Three Essentials for Brilliant Acting Work

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Process. PreGame. Support Network.

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Let’s dive in.

Acting at the highest levels is a game of inches, not yards. The smallest difference in the comprehensiveness of your work can set you apart from other actors. We are not competing with each other. We are competing with ourselves, challenging ourselves to create the best art of our lives.

In order to consistently create brilliant, vibrant, specific, organic, compelling art, you need to have these three essential elements in place:

PROCESS

You have to have a clear process for preparing your work for an audition or performance on set; a step by step process to make sure it has been professionally prepared. An example of that can be found in my previous Backstage article series “12 Steps to Consistently Brilliant Performances.”

Many actors I meet do not have a solid process. As a result, they never feel fully prepared. If you don’t have a clear process, how do you know when you’re done? At a certain point, the meal is fully cooked.

Whatever your process is, it needs to result in you knowing exactly how you want to help tell this story through your part of it; a master of both the story and knowledge about the production. Understand the genre, tone, writing style, and adapt your craft accordingly.

PREGAME RITUAL

You have to figure out what gets your instrument ready to present your work so that you nail it on the first take. You don’t often get a second chance in an audition.

How do you use your time before your performance on the drive to the studio, during your walk from parking to the sign-in sheet, before you sign in, after you sign in, and in the moments before you begin in the room with casting? If you don’t have a strategy and answers to those questions, know that other actors do, and it may partly be why they work more often than you do.

Continuing the cooking analogy: if you cooked the meal yesterday, how are you going to heat it up to serve today?

We’re all different, so you’ll have to experiment with what works for your instrument, but it may be a combination of things like running lines or character thoughts silently or out loud, alone or on the phone with a friend, meditation or relaxation exercises, stretching, vocal warm ups, or listening to music. Once you find a routine that makes you feel ready to present your work as intended, stick to it. It’ll become a comforting part of your work, just like athletes warming up before hitting the field or psyching themselves up before the game. A placebo effect is still an effect.

With an awesome process and pregame ritual, you will know you’re a competent artist, have the resulting confidence, and be ready to overcome any nervousness with your preparation. Your body will know what to do. All that’s left is to have an experience.

SUPPORT NETWORK

The final essential partner to process and pregame is your support network of friends, fellow artists, and loved ones who have your back. For on-camera actors, especially while you’re learning how to act professionally, you need to rehearse with someone else and put yourself on tape as part of your process at least 10, 20, or 30 times, depending on the length of the material.

Rehearsing alone is at best not optimal and at worst totally toxic to your work. Whether in an audition or on set, you will always be reading or performing with others, so it makes no sense to train your body in a vacuum of only your own stimulus. That’s why actors get stuck in a rut and can’t be organic or present. You’ve trained your body and brain to fire the same way every time. Reading with someone else makes sure you’re always getting fresh, new stimulus. Like life.

For the first time in our art form’s history, we have the technology to see our own work. Now everyone has a camera with them at all times. Finally, on-camera actors can record a take of their work, step back, see it, and learn from it to help craft their performance.

Besides beautiful, organic discoveries and behavior born of the moment, you should never be surprised by how your work and story choices are showing up on camera. Audience members of a stage show wouldn’t know that your performance tonight was different than your performance yesterday, but some on-camera scenes can take days to shoot, and your performance needs to cut together sensibly. We need our takes to land in the same general storytelling neighborhood, even with vibrant differences.

Rehearsing and putting yourself on tape alone is problematic and not analogous to the audition experience, so they go together. Build a rehearsal network. If you don’t have someone available to rehearse with you and put yourself on tape at any time, make more friends. It doesn’t always have to be in person. You can do it via Skype, using Call Recorder, a program that lets you record Skype calls. It’s almost as good as in person.

With those 3 essential elements in place, you’ll have every advantage to consistently present the best art of your life. That’s the key to being extraordinary. Be a legend.

I’m excited to announce that I will be teaching all-day on-camera acting business & craft intensives in 18 cities across the nation this year, called “How to be a Working Actor.” The first one is in Minneapolis on Saturday, March 25th at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. For more information, visit my new website at www.shaansharma.com. Get $50 off when you use the discount code: castingfrontier.

Remember, you can’t fail if you never quit.


