which eventually led him to Hollywood–even though he never imagined he’d become an actor.

Born in Iowa, Momoa was raised by a strong single mother who he credits for cultivating a love of the arts, music, and introducing him to rock climbing and skateboarding. Skateboarding, he says, “gave birth to a style for me.”

Rock climbing, he says, “made me face my fears and doubts, explore the impossible, problem solve through movement. I learned to trust my hands and my feet. I found balance. And I found my passion.” According to WebMD, you can’t really do “rock climbing light,” because even relatively easy routes require a whole-body effort and intense concentration. Super-tough routes push climbers to the limit.

As a young adult, Momoa’s fitness level along with his good looks lead to him winning Hawaii’s Model of the Year. And it wasn’t long before he landed a lead role out of thousands of hopefuls playing Jason Ioane in Baywatch Hawaii. When the show ended, Momoa’s passion to climb inspired him to travel extensively across the globe for the next couple of years. “I wanted to see the world climbing…I wanted to get out, explore it all,” he says.

Eventually, he describes the point in his life when he came to a crossroads: “Acting cornered me….For an anxious young man [acting] finally allowed me to be anything I wanted to be. The wonder lust gave way to direction of purpose.”

Seeing the value of the skills he learned as a child Momoa, in turn, now exposes his children to these same activities in hopes of teaching them life lessons. “If I teach them to climb, then they can push themselves to the limits; gracefully move through fear and doubt,” he narrates in the video.

What skills led you to acting?

Aaron Paul and Lea Michele Were Discouraged Early On

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Aaron Paul and Lea Michele are among the many stars who were discouraged early on in their careers.

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Aaron Paul is calling out his high school counselor who discouraged him from following his acting aspirations. In an Off Camera interview with Sam Jones, the Breaking Bad star describes how he developed a passion for acting as he grew up in a small town in Idaho. His parents were impressed and proud of his emerging talent. So in high school he negotiated a deal with them. He asked, “If I graduate high school early, would you be okay with me moving to LA [to pursue acting]?” They agreed.

Paul made good on his end, and at the age of 17 he was indeed going to relocate to Hollywood. But this unconventional move was met with a lot of negativity from both kids and adults from his school. Specifically, he names his counselor, Mrs. Moyer, as a person who went out of her way to discourage him. Paul recalls her saying, “You need to have a plan B.” He continues, “And I remember actually when I was leaving, she gave me this whole thing, she called my dream a ‘pipe dream.’ It kind of really let me down.” When his mom noticed her son appeared deflated, and she heard about the disheartening conversation, she marched into the counselor’s office to confront her: “How dare you say this to my kid!” 

Paul moved to Los Angeles in 1996, and accepted whatever work he could get. He was an enthusiastic contestant on The Price is Right, was cast in several commercials, music videos, and small television parts like playing a frat boy in Melrose Place. It was 2008 when he began playing Jesse Pinkman on the AMC series Breaking Bad–a role which earned him Primetime Emmy Awards for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series three separate years.

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Actress and singer Lea Michele was most certainly encouraged to be a performer early in life. After all, she started acting professionally in Broadway productions when she was a child. But while in her teens, she aspired to branch out into television and movies. In this Hollywood Reporter interview, she recalls how several people were telling her she wasn’t pretty enough and would need to change her appearance to be considered for screen roles. One such person was her manager who told her she needed to get a nose job. “She’s no longer my manager for many reasons. But I just said ‘no,’ and I really just felt that growing up and loving women like Barbara Streisand, I just decided not to.”

She attributes the decision to forgo a nose job as a defining moment in her career as well as her personal development. It instilled within her a greater sense of purpose and determination. She said, “It was really I think the moment that changed my career, and created a mindset in me which just was that I really should just believe in myself, and listen to myself, and that my uniqueness is what’s going to help me to succeed and get me to all the places I dream of going to.”

Michele would go on to play the role of Rachel Berry on the Fox series Glee which earned her much critical praise.

Other actors who were discouraged when starting out in Hollywood include Reese Witherspoon who was told she was “not tall enough, not pretty enough, and not smart enough,” and Meryl Streep who was told she wasn’t pretty enough to be in King Kong.

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When to look for an agent (and how not to get dumped by one)

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Actors often ask me when is the best time to look for an agent? I always say, anytime except the holidays when agents are usually not in the office. An agent’s roster can experience fluctuations (actors leaving the agency) daily, weekly, monthly, yearly. We don’t know exactly when what actors and their type are coming and going, so you simply have to always be on the lookout for an agent.

