Product Identity and Your Brand

February 16, 2018

 

A successful career in the arts and especially in the performing arts is difficult to think about as a product. After all, a human being is involved. The preparation necessary to become an actor is specific and requires an expenditure of dedication, time, and money.

By definition, your career is a focused application of a skill designed to provide earnings and satisfaction. Thus, no matter how personal an endeavor an acting career may be, certain principles of basic marketing can and do apply and ought to be employed even by the artist.

The proliferation of social media and the emphasis of having an online presence have created a marketplace crowded with options and information proclaiming the virtues of every product from toothpicks to artificial hearts. The focus on marketing offers has become essential.

Marketing – of any product – can be reduced to three essential principles: Product identity, packaging, and placement. When understood and effectively employed, these principles can help you navigate the overcrowded marketplace and enhance the prospect of success.

The “grandmother” of these principles is the first, product identity. Without a cleverly discerned and properly articulated statement of product identity, the second two principles, packaging and placement, aren’t even possible.

It doesn’t take many interviews or auditions for an actor to realize that there’s more going on in a casting session than simply how proficiently a scene is read. It’s obvious that there are other factors at play besides the quality of your craftsmanship. And because you are not able to see the audition from their point of view, it is impossible to understand how they perceive the work, the “product”.

Product identity is pretty simple when you’re marketing toothpicks or even artificial hearts. If you’re trying to market one of those products, you can put it on a table in front of you, you can see it from the same angles as a potential buyer can see it. You can invite others to look at it with you. You can appreciate the item from their point of view and, thus, interpret the reactions they may have to the product. It isn’t the same when you are the product.

What can you do about it? Find out what’s going on in that outside point of view and integrate it with your interior point of view.

By taking these two essential actions, the two aspects of personal product identity can be a unified. From having the right photographs to having an effective website and social media presence to giving truly memorable auditions you can more effectively market your identity – your brand.

The above has been at the core of the Sam Christensen Process that I’ve been offering for almost thirty years. 2018 marks the final year that I’ll be teaching my Process in person. I’m leaving Los Angeles and I’ll be presenting an on-line version of the image and marketing work I invented. So, experience the Process as I created it – and enjoy the confidence and ease it produce as you build your career.


About Sam Christiansen:

Sam has had a career of well deserved lucky breaks (Public Theatre -New Talent, Arthur Laurent’s assistant, Broadway Company Manager; Casting director-M*A*S*H, Clash of The Titans, The Champ; Personal Manager-Brian Stokes Mitchell, Jean Claude VanDamme, Rita Wilson) all of which lead him to create his landmark personal branding system and a lifetime of close personal work with actors. (Leslie Jones, Drew Carey, Dan Harmon, Will Wheaton, etc)

Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

February 6, 2018

February has already arrived and for many actors, the New Year and New Year’s Resolutions go hand in hand. Starry eyed hopefuls will imagine networking more, plan to nail every audition, and decide to look into that commercial class they have heard so much about. Unfortunately, keeping these resolutions is not always as easy as dreaming them up…not without the proper guidance.

The first step to keeping your resolution is to treat acting as a business and yourself as the CEO of said business. With this in mind, I have developed a system that enables actors, like myself, to accomplish small manageable goals in a clear and concise manner. I call this the Actor’s Business Plan. Give it a try and see how it works for you!

How to Write An Actor’s Business Plan:

Trim down your business plan to the absolute minimum. Do your best to omit unnecessary words and communicate your objective and strategy with minimal clutter.

  1. Describe The Struggles/Challenges You Are Having Right Now (no agent, not enough bookings, etc.) Aim high, but also be realistic.
  2. Your Solution Where do you see your career going? What is the best case scenario? (to save money as I make my living acting or to get a recurring role on a hit sitcom)
  3. Business model Create a plan to accomplish your goals. (I will need to make $10,000 a month to live the way I want to live in 5 years)
  4. Target Market With whom do you need to network? Come up with a list of industry professionals (agents, casting directors, producers, etc.) who could help you attain your goals and the ways in which you can meet them.
  5. Competitive Advantage What makes you special? Do you speak Spanish? Are you very funny? Find ways to let your target market know you have these skills. (skill clips, videos, website, etc.)
  6. Management Team Who is helping you achieve your goals and do you need to gather more or better people on your team? Teams may include teachers, coaches, publicists, web designers, etc.
  7. Financial summary What does it look like now and where you want it to be? This is a cost breakdown of what you need to invest in ( classes, tapes, etc.), and how you expect to make it back.
  8. Funding Required Establish a way to make the required money to fund your plans for the business. (Get a job, find donors, etc.)