ShaanSharma_photoAbout Shaan Sharma:  Shaan started acting in his home state of Minnesota where he was best known for his passion for protecting aspiring talent from scams and exploitation as producer/director of the Fresh Face Showcase (’03-’06), an annual fashion, modeling, acting, music, and dance event with the mission to spread awareness on how to safely enter the talent business.

Since relocating to Los Angeles in 2007, Shaan has quickly grown into one of the most respected and sought-after educators for on-camera acting craft, acting business knowledge, and career strategy. Very few acting coaches are also a casting professional, working actor, and consistently published writer.


They Break Me Down

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A number of years ago, The Acting Center was interviewing students about their careers and experiences as actors. Many students had recounted stories of ranting teachers, trying to use tortured memories for scene work and being embarrassed in front of their fellow classmates in an effort to learn acting. One interview, from an experienced actor, stood out that day. “They all say they are breaking you down to build you back up,” he said, “but where’s the ‘building back up’ part? I just feel broken.”

He laughed. I was floored by his comment and it still haunts me.

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Acting is like any skill. Do it a lot and you get good at it. But just like riding a bike or learning to cook a soufflé, you have to get in there with the training wheels or practice making an omelet first. You certainly don’t gain confidence in yourself in an environment where you’re made to feel embarrassed or uncertain about your work.

Actor training is exactly that: it is training to know how to become a character and learning to identify and express each emotion as that unique person. A trained actor should also be able to layer on each part of a character and deliver the whole personality package—physical traits, attitudes about life, thoughts, rhythms, what the character has to say and more. And when an experienced performer does it well? The audience believes the character and is swept away in the story.

So what’s all this about “breaking down” a performer?

A performer needs to be BUILT UP at every turn. An acting school needs to provide lots of effective exercises that drill each particular skill an actor needs to be their very best at auditions, on set and on stage.

A school needs to provide lots of time during class for an actor to practice so they gain self-confidence.

A school needs to provide lots of stage time so the actor can overcome nerves and get comfortable in front of an audience.

And a school needs a kind, caring staff that is helping each artist succeed in achieving their dreams.

So get into a class where you can gain certainty in your work, one that builds you up—not breaks you down.

At The Acting Center, we are committed to building up artists, one-by-one, in every class.


Written by April Biggs, Executive Director of The Acting Center

Whole Body Auditioning

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During a recent meeting with some casting and film director friends about what actors needed to do to book work, two words were repeated again and again: Embodied and personal.

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It is no longer enough to play your idea of the role, you need to be a living, breathing embodiment of the role.

To achieve this high level it’s essential to center your preparation in the body and heart – not the mind. The mind is a literal organ that exists primarily to keep you safe. It will tell you what the piece is about and give you a few obvious ways to play it. If you prepare from the mind – and too many actors do – you won’t be showing the people in the room who you are and how you feel, only what you think.

Your brain will have an opinion about how you feel, your body will know how you feel.

Everything that we experience is taken in thorough the 3 sense doors of the mind, body and heart. The body is the least explored and also the most revealing. We have a physical reaction to everything that happens to us and that reaction is the truest one that we can have, because the body has no agenda but to show you how you feel.

Remember though, it all starts at the very beginning. How you start is how you finish and many actors start their “preparation” before they have relaxed the mind and connected with their body. You only get the first chance with the material once, so make sure that before you begin your mind is calm and focused and your body is awake and energized. This mental and physical positioning will ensure that you are operating at the full strength of your creative (not mental) powers from the very start and that you will continue to do so throughout your preparation.

Here is a way to start your process by establishing a deep connection to the body so that you have access to all of the honest, clear, compelling information that lives there.

Read the piece through out loud feeling your physical reaction to all of your character’s words and all of the other characters words. Let your body tell you how you feel by where you might be tightening or relaxing. Do certain words make your stomach clench or your breath catch in your throat? Do others relax your shoulders and open your chest? Note it all – it’s the most specific information you’ll get about how you truly feel.

Now, note the emotions that the body sensation trigger. For instance, if someone says something that scares you and you tightened the stomach and held the breath, the associated emotions could be fear, or panic or even anger. Allow your body to instruct your heart and reveal your true feelings. These feeling will become strong, connected and honest choices – choices that the brain, by the way, probably wouldn’t have allowed you access to.