But, there is a time of the year when the odds of signing with a new agent may be more in your favor than any other time. The end and start of the year! This is the time when some agents “clean house.” They purge from their roster those actors that unfortunately, get auditions, but don’t produce enough callbacks due to their lack of on-camera skills. Agents make money when the actor makes money. So, if you are not producing at least four callbacks out of every 10 castings (average ratio of audition to callbacks to bookings based on agents interviewed), the actor eventually gets dumped, or stops hearing from their agent (which is worse because you think you have an agent but you have really lost them and did not get the memo).

Some actors get dumped for the most foolish of reasons. They get auditions and won’t go on them! Yes! 20 to 30 percent of actors actually blow off their auditions. They overuse the excuse of, “I’ve had a family emergency and won’t be able to make it.” Agents have occasionally expressed on their social media accounts and welcome packets that any actor who misses auditions, will have their contracts terminated. These are top, highly respected agents that meet and sign “hobbyist” actors that are seeking castings only when it’s convenient for their schedule. My actors always hear me say, “Dreams are usually never convenient. You have to make room for them.”

Therefore if you don’t want to get dumped by your agent, never skip your castings and always book out when you are not available, which is another way to lose jobs – and your agent!

 


mikepointerBooking Coach Mike Pointer of Hey, I Saw Your Commercial! Has helped thousands of actors over the last 17 years book hundreds of national television commercials as well as television and film work. Coach Mike, a successful commercial actor for over 28 years himself, teaches outstanding, cutting edge strategies that has helped hundreds of actors quit their day jobs, and build a successful career in TV commercials. Coach Mike’s powerful on-camera techniques and outstanding business strategies has set a new standard and cutting edge approach in the on-camera commercial training industry. These classes are highly recommended by top commercial agencies as well as top Managers, and Casting Directors that also teach classes!

Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman Seek to Create Change in Hollywood

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Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, co-executive producers and costars of the HBO limited series Big Little Lies, are hoping to inspire change for women in Hollywood. They seek to open the entertainment industry’s eyes with their show which portrays a group of complicated female characters and deals with the topic of women supporting one another.

Big Little Lies is based on the 2014 novel of the same title by Liane Moriarty which features several kindergarten moms whose “seemingly perfect lives unravel to a murder mystery that takes place during a disastrous parents’ night at an elementary school fundraiser.” It’s described as a dark comic drama told from the perspective of three mothers played by Shailene Woodley, Witherspoon, and Kidman.

Witherspoon has been outspoken about women being underestimated in the industry like when they are limited to portraying only girlfriends or wives on screen. Indeed, she owns her own production company, Pacific Standard, and has attempted to paint a more varied picture of females in film by producing Gone Girl and Wild. Reese has spoken about her convictions to produce female-centric storylines, saying:

“I’m passionate because things have to change. We have to start seeing women as they really are on film. We have to. And not just in movie theaters on a tiny budget. We need to see real women’s experience, whether it involves domestic violence, whether it involves sexual assault, whether it involved motherhood or romance or infidelity or divorce. We need to see these things because we as human beings, we learn from art and what can you do if you never see it reflected?”

Reese also told the press that she’s tired of seeing the Smurfette Syndrome in Hollywood–that is, the pattern of productions casting all male characters who define the group, its story and its code of values with the exception of adding just one female character. Examples of the syndrome include the George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy, The Big Bang Theory, the 2009 Star Trek reboot by JJ Abrams, most seasons of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, as well as children’s programs like Winnie the Pooh and, of course, The Smurfs. “Who gave birth to all these Smurfs?” Reese jokingly asks. Similarly, the research project conducted by USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity, and Social Change Initiative revealed that women played less than a third of the speaking roles in the top movies from 2007 to 2014.

It was Tina Fey’s book Bossypants that first inspired Reese to get into production and create opportunities for other women to tell their stories. “[Fey] said, ‘If I can help one other woman create something in Hollywood, I’ve done my job,'” Witherspoon said, adding that she likewise shares the same goal.

Kidman expressed that she deeply related to Moriarty’s book, and especially to the female characters. She felt the screenplay was unique as it followed five different and in-depth roles for women–something she considers extremely rare in Hollywood.

The two Oscar-winning actresses, Witherspoon and Kidman, believe Big Little Lies represents a more worthwhile representation of women, and hope the show serves as an important step for more complex roles for actresses in the future. They hope Hollywood is paying attention.