Once your resolutions are set and the Actor’s Business Plan is written, start tracking your results. Compare the number of auditions you had before and after your new headshots, write down the casting directors you have met and the amount of times that they have called you in, and make a list of interactions you have had with your agent.

Endeavor to be all that you can be in 2018. Create your Actor’s Business Plan and you will be a whole lot closer to making your resolutions a reality!


Judy Kain is an actress who has appeared in over 400 commercials. Most recently, she has had recurring roles on The Fosters, Hand Of God and The Odd Couple. Judy currently teaches acting and business of acting classes at her acting school, Keep It Real Acting Studios, in North Hollywood, California.

Persistence Pays

January 18, 2018

You read about it all the time: the actor who tells stories about what it took them to become an “overnight success.” They talk about auditioning for years, playing summer stock, auditioning, studying, auditioning, working as a waiter, paralegal or kid’s party clown, auditioning, studying and then getting the gig of a lifetime.

The moral of every one of these stories is not, “Good things come to those who wait…” The moral is, “Good things come to those who PERSIST!”

Some (very few) actors land an amazing gig that first time. Good for them. But for those of us who don’t, our best chance is to keep at it, keep growing as artists and continue perfecting your craft.

That’s what people in other professions do. To build their practice, doctors read the latest journals, study breakthrough techniques and continue their education. To make sure customers come back, mechanics stay up on the latest diagnostic equipment and electronics. And to keep their restaurant hopping, chefs work to improve even their best recipes.

There are plenty of ways for an actor to do the same. Take that play that only pays gas money, sign on to do that web series or watch that critically acclaimed Netflix series.

Whatever you do, stay industrious and challenge yourself to do more. If you’re in class where you’re not challenged enough practice and perform that monologue or scene that’s outside of your comfort zone. If it’s tough to get stage time in class, find a class where you can work a lot.

Acting is doing. You don’t perfect your craft by thinking about doing. You gain more certainty and hone your unique artistic voice by doing. So do more.

Persist and you just might be the next “overnight success.”


The Acting CenterThe Acting Center helps actors to gain control over their work, teaching them to rely on their own instincts, imagination and choices. Our scene study and improv classes produce confident actors who bring an original voice to every production.

In fact, the most distinctive thing about an Acting Center student is how different each one is. We train actors to speak in their own artistic voice—producing characters that are rich and layered. They become the artist they always wanted to be.

Theater, television and film are all collaborative mediums, so an actor must work well with other actors, directors, casting directors and many more. Our technique trains them to do just that! That’s why directors love to work with Acting Center students.

Conscious Auditioning (pt. 2)

January 16, 2018

Conscious in the Room

This one would seem to be obvious—of course you’re going to be conscious in the room where you’re about to audition, that’s what you’re there for! But it’s sometimes harder than it sounds to remain totally conscious and completely present when your brain is racing around taking in all of the new stimuli and your heart is beating fast with excitement and anticipation.

I have heard many actors tell me they lose their confidence when they walk into the room, and all of their work goes out the window during the read. They feel as if they weren’t really there.

This is when you can lean on the body to stabilize you. When you walk in and take your place, take a moment and feel your feet on the floor. Gather strength from the grounded sensation of being firmly rooted to the earth and then take an energizing breath that expands the upper chest, opens the shoulders, and straightens your posture. Now you’ve truly taken your space and are ready to work.

When it comes time for the reading, it’s important that you’ve prepared in a way that allows you to let go and trust that your hard work will shine thorough with the ease and confidence of the true professional. If you feel yourself pushing or going flat or otherwise losing consciousness, it’s essential that you immediately reconnect with your listening. If you’ve done the work of fleshing out the relationships in the piece, listening will retrigger your emotional connection, allowing you to relax back into the rhythm of a true conversation.

The more you feel grounded the more conscious you’ll be as you move from moment to moment—free to listen, react and respond.

It takes focused, conscious work to deliver a great audition, but with a solid technique as your guide you’ll ensure that all of your auditions will be alive with humanity: interesting, fun, and surprising.

 


Craig WallaceCraig 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.

