Actor and director Kenneth Branagh once said, “I think that short films often contain an originality, a creative freedom, an energy and invention that is inspiring and entertaining.”

Historically, short films have thrived in classrooms and the festival circuit. Unfortunately, their ability to exist beyond these realms has often proven difficult.

But with ever-evolving technology and online platforms, short-form video content continues to become more influential.

One of the outlets taking the form to exciting new areas is Firework. This short-form social video app allows users to to create and distribute video content that is 30 seconds and under. The app utilizes what Firework has dubbed REVEAL technology. This enables users to capture both horizontal and vertical video in a single shot from their mobile device. Audiences can then twist the device as short films play and watch from a new perspective as each scene progresses.

Now, you may think how can an audience invest in stories that are so fleeting? The time constraints of Firework’s structure though are what make it compelling. By putting a limit on what can be viewed in a single session, creatives are forced to think outside the box when developing their projects. The result is stories that grab the audience’s attention immediately, and compel them to continue with each series week after week.

Besides user-generated content, Firework has begun introducing their own original series. Three creatives who have flourished with Firework are Ryan Lagod, Olivia Jordan and Amanda McCants.

Ryan is the producer of Campfire, a daily show following the lives of camp counselors at a local Boys and Girls Club with a horror twist. Olivia and Amanda star in the comedy soap opera Hearts on Fire as well as the comedy sketch series Firework Live.

Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with the three creatives to discuss their approach to auditions, acting jobs and overcoming stage fright.

Here’s what they had to say:

Auditions Are About Preparation and Taking Control

Obviously, auditioning for acting roles is often taxing. Whether trying to get in the mindset of a casting director or remembering the advice of your acting coach, the entire process can be daunting.

For Olivia and Amanda though, the key to mastering casting calls is preparation. This preparation occurs in many forms, including meditation and embracing new technologies.

“My secret weapon is the app Line Learner Lite,” Olivia says. “I can record all the dialogue and then use it as my scene partner while prepping for auditions. I know I don’t book an audition just off of memorizing lines. But, having the lines fully committed backwards and forwards allows me freedom in the audition room, and the ability to make bold choices while in character.”

“The way I prep for auditions is constantly changing, but there are certain steps I make sure I stick to,” adds Amanda. “The first thing I do is make the script my own. I look at every detail in the action, dialogue and character to find the special way I relate to it. Second thing I do is to put my phone on silent. It’s so easy for me to get distracted. The third thing is meditate before I go in. I tell myself good thoughts and know whatever is meant for my actor’s path will not miss me.”

Acting Jobs and Changing Technologies

For some actors, the reality of evolving technology is a source of stress. With a new piece of software springing up every hour, it’s easy to see how an actor can feel as behind-the-times as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.

The creatives at Firework though feel technology should not be feared. Instead, working to familiarize oneself with innovative applications can help the artist tap into new and exciting possibilities. This is especially true when it comes to casting calls and acting roles.

“The biggest change I see in the casting process is the way people are being cast,” Amanda says. “Seems simple, I know.  I’ve seen direct offers go to influencers because they have a million followers. At first I was very bitter about this new process, but then I realized why would I be bitter about someone getting an opportunity? They made their career work, you can too.”

“What’s great about the digital age, is that anyone can take a stab at writing or producing,” Ryan adds. “All you need is the will to accomplish it. Technology has given a voice to such a diverse group of people. We’re no longer at the mercy of these gatekeepers who tell us what stories we can hear and what stories we cannot. I believe all stories have value and it’s important to learn from them.”

“The industry is rapidly changing with the growth of digital media,” Olivia continues. “I think it challenges actors to level up because there is so much incredible content being made and the actors that used to only do film are now open to television, digital and even crossing over into hosting. My method has been to just keep putting myself out there and hope that the right opportunities find me!”

The Benefits of Having an Online Presence

Traditionally, the element of control as it relates to acting jobs has been tricky for actors.  Whether it’s a casting director or an acting coach, a performer, more often than not, has had to rely on others to manage and promote their careers.

With the emergence of sophisticated online applications though, actors now have greater influence over their careers. It’s something Olivia and Amanda feel actors should take full advantage of.

“I think it is so important to have an online presence,” Olivia says. “It’s free advertising for yourself. As performers, we have to take advantage of that leverage. I don’t know that social media presence is directly turning into bookings. But, some director, producer or casting director may discover you on your social media. In their minds, the presence you have built online may warrant a second look.”

“Create, create, create,” Amanda says. “Create the content you want to see and be casted in. Between the side jobs and auditions there’s always time to write or film the role you want. Instagram gives us the tools to be our own producers and directors. I have found it so helpful to take advantage of that.”

If You Do an Acting Workshop, Commit to It

The idea of an acting workshop or class often leaves performers divided. Some see it as an effective way of honing their skills, while others view it as a waste of time and money. For Amanda and Olivia though, the acting workshop is certainly worth the effort. However, in order to receive the most benefit from it, there are two primary considerations to keep in mind. First, your choice of workshop and acting coach, and second, your commitment to them.