Little Big Lies premieres on HBO on February 19th.

Isabelle Huppert on Her Award-Winning Performance in ‘Elle’

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Isabelle Huppert recently won a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama) for her bold and fearless performance in Elle. She was celebrated for portraying the businesswoman, Michele Leblanc, who is raped by an unknown assailant and then seeks revenge.

The 63-year old French actress has appeared in over 100 films and television productions, and earned many awards over the span of decades in films like The Piano Teacher, 8 Women, and Things to Come. She is among the most prolific actresses who work internationally.

Huppert’s wide range of skills were on display while performing the emotional role of the mysterious Parisian heroine. Dutch director Paul Verhoeven intended the film to be part psychological thriller and part dark comedy, weaving lightness into the provocative and disturbing material. Adapting to the requirements of the scenes, Huppert likened playing the role to an “everyday experiment.”

Verhoeven, known for directing Basic Instinct, initially planned to make Elle in America. Nicole Kidman, Sharon Stone, Julianne Moore, and Diane Lane were offered the lead, but they each turned it down. When Verhoeven was unable to garner enough interest, he returned to France to pursue the film. He came to believe Isabelle was the only actress in the world who could pull off the role, and he did not give her direction. Huppert said, “I had this whole piece of material just given to me as a gift, and I was allowed to fill it up the way I wanted.” 

Through her misfortune, Michele never behaves like a victim, nor does she feel guilty when she reacts in a way “that might seem amoral,” according to the actress. Huppert reveals that while shooting the rape scenes, “the process was very technical because we rehearsed a lot. We always knew that those scenes might be more difficult to watch for the spectator than to do for the actor.”

Huppert has been known to portray morally ambiguous characters over the years, and Michele represents the latest one. Isabelle reveals, “I just play them as normal persons. And so I don’t really–it’s not like I start a movie saying, ‘I’m going to play a morally ambiguous character,’…No, I take them more like most of the time as survivors. But, it’s true that I don’t really bother with the idea that characters should be sympathetic. I just want the character to be as true as possible.” She’s guided by intuition and likes to keep some things unexplained, and tries to maintain a sense of innocence in her characters.

During the backstage interview at the Golden Globes, Verhoeven and Huppert were asked what it was that helped them to surpass the craziness of the film’s plot and create something people responded to. Verhoeven answered, “After finishing the movie and looking at the result, I feel that what Isabelle did was so audacious and so authentic that basically it saves the movie.”

Isabelle added, “Well I think most of the time movie making is all about confidence and trust. There is nothing else actually. And if you trust someone, if you feel like you’re being watched and loved and understood it’s all very easy…Being adventurous in certain subject matters, not being scared of exploring, anything even if it is disturbing, even if it is sometimes difficult to listen or to understand, but exploring the human psyche–that’s what makes cinema most of the time valuable and worth being done.”

Huppert surprised Hollywood when she beat out Natalie Portman, Amy Adams, Ruth Negga, and Jessica Chastain in the competition for best performance as an actress.

Good Actors, Bad Dialogue

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It isn’t always going to be Shakespeare, is it?

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Has this ever happened to you? You get an audition and the adrenaline kicks in because this is what you’ve been waiting for these past weeks; a nice, juicy speaking part in a film. And then you read the material and the brakes are slammed on. The material is just awful. The dialogue is cardboard. The concept is right off of an assembly line. This is not going to be a good project based on what you’re reading. So, what do you do?

Deep breath. Exhale. This happens all the time and it isn’t always as bad as it seems at first. Most importantly, attitude is everything. You could focus on the dialogue and sabotage your audition or you could focus on how to make your audition the best that it can be under the circumstances. Breaking into Hollywood means sometimes doing that project that makes you cringe. Get over it.

When the dialogue seems off, the very first thing you need to do is make sure it isn’t you. I don’t mean that in a condescending way. Sometimes you can miss the point of some of the dialogue or there is a joke in there that causes the lines to sound clunky on purpose.

At least ask yourself if you might be misinterpreting the material. Things aren’t always what they seem. A movie like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil might not have looked very interesting just from the sides, but if you read the whole script you see how it stands out from the usual horror fare.

Practice saying the clunky line a variety of different ways. Sometimes it is that simple. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard an actor in an audition say a line the wrong way when everyone else in the room thought it was obvious how you should say it. I am the first to admit when the script is bad, but actors have to make sure it is the script and not your first take on it.

So, let’s assume you can tell that the material is just plain bad.