How to share your accomplishments

December 15, 2017

Frontier Insider

How well do you share information about what is happening in your acting career? Do you play down your bookings and callbacks? Do you not mention them at all? Maybe you want to start being a little more competitive.

I frequently remind my students to utilize social media and other opportunities to promote their careers. But, just as important is how you talk about bookings and such. Call it “spin” if you want, but self-promotion is crucial to an actor’s career until you have big enough news for a professional publicist to share.

Think about how to best convey information without making it sound less than it is. Don’t just post or blurt things out. Think beforehand how to best share your news. And remember, just about everything can be made newsworthy.

Simply put, get comfortable bragging a little and never ever play down your accomplishments. So many actors shock me by talking about their work in a self-deprecating way. “Oh, it was only a student film.” “I had a really small part.” “It was just a little low-budget horror film that went straight to the internet.” If you have ever said any of these things before, stop right now. If you have said all of them, you are in need of a total overhaul on how you share information. You have to learn how to do a little “spin.”

The same is true for representation. If you take a bunch of meetings and no one signs you, keep it to yourself. Or say that you chose to wait before signing with anyone. Never let it seem like a negative. Listen how most celebrities speak on talk shows. That could be you someday so get used to it.

When you book a lead in a student film there is no need to advertise that it was a student film or even a short film. You booked a film. Post that you booked a film. Talk about how you booked a film. Tweet about that film you just booked. You aren’t lying and yet you are now sharing the news in a better light.

Don’t just share news once. It’s about what you posted five seconds ago. This doesn’t mean you have to post the same thing every five seconds, but you can’t expect us to see it if you post it once. When I was promoting my documentary I learned first-hand how you had to pummel social media with news if you expect anyone to see it.

To keep things fresh you can post things with a slightly different slant each time. Take enough pictures and you can post different shots so that it keeps things new. An actor can work one day on a short film or web series and take 20 photos that could spread out over that many postings.

Always keep it positive, though. Social media is no place to air dirty laundry. Go through your agent if something is inappropriate or dangerous. Otherwise, stay complimentary and kind. If you’re doing your social media correctly, then some of the folks on the production are now your FB and Twitter contacts so they will see anything that you post. Best if those things are nice.

And, as I mentioned, all of this also pertains to how you speak about your work in person. When you run into an industry member you haven’t seen in a while, you don’t want to sound like you are sorry you worked on a project. That may make them concerned about how you speak about all projects which in turn could affect whether or not you are called in for their future projects.

Most actors need to change how they present things on all platforms. A big part of it is ownership. You have to change how you think of things and then the rest of this will come easily.

Everyone can benefit from a little “spin,” right? Forget the negative connotation and start using “spin” to your advantage.


mark sikesMark Sikes began his casting career in 1992 for Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Corman. In the past 25 years, he has cast over 100 films as well as television series, commercials and web series. He has cast projects for Tobe Hooper and Luke Greenfield and many others. In the past few years Mark has also produced four feature films.

Based in Los Angeles, Mark has cast films for many markets including the United Kingdom, Peru, the Philippines and Russia. Domestically, he has cast films that shot all over the country in Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia and multiple projects in Colorado.

He currently teaches three weekly on-camera, audition technique classes in West Los Angeles.  Follow Mark on Twitter @castnguy.

Conscious Auditioning (pt. 1)

December 14, 2017

Auditioning is a solitary process. You receive your sides and read them alone. You do the work of exploring the material as well as your own emotional mapping to find the most interesting intersection between you and the character alone. You sit in the waiting room alone. And finally you walk alone into the room to audition. With no one guiding you, it’s easy to get off track.

Let’s take a look at how you can stay conscious every step of the way.

Conscious in Preparation

As an auditioning actor, you need a technique that leads you consciously through the preparation process so that each moment you spend on the piece enriches the character and brings the words on the page to life. This technique should act as a benevolent yet strict director, keeping you focused and on track and keeping you away from the second-guessing and neurotic repetition that can suck the life out the final read. Every time you pick up the sides it must be because you are improving the piece and your connection to it. And when you feel this connection, you need to be conscious enough to stop. A good technique, like a good director, tells you how to begin preparing, how to connect fully with the material, and lets you know when you’re finished. This is conscious preparation.

Conscious in the Waiting Room

The waiting room presents many potential challenges: a potentially long and draining wait; a comparing mind that may be seeing everyone else as better for the role; loud, insecure actors trying to psyche out the competition; and on and on. It can overwhelm you to the point of numbness.