“Acting class changed my life and continues to do so,” Amanda says. “Now with that being said, make sure to choose wisely and take recommendations from friends. Acting classes and teachers have helped build my craft and take it to a completely different level. I have built such a special community through classes as well. You always end up meeting people who want to create.”

“I look at class like going to the gym,” Olivia continues. “ It’s not going to make a difference to just go once in a while. It has to become part of your routine in order to keep the muscles strong and ready for anything. I am in class at least once a week and I bounce around to study with different teachers to stretch different muscles. I know they can push me past whatever plateau I have reached. Having breakthroughs and finding that next level as an artist is the most wonderful feeling. It translates to confidence in the audition room and then on set.”

Actors Are Often Their Worst Enemies on Set

Okay, you’ve made it past all the casting calls and auditions. Now it’s time to shine on set. Unfortunately, what should be an exciting experience tends to be complicated by actor insecurity. Of course this is expected, especially for those new to working on an actual production. In Ryan’s experience, actors tend to focus too much on the workings of a set and not enough on the audience who will see their performance. For Ryan, focusing on what the audience will eventually see is the key to overcoming self-sabotage.

“What I’ve noticed is the unnecessary stress actors put on themselves to duplicate a take,” he says. “This is especially true when you’re doing comedy or improv. An actor will do a great performance and then the director will say let’s see it from a different angle. Of course, delivering the take the exact same way is difficult. Worse still, you can psych yourself out if you’re paying too much attention to the reactions of the crew. They may laugh hard on one take, and then not at all on the second. You can’t let this bother you. Remember, even though everyone on set has witnessed this scene many times, the audience has not. Your focus should be on the audience and not on the crew.”

Branding Is Important for Acting Roles

By now, as an actor, you’ve probably heard the word “branding” thrown around quite a bit. But, how important is this business strategy? As a performer, you’re already juggling auditions and an acting workshop or two. Is taking the time to identify and market a unique quality about yourself helpful in locking down acting jobs?

Well, for the creatives at Firework it is. Recognizing and honing one’s brand is a key component in in securing further opportunities and acting roles.

“Branding is important because it gives you a level of independence,” Ryan says. “Every actor has a quality or talent that makes them unique, and it’s important to promote that. Additionally, it’s important to learn how to infuse that quality into each performance. Let’s say you’re playing a police officer. As a culture, we’ve seen many portrayals of police officers and have a certain idea of them. The question is, how can you make your police officer stand out from the rest? I believe it has to do with your unique talents and personality. It’s about putting a piece of yourself into every role.”

“I think recognizing what energy you are putting out is key, your natural energy is a zone where you can book a lot of work,” Olivia adds. “But actors are by nature chameleons. The fun of the art is to stretch and push yourself past anything that you as a person would be comfortable with. Some of my favorite characters to play are those that are the furthest from my natural state of being.”

Overcoming Stage Fright When Doing Acting Jobs

Of all the enemies that an actor has to confront on a daily basis, stage fright is often the most challenging. Whether you’re in an audition room with a casting director or on set, confronting the heaviness of insecurity is never easy. Although you may be unable to vanquish performance anxiety completely, you can learn to manage it.

For the creatives at Firework, preparation and repetition are helpful tools in conquering stage fright.

“Stage fright is still an obstacle for me,” Ryan says. “I remember my first audition when I was 23. Going in, I thought I was fine and feeling good. Then as I started to read, my right knee began shaking. By the end of the audition I was convulsing. I was a complete mess.  But, I discovered that the key to improving is going on more auditions. Soon, your nerves go down and the butterflies that came from fear now come from excitement. You may not be able to eliminate fear completely, but you can better control it. As you go on more auditions, your concept of failure changes. It’s not about being comfortable. It’s about growing as an artist.”

“Stage fright, it’s a real thing,” Amanda continues. “I do stand up comedy as well as acting and nerves can truly get the best of you. I make sure to take 10 deep breathes and know my material inside and out. That way if you do get nervous, you’ve done it so many times that you push one word out after the other. Finally you get to a point in the scene or on set, where you realize that you’ve got this.”

“I love performing,” Olivia adds. “The moment I hit the stage and the lights are on is total freedom. For me, the anxiety comes before that moment. Preparation is key. The more work I put in beforehand, the less I will wake up in a panic the day of a performance. Just doing the work and trusting that everything will show up as it is meant to in the moment. Not getting overwhelmed trying to pre-plan how it will turn out or how anyone might react to it.”

Wrapping Up with Firework

Acting, no matter the medium, is a difficult endeavor. Whether dealing with short films or long-form content, the stress surrounding casting calls, auditions and acting jobs remains. But what applications like Firework have shown, is that your ability to function and grow as an artist doesn’t need to be controlled by others. Sometimes to evolve and overcome your fears, it’s best to take a leap of faith and do the project yourself.

As director Joseph Kosinki once said, “Go out and make something that reflects your interests, your tastes and your ideas. I got my start by making short films on my own.”

More often than not, pursuing what we are passionate about is the key to both personal and professional success.

If you want to star in the next Firework Original series, apply to be a Firework Creator now!

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