Working this way you become the actor who have instills the role with all of the power and truth that results from wrapping your body and heart completely around the words on the page.

The people watching will not be able to separate you from the words and will have no choice but to hire you – they have to, you’re already are the role.

Embodiment in audition is the ability to physically manifest the words on the page. If you have prepared correctly, you arrive at the audition needing to do nothing more than speak, listen and be. You are no longer an actor acting or reading the words, trying to communicate the thoughts of the brain. You are a person being.

Personal embodiment isn’t just the new battle cry in casting, it should be the goal of every actor who is in this not just to book the occasional job, but to have a long, successful career. This is not a time for shortcuts and tricks. It’s a time for the real actors to learn how to connect to their bodies and hearts, step up to the plate and start booking. You’ll never have a better chance than right now.

 


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Craig Wallace’s background in script development combined with his 16 years of coaching actors enables him to find the job getting moments that others miss. His expertise in breaking down text and years of coaching experience has made him “L.A.’s go to private coach.” Sign up for his group or private classes at wallaceauditiontechnique.com

Do You Have An Acting Approach?

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What do you do when you first approach a script? Think about it. What’s going through your head? Are you thinking, “How should I say this?” Or maybe it’s, “I have no idea what they want from me. I wish I had some direction.” Do you find yourself ramping up into your performance and trying to accommodate direction you never got in the first place, then settling on a delivery that only pleased your comfort zone? Well, you’re not alone.

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Regardless of your experience level, most talent settle for ‘good enough’, especially when we’re trying to turnaround 5 or more auditions a day from their home recording set ups. No wonder the failure rate is so steep for voiceovers. To add to this it’s very likely you’re attacking every audition with the same cadence, tempo, volume, and possibly even the same inflection, whether it was appropriate or not. Mostly out of habit more than anything else. The problem with this approach is it’s no approach at all.

Proper technique training develops performance agility, expression, and, among other things, challenges your imagination. It does if you’ve coached with us, that is. Much like circuit training fine-tunes your physical acuity with continued use, technique training conditions your performance muscle. You can’t expect to run a marathon if you don’t train. And, if you consider what your conditioning has been up till the present, coaching adds value to who you are and instills stamina to go the distance in your career. This is why every skill level benefits from proper coaching.

It’s always a challenge to bite the bullet and commit to training, and not just from the onset of your career. All talent need a couple of good coaching sessions no less than twice a year, especially once you’ve been given an approach that allows you to consistently discover the very best performance options and you’re able to fluidly adapt to direction when its offered.

Granted it’s commonly considered there’s no single approach more effective than another. However, that line of thinking tends leave far too many talent without any effective approach whatsoever.

‘Winging it’ isn’t professional because it’s unreliable, and could explain why there are so many one-hit wonders in this profession. You need training.

Every reputable agent, producer, and director wants to be reassured you’ve been well trained as a talent. Natural ability is never enough. Without an effective approach, the adage ‘vision without execution is hallucination’ applies. Technique gives you a process that might not be immediately intuitive, but will achieve improved results in your performance when applied with some routine. It takes practice!

The fact remains that in nearly every performance scenario you’re expected to offer options, rather than a single, solitary take. But, left to your own devices, if you inadvertently condition yourself to only deliver one repetitive performance option, then you will limit your delivery options and only be capable of a single solitary delivery. What makes you valuable as a talent, above all else is the simple fact that you’re capable of a limitless number of remarkable deliveries. Make it your mission at the onset of every audition and every session to discover just a few of them. It’s what you’re paid to deliver. No one is interested in hiring a robot. You’re paid to have a pulse.

Our goal, when we coach, is to man you with exceptional techniques and tools that will condition you to deliver your best while developing your ability to self-direct. Mastering these techniques will make you indispensable to every production you’re involved in, regardless the medium.


kate_mcclanaghan-jpg-644x0_q100Kate McClanaghan is a casting director, producer, and founder of both Big House Casting & Audio (Chicago and Los Angeles) and Actors’ Sound Advice. She’s a seasoned industry veteran and actor who has trained actors and produced demos for more than 5,000 performers over her 30 years in the business. 