As well as you may have prepared, if you’re not conscious of your needs through this part of the process, it can all fall apart. A good way to keep that from happening is simply asking yourself, “What do I need in this moment?” And then really listen to the answer from your body, mind, and/or heart. Maybe you need to breathe more deeply, maybe you need to get up and walk around, maybe it’s water or some food if you’re there a long time. How about a really calming playlist?

If you continuously ask yourself “What do I need in this moment?” you’ll stay conscious from the moment you arrive to the moment you walk into the room to audition.

Your experience in the waiting room is make or break. Don’t just try to get though it—let it nurture you and help you to be your very best in the room.


Craig WallaceCraig 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

Reasons Actors Sabotage Their Careers (and How to Avoid it)

November 16, 2017

Whether you are auditioning for a role or you have booked the job, there are many ways to get in your own way, but the bottom line is, when you strip out all the layers of self-sabotage, at the core of it is… You don’t feel like you are enough. Has that thought ever entered your mind?

I don’t feel like I’m enough.

This is how that feeling of unworthiness gets reinforced over and over again. You are putting yourself out there. You don’t feel safe, you’re scared, and the stakes are high. The “not good enough” button gets pushed, and unfortunately you sabotage yourself.

The possibility of hearing no, triggers failure, disappointment, and intensifies the feeling of insufficiency. Your self-esteem is constantly taking hits. “They didn’t like me. They didn’t want me. I am not _____ enough.” You fill in the blank. Because you care, you take it personally and your heart breaks a little every time. This only strengthens those conscious or unconscious thoughts that you don’t deserve it.

That, “you are not enough,” has nothing to do with other people making you feel that way. It’s a feeling that has to do with you, and it comes from within—from your backstory.

The feeling of not being good enough is the tree. The branches are: “I am not talented, good-looking, slim, loving, deep enough, etc.”

The branches keep growing when you give people too much power.

You give up your power in many ways:

You don’t prepare enough. You get too neurotic. You don’t trust yourself.

You apologize too much. You’re not able to detach from the outcome of the audition.

The work that needs to be done begins with recognizing the wound that needs to be healed. You can be a proficient actor, armed with all the right tools, but until you acknowledge specifically what is stopping you, you will continue to get in your way time and time again.

You must identify what that feeling of inadequacy is tied to. The experience that you don’t deserve can be deep. Every artist is insecure. It’s perfectly fine to feel all of the above — we are human after all. But when you are negatively affected by it, it reduces your ability to perform. And if you don’t deal with it, it can cripple you in your career.

This is how you can begin to work on it and take back control:

Recognize exactly what you feel, when you are feeling it.

Don’t avoid it. Be strong and embrace it. Face what’s going on head on. Resist the urge to run away.

By nature, actors are detectives, interested in investigating the truth. Every time you are brave enough to feel your feelings, you will transform the fear response into powerful choices and these choices will show up in your auditions, work, and life.

Because somewhere down the line you have told yourself you are not good enough, now is the time to de-program yourself. Whether through affirmations, prayers, writings, therapy—tell yourself the new truth.

You must trust that you are enough. Say it. “I am enough.” Fake that you believe it. Even if you don’t right now, eventually you’ll start to. Remember, you get to create your career. You have the power to reprogram your feelings, so as to not get in the way of your dreams. You do deserve it!


MicMICHELLE DANNERhelle 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.

Vincent Van Gogh On A Creative Life

October 16, 2017

Casting Frontier

How many hours a week are you acting?

I’m not talking about auditioning or workshops (they don’t count). I’m talking about that rarefied and sacred space where you work on your art. The place where outcome doesn’t matter, where there’s no getting it right or wrong, and no one’s trying to be cool. A client of mine once called this “the sandbox of the creative soul.” How much time do you spend in that space, playing, getting dirty and making castles?

Vincent Van Gogh took his own life when he could no longer paint. He didn’t take it when he could no longer sell his paintings (he was never financially successful while he was living). He didn’t dutifully go knocking on doors trying to sell his paintings, he just painted. I believe that there is something profound to be learned from his creative rigor. He painted because that’s what it meant to make art.