Resist the temptation to rewrite the material during the audition phase. Many times the producer is aware that they aren’t going to be in contention for Best Screenplay. You will have plenty of opportunities on the set to spruce up the dialogue. And changing words or sentences is only going to throw your reader. It is important that you come in to every audition prepared to read the scene as written.

However, if one word is really causing you problems, then change it, especially if it is a small word that is easily dropped or modified. If your character says, “yikes!” at one point and that seems clunky, just cut it. But think long and hard first on whether or not the writer put that particular “yikes” in there to reveal character. Consider the options before making even a tiny change. Is there a way to make that word work? Was the writer using the term on purpose? Sarcasm is a funny thing. When in doubt, leave it in.

Often an actor can save a bad line by just throwing it away. Say it and move on. Somebody was paid to write it and there is a chance that they are not going to change it. Say it and don’t let it become an issue. You have an entire scene to perform. Letting one line distract you from the work is a rookie mistake.

And never let them see your opinion of the bad material. Whether or not they are aware of the bad material, and they may be, it isn’t your job at an audition to comment on the script. Book the role and you have at least a shot at fixing the dialogue.

If it’s drama, treat it like drama! I don’t care if you’re auditioning for a soap or Sharknado, if it isn’t a comedy, it’s a drama. As someone who has cast more than his share of horror films, I can tell you that we are vigilant in the casting office for people who don’t take the material, or genre, seriously.

Make the most of every audition, even when the material is weak, and you will find yourself booking more and then you can pass on the bad material. Until then, take lemony material and make it lemonade!

How to Break Free From Typecasting

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Important questions actors should ask themselves are:

What is my type? What are the parts that I would readily be cast for? Am I the girl next door, am I an Action hero, am I a sensual leading lady, am I a law enforcement officer, can I play a villain?

In the studio days there was a list of actors that would always play the same parts: the doctors, the inspectors, the bad guys, the lawyers, and the workers. To understand how it works and to get a little bit of history, a great documentary to watch is “Casting By.”

Does typecasting exist today? Yes, it still does that is reality. An actor that portrays an FBI agent in a popular TV show plays a variation of another CIA agent in a movie. You will see an actor play a prostitute in another guest role only to see her play another prostitute of a different nationality in another show. There is always a perception of what you can play.

What can you do to break free from typecasting?

It is crucial that an actor knows the roles they would be cast in and excel at, and should know the parts that they would not readily get cast in, but that they know deep down they can play because today actors can break through the glass ceiling. We see it all the time. I for one am more interested in seeing casting that is off kilter than right on the nose. I like casting against type. Professional actors want to ask themselves: What part have I not played that I would be passionate about playing? And also be realistic about what those parts can be.

Find what you have not played and audition for indie films, web series, shorts, and stage plays. Take chances! Challenge yourself!

Actors can break free from being boxed in from playing a certain type and size of role. You’re not necessarily destined to play the sidekick forever. You would have never thought that Brie Larson, only having played supporting parts like the sister in “Trainwreck” would win an Oscar as a leading lady in Room. You would’ve never known that she had those dramatic chops. She showed us her range.

To be an actor by definition is to be a chameleon and be challenged to play all kinds of characters. Recently an actress sent me a picture resume and described herself as a good actress that can only play drama with no mention of comedy.

An actor wants to be able to do both comedy and drama. It’s true, some people are born to be funny (they have that comedic timing) and even if they are blessed with that gene, it doesn’t mean that they would not or could not want to play something else. Like Sarah Silverman who is well known for comedy getting great reviews for a dramatic turn in the movie “I Smile Back.”

You have materials that support the parts you know you get called in for. To not be typecast, change people’s perception of you. Start with shooting a different kind of headshot: an edgier one, a friendlier one, or a sexier one. Create a scene in your show reel that shows you playing a character you’ve never done before. Steve Carell did it with “Foxcatcher” so did Charlize Theron in “Monster.” They showed a different side of their talent and it wasn’t just prosthetics.

Pretend no one has an imagination, and that you need to educate him or her as to what all the types are you can play. The number one way to not be typecast is to be known as a really good actor that has range (ex. Bryan Cranston and Melissa Leo). If you stay stuck playing the same thing over and over again as many actors do, you also stop growing as an artist.

Stella Adler said actors can play at least 200 characters. Find them!