McClanaghan has cast and produced thousands of national commercials, including spots for McDonald’s, J.C. Penney, State Farm, Sprint, Chase, and IBM, to name a few, and has produced documentaries and assorted narratives for the likes of HGTV, Discovery Channel, and A&E.

McClanaghan’s unique, custom-tailored approach to establishing, expanding, and maintaining a professional career as a working actor and voiceover performer is detailed in her book “The Sound Advice Encyclopedia of Voice-over & the Business of Being a Working Talent.”

For more information, please visit: http://voiceoverinfo.com

Casting Director David Rubin Reveals What He Looks for in Talent

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In this PBS interview, Casting Director and Academy Governor David Rubin shares insights into how he makes casting decisions. Rubin’s casting resume includes a long impressive list of box office hits including Gravity, Men in Black, Hairspray, and The English Patient. He’s also received an Emmy for casting HBO’s Game Change.

According to Rubin, “The most important thing for an actor to bring to the table is themselves, their own idiosyncrasy. And so many actors get preoccupied with what they thing the filmmaker is looking for. And frankly, what we’re looking for is them.”

He has expressed similar ideas about this topic last year when interviewed by the Academy. When asked the number one thing that he looks for as a casting director, he responded: “I look for compelling and, ideally, unexpected ways of portraying each character. Our choice of each actor must help tell the film’s story in a particular way and hopefully gives it a depth and a dynamic that might even go beyond what the screenwriter and other filmmakers had originally envisioned. In order to do that, I’m looking for actors who are skilled in their craft and who bring an individuality that makes them distinct from so many others.”

Rubin also addressed what actors sometimes do that stop him from considering them for roles. He said: “The most important thing for an actor to do in a casting situation is to prepare well and make clear choices for your character in the audition scene. We realize you often don’t have access to a complete script and are making guesses about the character, based on little information, but making firm choices and playing with conviction is the key. So what really turns me off is the lack of distinct choice. Even if an actor is wrong for that role, if they’re true to their instincts and are committed to their acting choices, I’ll remember them and happily have them in for a future film!”

In his quest to deliberately open up roles to actors among a diverse talent pool, Rubin has a practice of ignoring screenwriters’ character descriptions early on. “It’s not that I don’t respect the intentions of a screenwriter. But writers describe characters very specifically, NOT for the filmmakers, but really for studio executive and financiers, so they’ll read the script and see a movie in their heads which they’ll hopefully want to finance and distribute. But once a movie is in pre-production and we’re contemplating casting options, I think it’s best to forget about specifics like age, race and gender and just think about who are the actors who would be believable in a role and help drive the story forward in interesting ways.” Broadening the casting options becomes an important part of the conversation with filmmakers as they explore various ways to bring life to each of the characters in any given project.

And actors should keep in mind that when they believe they’ve  botched an audition, don’t worry about it. Any “mistake” just might be what most intrigues casting directors like Rubin. “Often those are the most illuminating auditions to me–those kind of organic moments where an actor connects with a character even though they may not even realize that they’re doing it,” he says.

Commercials – A Slice Of Life

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Hundreds of years ago (well maybe it just seems that long ago) I moved to Los Angeles to be an actress and a singer. Like most people, I was told the way to become an actress and get a TV/film career was to start out in commercials. Well, in those years I did fit the qualifications for a young mom, a girl who loved pizza and someone who loved to be traveling on an airline. So I immediately went out and found a commercial agent who agreed that I had the perfect look. They even gave me a commercial copy to read – I don’t think I was very good at it but they traded my lack of knowledge for my bubbly personality.

I was a speech therapist during my early 20’s so after I taught I would go on these auditions where I would get to know all of the commercial actress’s in my category. In the beginning, it was intimidating as I recognized many of them from actual television commercials. The process was the same. I would get a call from my agent telling me to show up at a certain casting office. I would sign in and then be given the copy of the commercial. I was very nervous because all I did was read it over a few times and hope that I wouldn’t bomb in the audition! That did happen a lot but eventually I began to understand what they were looking for and started to book them. I did so well that I bought a house with the money that I had earned. It was a fun game. Run home to open the mailbox and guess how much money I made that month on a national commercial.