Most of us started acting in grade school or high school. It’s an awkward age that’s full of hormones, heartbreak and hidden desires to fit in. That first time you courageously stepped onto a stage, looked out past the lights, stood in front of some people knew, some people you didn’t… and felt something stir inside you, something you had never felt before. Some part of you relaxed and said, “Yes. Finally. I’m home.” Some deep, previously quiet part of you woke up and tickled you with that once-a-year magic that (still?) happens when you blow out the candles on your birthday cake. You were home. Your creativity and big, passionate heart was bursting to unfurl stories to the world. Just as it did for Vincent, as he found landscapes to paint, personalities to capture, and colors to enliven.

The magic you make on stage or on set has nothing to do with emailing an agent or putting together the perfect reel. These are the staples of business, the necessary tools of running your business as an actor.

We have glimpses of who we want to be, glimpses of who we can be, and tastes of what it is like to visit that land: a collaborative day on set, an audition at a fancy casting office, or a glowing review.

The actors that suddenly “make it, are the actors that are constantly working on their art. They are acting in class; acting in content of their own creation; performing in a play, improve or standup even when television was their first passion. They are acting because that is what drives them. Keeping their soul in the sandbox for a majority of the time and letting their brains wear the business suit when needed.

Now all this may sound oxymoronic, ironic or paradoxical coming from a life and career coach who helps actors move ahead in the business. But time and time again, this is the conversation I’m having with my actors (and my most fulfilled, most prolific… and yes, most successful actors do this). Your craft is the most important thing in your actor business. Maybe you know this already, maybe you take it for granted, or maybe it’s the driving force behind every submission, email, and workshop. Either way, let this simple reminder reignite you to get your butt in class and keep going. Paint your paintings regardless of the sales tag or wall to hang them upon. Every play date you make with your soul will reap far greater rewards for your fulfillment and success than hours trolling the breakdowns or trying to build your twitter following. See you in the sandbox.


Brian | Actor SalonAbout Brian: I work in commercials (70+), hosting, voiceover, television, theatre, and print. I’ve worked on both coasts and around the globe, including Dublin, London, and on the Atlantic, Pacific, Caribbean, and Mediterranean Seas. I live in Los Angeles, but called Manhattan home for 11 years. I freelanced with 12 agents before choosing my current representation. I spent my first two years in New York as an advertising account executive and copywriter for Broadway shows and subsequently worked as a career coach (where I found one of my callings!). I’m proud and touched to say that I help many actors realize their dreams. If you’d like to know more, check out www.BrianPatacca.com, follow me on Twitter or learn about me at About.Me/BrianPatacca. I hope to see you at an audition soon. Give your career a kick in the AAS (Actor Accountability Salon)!

 

How To Succeed Between Bookings

September 29, 2017

So what have you been up to lately?

We hear this question all the time from friends, family, agents, managers, and casting directors. Sometimes, we have a seemingly good (correct) answer: I just booked a job; I just shot a commercial; I just made $1,000 shooting a film, etc. Or maybe you don’t have big news to share, and you’re forced to give one of the that’s-just-the-business answers that always feel like an excuse: I had a callback but didn’t get it; My agent isn’t working out so well; I booked a film but my friend cast me; Things are slow right now, etc. And other times we are paralyzed by this question and can only respond, “Not much.”

As actors, unless you are in a Broadway show or are a regular on television series, you work from time to time, perhaps a week in a film, a day on a commercial, six weeks in a play. And then there is the time in between. Sadly, the in-between time is likely the gauge by which we judge our success and therefore, our lives. And we don’t stop there. We even judge our successes. We don’t count callbacks, being cast by friends, unpaid work, student films, or readings as “true” wins.

In order to change the experience of your career – and therefore your life – you must change your perspective. If you are going to auditions, marketing yourself and honing your craft, you are an actor; everything after that is gravy. So pour the gravy on thick.

When someone asks, “What have you been up to lately?” it is an opportunity, a gift. Someone has taken interest in you, your interests, successes, and life. They want to hear about you. You have a chance to commune, market yourself, and/or make a connection.

And here’s the simple trick: People respond to you in kind. Meaning, if you sound positive or enthusiastic about what’s going on in your life, your new friend will see it as wonderful too. If you say that, we know what you do, the type of roles you play and that you are successful…because you told us you are.