 


MicMICHELLE_DANNER.jpg.300x450_q100helle Danner is a renowned acting coach who works with A-List Actors privately as well as on set. Michelle trained with Stella Adler and Uta Hagen and was voted favorite acting coach by Backstage readers and featured coaching Andy Richter on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.  Michelle has two books coming out in 2016, The Daily Ritual and The Golden Box.  Please find more about Michelle and her acting programs and classes at michelledanner.com.

 

Aaron Taylor-Johnson Wins Golden Globe

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English actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson won a Golden Globe for Best Performance in a Supporting Role Sunday night for his performance in Nocturnal Animals. He portrayed the terrifying gang leader Ray Marcus alongside costars Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhall, and Michael Shannon. The role marked a distinct shift from the kinds of characters Taylor-Johnson is used to playing. Indeed, Aaron is accustomed to portraying heroes who battle dark forces in films like Kick-Ass, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Godzilla.

While accepting the award, the 26-year-old star said, “Creating this role and collaborating on this journey was an immense joy…I enjoyed every second of it.” He previously described preparing for the nightmarish part, saying, “It was very disturbing, and the process was pretty grueling three months before shooting.”

To transform into the Texan villain, he utilized a dialect coach, researched serial killers like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer, and studied documentaries on psychopaths and murderers for their mannerisms. He noticed that many serial killers had a certain charisma, and he wanted to cultivate that in his character. Aaron grew his hair and fingernails out and lost weight. All the while, he smoked and drank “to feel toxic from the inside out,” and hoped it would show on his complexion–and even his scent.

When first offered the role, Aaron initially paused knowing he’d need to commit to the pursuit of this dark material. After all, he is the father of four young girls along with his wife, director Sam Taylor-Johnson. When he accepted the challenge and started the three months of preparation, he simultaneously took care of his kids; when they were at school or asleep, he delved into the disturbing research. Over time, Aaron developed trouble falling asleep and, at least to some degree, came to feel like a nocturnal animal himself. While shooting the movie, he avoided going home to his four daughters to protect them from seeing their daddy with a frightening appearance and “that kind of aura,” as he described it.

Taylor-Johnson collaborated with director Tom Ford to create the “bold, charismatic, magnetic, and unpredictable” character. Aaron committed to giving  Ford a variety of options while filming. “We were improvising and being pushed to the limit,” he said. While watching the film for the first time, he was stunned to discover he didn’t even remember speaking half the dialogue he saw onscreen. He revealed, “That was quite daunting and kind of disturbing, but also great really. Essentially that I was shocked meant that we really documented something that was like an out-of-body experience.”

During his acceptance speech, Aaron announced, “What a tremendous honor,” and thanking director Ford as well as his costars. He also made a point to thank his wife saying, “Thank you for putting up with me. I was not very pleasant, in this role. You’re my soulmate. I love you very much.”

This victory represents Taylor-Johnson’s first Golden Globe win and nomination. You can see a full list of the Golden Globe winners here.

Have you ever played a character that made you not the nicest person to be around?

Two Ways Actors Can Use Snapchat

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Snapchat’s photo-sharing platform with its ten-second shot restriction, amusing filters, editing features, and geotags are popular among kids and adults alike. But the trendy app can also be quite a resource for actors. Whether actors utilize Snapchat to promote their personal brand or use it to create short movies, the possibilities are endless.

Promoting Your Personal Brand

Promoting yourself can include snapping humorous videos, selfies, behind-the-scenes footage, and glimpses of your personal life. Here are some celebrity actors Snapchat who have open-to-the-public accounts to make sure they stay on the minds of their fans.

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Nick Jonas (jicknonas)

One of the Jonas Brothers, Nick is known for both his singing as well as his acting. He starred in the Disney Channel’s Camp Rock, had a recurring role in Fox’s Scream Queens, and is cast with Dwayne Johnson in Jumanji to be released later this year. Nick often snaps while casually roaming about Hollywood. In this one, he simply gives his fans a quick glimpse of his New Year’s vacation snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain.

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Shay Mitchell (officialshaym)

Shay Mitchell snaps often. Her content includes adventures on the Pretty Little Liars set, her mega workout routines, and moments with family and friends galore. In this snap, she documents her grief while leaving her beloved Pretty Little Liars cast and crew on their final day of shooting. But not to worry; Shay also has snapped about the new movie she stars in, Cadaver, in which she plays an ex-cop who works the graveyard shift at the morgue.

Certainly, not all actors’ careers are quite at the level of Jonas and Mitchell, but snapping about current or upcoming roles, or sharing anything that seems unique or interesting is made easy via the Snapchat platform. And it’s a great way to keep yourself on the radar of those who matter in your career.