Looking back, the only thing I liked about commercials was the money. I didn’t have “Margie Haber” to teach me that a commercial is a small slice of life. The creation of one line, 2 lines, 2 paragraphs or 2 pages is the same for a commercial, a co-star or guest star, a series regular or a film. It is all about creating the life. All of the commercials I did would have been so much more awarding if I understood that premise. Pizza Hut, American Airlines, Formula 409 and Tang were opportunities to experience the life – to use my imagination and live it.   One commercial was Tang with Florence Henderson. In that commercial I had a child and went to visit my neighbor (Florence Henderson) and we sat on her patio drinking her Tang loving the taste of it. I didn’t know that I could actually create a life for my “character” rather than worry about my lines. I could have said,” I am this person living this life” – what was it like to have a child?  Did I watch her play sports or listen to her playing the piano? What was our ritual before I tucked her in bed? Create my relationship with my neighbor. How often did we come over on a hot summer and sit on the porch drinking Tang and sharing stories of our day – not trying to sell the drink Tang. If you want to see my commercials in the 70s and 80s they are on my “Stop acting” app that you can find on your iphone/ipad or vimeo on demand.

My advice – don’t be technical – create any life and enjoy the process!

 


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With 40 years of experience, Margie Haber is known as Hollywood’s top audition coach. What is it that Margie teaches? The answer to that question is within title of her book:  Margie teaches actorsHow to Get the Part Without Falling Apart.  Margie takes away the “three p’s”- Pain, Panic, and Performance Anxiety- from the cold-reading & audition process and gives back the “Big P” – POWER- to the actor.  She teaches actors her philosophy, “Stop Acting and Start Living the Life”, using her unique 10-step approach to breakdown the slice of life physically and emotionally, rather than intellectually.  Her revolutionary Haber Phrase Technique has helped thousands of actors use to use the page without losing the life, while supporting relationship and purpose. MargieHaber.com (310) 854-0870

Tips to Analyze Scripts

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The skill set of script analysis is a powerful, if not vital, tool for actors. This applies to small parts, starring roles, and anything in between. To understand, move, breathe, and speak for another person, actors must dig into the internal life of the character. And how much time and effort an actor invests in their character shows. Indeed, preparation can be the key to unlocking a truly moving performance.

New York acting coach, John Windsor-Cunningham tells a story of Anthony Hopkins who once answered questions before a reading, saying sometimes there are actors who read a play 20 times to prepare. Continuing, he’s quoted to say, “I don’t understand that…everyone’s welcome to work in their own way, but it wouldn’t enter my head…To read a script in advance 20 times. Because it wouldn’t enter my head to turn up at a first rehearsal of a play or a film without having read it at least a hundred and twenty times.”

While that might sound extreme, properly analyzing a script can indeed take several reads. The journey of exploring the material starts with getting acquainted with the storyline and characters, but soon moves on to interpretation. Actors can notice similarities with their own experiences, or what they’ve observed in others. Interpreting the material also requires a curious mind to ask questions like “Why?” and “How?”

Kimberly Jentzen, the author of Acting with Impact urges actors to, “Remember that history justifies behavior. So if you don’t understand why a character does what they do, the best thing to do is to read the whole script or the whole play, and you’ll really get some clues. A script is laden with clues and dynamic, interesting thoughts and ideas and metaphors that give us the meaning and the understanding and lead us to our interpretation.” Jentzen strongly believes that any time actors sense they are being general about something, then that is not good. When it comes to matters like a character’s history, intentions, or personality, she insists, “Everything must be specific.” 

Also in pursuit of interpreting a script, many performers make a point to experiment with which word to emphasize in each sentence. Robin Wright, for example, chooses a word that she loves in each sentence, and one she hates–as well as the reasons why her character feels this way. For practical purposes, once actors have decided on which word to emphasize, they can pencil mark their decision onto the page before continuing with the script. Also, many actors find it advantageous to pencil mark their script where changes in emotion occur. For example, if a portion of a particular sentence starts off tearful, an actor can mark precisely where those tears shift to outright anger. For this reason, a script can get messy with markings and notations. Pencils are always handy because they allow for changes later on.