This conversation you have with your new friend is now the conversation you must have with yourself. The in-between time is a part of what it means to be an actor, and the in-between time is when you will need to answer for yourself, “What have you been up to?” You may even hear that question resounding in your head over and over between these “big” bookings. Answer your own question with: “I just shot fantastic headshots that market me perfectly”; “I booked my friend’s web series where I’ll be in an uber fun scene in a role I rarely get to play”; “I’m doing a reading of a screenplay”; “I booked a commercial. cha-ching!” “I got an audition for ‘Modern Family’ “; “I rocked my audition yesterday!”

Soon enough you’ll actually experience these successes, and being an actor will be a positive journey. Oh and BTW, the journey of being an actor is your life. You’ve discovered the secret to happiness. So tell me… what have you been up to lately?

 


Brian | Actor SalonAbout Brian: I work in commercials (70+), hosting, voiceover, television, theatre, and print. I’ve worked on both coasts and around the globe, including Dublin, London, and on the Atlantic, Pacific, Caribbean, and Mediterranean Seas. I live in Los Angeles, but called Manhattan home for 11 years. I freelanced with 12 agents before choosing my current representation. I spent my first two years in New York as an advertising account executive and copywriter for Broadway shows and subsequently worked as a career coach (where I found one of my callings!). I’m proud and touched to say that I help many actors realize their dreams. If you’d like to know more, check out www.BrianPatacca.com, follow me on Twitter or learn about me at About.Me/BrianPatacca. I hope to see you at an audition soon. Give your career a kick in the AAS (Actor Accountability Salon)!

 

The Three Pillars Of Comedy (part 1 of 3)

September 15, 2017

WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL SITCOM

A successful sitcom is like a big house filled with funny, topical storylines, memorable, identifiable characters and a plethora of laugh-out-loud jokes. Just think of “I Love Lucy,” “Friends,” “All in the Family,” “Seinfeld” and “Modern Family,” and how hysterically these sitcoms are written and acted.

But what holds up these houses of humor?

Well, like a house, a sitcom needs strong, structural support beams to hold it up, keep it sturdy and reinforce the funny storylines, characters and jokes for years to come. I call these support beams, The Three Pillars of Comedy.

As comedy comes from pain, The Three Pillars of Comedy are derived from Conflict, Desperation and The Unpredictable. For actors and writers, these darker components will shine a bright light on helping you write a funnier storyline, create a funnier character and deliver funnier jokes.

CONFLICT

Storyline – Every storyline needs conflict—and lots of it. Without conflict, there is no drama and, without drama, there is no comedy. That comedy comes from the conflict in the storyline, which centers on the clashing of two opposing sides (their beliefs, cultures, philosophies, personalities, cupcake recipes, etc.).

In every sitcom episode there has to be at least an A storyline 
and B storyline, where a character specifically wants something but faces what I call External Obstacles. These External Obstacles are clearly defined in the story as a “force to be reckoned with.” It’s that person, place, or thing preventing the character in the A or B storyline from getting their Want. And it’s that obstacle, however absurd, that creates the conflict (the funny) in the story.

Characters – A character without conflict is boring. In every storyline, characters must either face conflict as they pursue their Want, or be the conflict for another character’s Want. If there are two characters in a scene, each of them will have a Want, and each of their Wants will be the other character’s external obstacle.

You can also find conflict within your character, what I call Internal Obstacles. Internal obstacles are defined as those conflicting thoughts and emotions such as doubt, insecurity, embarrassment and fear, which try to self-sabotage the character from getting their Want. As an actor or writer, infusing this source of conflict within your character will make that character funnier and more complex.

Also, at one point or another, every character will be the source of conflict for another character, thus becoming the “voice of reason.” There is one character of the Eight Characters of Comedy who is a living, breathing source of conflict, and that character is the Logical Smart One.

It’s also important to note that conflict arises from putting two of The Eight Characters of Comedy together (such as the Neurotic and the Dumb One, or the Womanizer and the Lovable Loser). But more on that later…

Jokes – Conflict gives birth to a very specific type of joke that has been around since the vaudeville days. Conflict plays a major role in the creation and performance of what I call The Turnaround Joke. The Turnaround Joke is when two pieces of dialogue, which are in direct conflict with each other, come together. When a positive piece of dialogue or action is followed by a negative piece of dialogue or action (or vice versa), the clash of these conflicting forces produces a spark. This spark is the joke that makes us laugh.