Creating Short Movies

Originally, Snapchat provided a platform in which users were unable to go back and edit sequences. But in July of last year, it added a feature called “Memories” which works like a holding bin for photos and videos that can be added to a Snapchat story later on. This affords more editing power for the user. However, before Memories was added, the Tribeca Film Festival partnered up with Samsung Electronics America to invite Snapchat filmmakers to screen their movies at their festival. Entries had to be shot exclusively on the app, and could not exceed 200 seconds. So, with the 10-second shot restriction, and the inability to edit their shots or sequences, the ten winning filmmakers in the festival demonstrated how such tight restrictions could produce imaginative works. Here are two of the winners.

The Secret Stash

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No Pencils

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The top-ten Snapchat movies at Tribeca were described as uniquely intimate and having serious cinematic value. And now since Snapchat added the Memories feature with more editing control, filmmakers have a more pliable medium with which to work. And there’s really no limit as to how long a Snapchat movie can run. In fact, Indigenous Media has already released a feature-length film entitled Sickhouse using the app, and released it via Snapchat and later on Vimeo. While this kind of filming is not for everyone, for those low on technical or financial resources, it has potential.

Comedian YouTube Stars

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Aspiring comedians these days can put their humorous commodity out to audiences without ever having to step foot on a stand-up stage. Thanks to avenues like YouTube, comics can take their creativity and freedom, and connect with potentially multitudes of fans with relative ease. Here are some comic artists who have found a way to follow their hearts and talent, and make a lucrative living in the process.

Internet comedy duo Rhett and Link consists of Rhett McLaughlin and Charles Lincoln “Link” Neal III. Their content includes comedy songs, a daily morning talk-show called Good Mythical Morning, and their YouTube Red series Buddy System. Among their channels, they’ve garnered over 18 million subscribers. A steady output of viral videos reportedly earns them about 486 thousand dollars per year. The two men met in first grade in North Carolina. Because they both were caught writing swear words on tables, they had to stay inside the classroom during recess time. Their friendship was born, and continued to blossom. In middle-school, they signed a blood oath stating: “We will do something together some day.” Rhett and Link attended college together and were even roommates–and their bond remains strong as ever with both men living in Los Angeles running the production company Mythical Entertainment. Here is their Epic Rap Battle: Nerd vs. Geek which has about 34,000,000 views.

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Canadian YouTube comedian, actress, vlogger Lilly Singh, also known as Superwoman, specializes in voices, accents, and impersonations. As her parents are originally from Punjab, India, Lilly often portrays Punjabi culture in her satirical videos. She delves into topics about everyday life, controversies, as well as humorous complaints. Singh also launched a talk-show series called #GirlLove which serves as a platform to promote a support system within the female population. Her videos have received more than 1.6 billion views, and garnered over 10.6 million subscribers. This makes her one of the most successful YouTube personalities yet. In fact, Forbes reported that she earned a whopping 7.5 million dollars in 2016. Singh released her first feature film in 2016 entitled A Trip to Unicorn Island. Before creating YouTube content, Singh was suffering from depression and feeling very lonely during her last year of college. But she discovered uploading a video to YouTube caused her to feel happy. And at this rate, she must be very, very happy.

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Smosh is a web-based sketch comedy duo consisting of Ian Hecox and Daniel “Anthony” Padilla. In the beginning, Padilla built a website called smosh.com to post Flash animations. But it wasn’t long before his sixth-grade science-class friend, Hecox, joined him as the two discovered their comedic rapport. At first, their funny videos were intended for their own viewing pleasure and sharing with friends. But when they received positive feedback for their lip-syncing videos to theme songs like Power Rangers, they decided to create a YouTube channel. Indeed, when they posted a Pokemon-theme music video, it garnered over 24 million views, but it had to be removed for copyright reasons. Smosh then started creating more channels for their YouTube videos including skits like Food Battle; a games section along with video-game themed music videos; they delved into pop-culture trivia; and launched several web series. Most recently, Smosh created the film Ghostmates for YouTube Red which was released in December. Smosh has over 22 million subscribers, 6 billion video views, and reportedly makes about 4.5 million dollars per year.

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These YouTube comedians dared to start their channels not knowing where their adventure would take them. They embraced who they were and maintained a strong emphasis on their personal relationships. When they received positive feedback from viewers, they went with it and evolved over time. And they continue to evolve and expand their horizons, making a good living all the while.