Script interpretation comes in many shapes and forms though. Christopher Walken, for example, has described breaking down his scripts in a unique way. He describes his process saying, “I cross out all the stage directions, I cross out all the places where it says, you know, ‘He says this angrily;’ I cross out all the punctuation. And I just speak without punctuation. I mean, except the way it happens…No periods, no commas, no nothing. Really. A period comes when it comes. But it’s a good thing really. If you, next time you take a script, take all of that out and read it. Because the other actors are going to tell you what their talking about anyway. And it’s better to hear it from them.”

Regardless of your personal approach, it’s vital to come to understand your character without passing judgement on him or her. Uncovering the character’s true nature along with his or her vulnerabilities and flaws is much more important than if you personally like the person he or she is. And really getting to know your character frees you up to be spontaneous when new approaches to the material are thrown at you. After all, many people on set might be involved with the details of your character including wardrobe specialists or, of course, the project’s director. Directors likely have their own vision, and have a say about creative decisions for your character. Whether the director gives suggestions or specific directions, actors need to be ready to adapt, while maintaining a firm understanding of their character. Often times, the collaboration between a well-prepared actor and the director takes the depth of a character to the next level.

Mark Duplass Shares How He Made Films with Limited Resources

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“If you really want to be in the business of being an actor, the days of thinking only as an actor are probably over. The most frustrated actors I know are the ones that are waiting for someone to give them the gig. You must make the gig….And the tools to make stuff now are available to everybody. You could make a movie on your phone. And people do.” —Jason Alexander

Duplass Brothers Productions is an independent film and television company founded by Mark Duplass and his brother Jay. Together they write, direct, produce and act in their projects. Known for creating movies on limited budgets, their work comes to life with a strong emphasis on improvisation and collaboration. And it especially digs deeply into what people attempt to hide from others, namely their vulnerabilities, insecurities, fears as well as moments of joy associated with what’s often considered to be small events. As a team, they don’t allow skimpy resources to stop them from creating projects that they’re passionate about.

Originally inspired to be like the Coen brothers, they followed the “rules” that seemed to be laid clearly before them; that is, work hard, go to film school, and learn all the required and practical production skills. “And we got so obsessed with the propriety of everything,” Mark recalls, that they neglected to tend to the most important part of filmmaking: “the meat.”

Years passed, and although the brothers felt the conviction that they indeed had “something to offer,” they weren’t really yet achieving their creative goals. In this Off Camera interview, Mark describes how one day he spontaneously told his brother, “Forget all the **** we learned in film school–forget it all. Like Mom and Dad’s video camera, I’m going to get a tape, and I’m coming back.” By the time Mark returned, Jay had given some thought as to what subject matter might work. Jay described a time when he nearly had an identity crisis while struggling to record an outgoing greeting on his answering machine. The brothers went with the idea–just the two of them–right then, and improvised as they worked. Mark describes the process of making the seven-minute short film This Is John by saying:

“This felt like us when we were little following our instincts. All communication was nonverbal–very Neanderthal-like. And we edited it down, and it was our first movie that got into Sundance. And that has set the tone for everything we’re doing today, which is–as much as possible–to trust that weird little voice that’s inside of us…And the more I do that, the better off I am generally.”

Their subsequent work includes The Puffy Chair which also screened in Sundance and attracted the attention of major studios; the comedy-drama film Jeff, Who Lives at Home; they co-created HBO’s series Togetherness; and the duo recently finished the comedy romance about two ex-high school sweethearts who cross paths 20 years later in the film Blue Jay which will be released on Netflix this coming December.

Mark firmly believes in allowing actors to go off script in the quest of capturing an authentic emotional moment. “If you’re locked to the words on the script, as good as those scripted words are, if you didn’t have the time to rehearse them correctly or if the perceived dynamic between the actors is different from what the writer imagined, and you’re not allowed to stray from that, you’re going to have a stilted scene,” he insists.

Here is the short This Is John–the film that had such an impact on their careers. Mark and John’s work serves as both a reminder and an inspiration that it’s indeed possible to produce quality work with limited resources.

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Your child is so cute, they should be on TV!

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How many times have parents heard that? As an actress and acting coach, many parents ask me about how to get their kids started in the business, oftentimes because they’ve been told their child is cute!

My first thought is,”has the child expressed an interest in wanting to act?” If the answer is yes, then get them into an on-camera acting class.   It’s no different than if your child was interested in dancing, gymnastics or playing a sport. You’d enroll them in a sports league or class, right? Do the same for a child who wants to act.

Like many things kids try, some will love acting and others will decide they’d rather be on the playground, or WATCHING TV rather than being ON TV. But if they love it, having taken a class will give them the beginning tools and confidence they need to walk into an audition room knowing what to expect. THAT can make a huge difference in which cute child gets the job.

The Top 3 Things a Hosting Agent Looks for in a Reel

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If you want a successful career in broadcast hosting, one of the first things you need to do is find a great agent to represent you. It may sound simple, but it’s tougher to get your foot in the door than you might think.

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One key to getting agent representation is to put together a great reel. You know, we live in a digital world. Anyone with a camera can shoot and post a hosting video online— and tons of people do—but only a few of them really stand out. So, the question is…

How do you make a reel that showcases your work and grabs the attention of potential agents?

Mark Turner who started the Host/Broadcast division at Abrams Artists Agency over two decades ago shared the top three things every agent looks for in a reel.

  1. Authenticity: Make sure your reel is authentic to who you are and the brand you want to convey to viewers. For instance, if you love to cook, you could film yourself preparing your favorite dish or interviewing the chef at a restaurant.
  2. Personality: It is absolutely critical to show your personality. It doesn’t matter how passionate or knowledgeable you are about a subject, if you can’t be engaging and fun on camera, you’re never going to get noticed. Are you funny? Quirky? Charming? Figure out what your strongest assets are and make sure we see them on your reel.
  3. Editing: Don’t forget to keep the focus on you versus other people in your video and avoid long interviews. Stick to quick edits that show off good one-­liners and important points. Make sure the clips move quickly to keep the viewer engaged, and keep the reel to 2-3 minutes max.

Something I’ve learned in my 20 years as a TV host, and 15 as a media coach, is that successful on-air talent never try to be anyone other than him or herself. Don’t do something on camera just because you saw someone else do it. Find elements of your personality that make YOU stand out. Watch yourself on camera and notice how you’re coming across. Would you want to watch you? Who would?

Remember: If you’re uncomfortable, so is your audience.

The truth is, anyone viewing your reel will know within the first 30 seconds whether they like you and want to see more. So, never include anything you don’t love. Once you create a video you feel great about, it’s time to start sharing it with agents who represent TV hosts and on-air experts. Mark points out that he looks at every video he receives, so go ahead and send that reel!

If you’re looking for more guidance on how to develop your on-­camera personality, build confidence and connect with your audience, sign up for our one-­day intensive TV Host Training Workshop on December 3 at One on One in New York City. Space is limited. Learn more and register at www.tvhosttraining.com.


markturnertMARK TURNER

VP, Alternative & Digital Programming Division, Abrams Artists Agency

Upon graduation from Connecticut College in 1993, Mark started working as an assistant to the head of the commercial dept. at Abrams Artists Agency.  After 2.5 years, he was promoted to agent and started up the Host/Broadcast Division. Over the last 2 decades, the department, now titled, the Alternative & Digital Division, has morphed into a one-stop shop for all things under the non-fiction umbrella. Mark has represented top on air hosts, experts, personalities, producers, and digital influencers, in all aspects of unscripted TV and digital. He’s worked with, and placed talent, and sold shows, with every major production company, cable channel, broadcast network, syndicator, and digital platform, across the country. In 2014, Mark was elevated to a Vice President with Abrams Artists Agency.

leilaLEILA SBITANI

TV Host & Media Coach

Leila has hosted a wide variety of TV Shows that have taken her all over the world and enabled her to work with numerous celebrities. Including, most recently, Jennifer Lawrence, Antonio Banderas and Chris Hemsworth. Working on Entertainment Tonight, E!, Style, WE, Metro TV, Oxygen, [email protected], and TV Land to name a few. She also has extensive experience as an actress in film, theater, commercials, voice-overs and industrials. Leila has been working as a media coach and teacher for the past 15 years. Teaching master classes at colleges, high schools, and workshops in New York. And working with production companies as well as independently taking on clients for one on one coaching. Leila has coached talent that have appeared on various networks including VHI, BET, HGTV, Fuse, CBS, FX, and MTV