(stay tuned for parts 2 & 3 of The Three Pillars of Comedy)

 


Scott SeditaWhether you’re auditioning for a co-star or a series regular on a half hour comedy, sitcom guru and acting coach Scott Sedita will teach you The Sedita Method of sitcom acting, which comes with it’s own terminology, coined phrases and unique glossary.

Scott’s internationally best-selling book, “The Eight Characters of Comedy. A Guide to Sitcom Acting & Writing, 2nd Edition” has sold over 100,000 copies and has become a “bible” to Hollywood comedy writers, directors, producers, and actors and is used as a textbook in over 100 colleges and universities. Find Scott and his staff of professional actors, teachers and coaches at ScottSeditaActing.com.

An Overnight Success Takes Years to Build

September 8, 2017

I know what it’s like.

You’d love to be in class, but you can’t afford it right now. As much as you’d love to coach your co-star audition, it just doesn’t make sense because of how much the role pays. You’re really busy, so you’ll just look at those sides the morning of the audition. This is the actor’s brain tricking itself into failure, a self-fulfilling prophecy of sabotage.

“Even the pros go to the batting cages.”

One of the biggest mistakes I see actors make is waiting for “that big chance” – that one shot. Whether they treat a small audition as unimportant or decide to only coach the massive auditions. You’re setting yourself up for failure. Every co-star leads to another, which leads to a guest star, which leads to a recurring, which leads to a series regular. Booking those smaller roles now will help get your more of the bigger opportunities later! So why not put your best foot forward EVERY TIME? Developing the good habits now will set them firmly in place when “that one huge audition” pops up out of nowhere later.

That’s the thing. Every appointment is an impression. Every audition is a chance to perform. Every tiny step is movement towards what you’re chasing. Don’t wait. Luck may or may not be on your side, but hard work will always make you stand out from the crowd.

“Art isn’t dead, you just have to look for it.”

You got into this crazy business because you love it. Right? RIGHT?! Hopefully. (If not, go open a pizza parlor and live a long, happy, cheese-filled life.) If the industry or the business side of things has gotten you down or made you bitter, it’s time to challenge yourself creatively. Whatever that means to you – take a different kind of class. Read a play with friends. Go see some theatre. Relight that pilot light inside your creative soul. Because what you carry into your auditions comes off of you like a glowing ember. Everyone will see it. So make sure you’re bringing passion and confidence into those rooms. Otherwise you’re just making it harder for yourself.

There are a million things in this world that can make life miserable. Don’t let the thing you love be one of them. It sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s true. If acting is what makes you happier than anything else in this world, then work your ass off at it and don’t let any obstacles stand in your way. You’ll get there.


David Blue is a working actor (as well as a director, producer and writer.) He coaches privately and teaches an ongoing audition technique/scene study class. More info can be found at BookYourAudition.com and on IMDB

Know Your Business

August 18, 2017

How well do you know your business? You want to work in the entertainment industry, right? A career in film and television is your goal. But how well do you actually know the industry? And why is that important?

How many working directors would you recognize on sight? How many names of working directors do you know? Producers? If I was standing next to you in line at Starbucks would you recognize me? What about Steve Levitan, Ryan Murphy or Dick Wolf? And what does a Second A.D. do?

How many shows have you watched that are airing and casting right now? Some actors wait for auditions before they do any research. This means that everything they do is at the last minute. Is that really how to make yourself competitive in one of the most competitive businesses in the world?

Why should you care? Because if you’re standing next to a working director at a film festival, wouldn’t it be helpful to know it? You can’t know everyone, but the more people in the industry you know, the more likely you are to recognize industry members when you see us. This doesn’t mean that you should shove your headshot at every industry member you meet. You should, however, have things to say and the ability to talk to us comfortably.

Another reason to know the business is…because it’s going to be your business! Isn’t it just sensible to know the business you expect to work in for the next forty years? My radar always goes off when I speak to an actor and their knowledge of the business is almost nothing. If they did start to have any success it would be horrible for them to have to rush to learn everything while trying to focus on the acting work simultaneously.

If you are not sure you know what you need to know, here are a few ways to guarantee that you are on top of everything.

Meet a new industry member at least once a week. Go to a film festival, seminar, workshop, industry night, SAG-AFTRA event or anywhere else you can meet the industry. Best if there is a way for them to remember you, so events where you will not get face time are okay, but try to find ways to ask questions, get feedback on your materials, etc.

Get online and spend an hour researching your business. Watch videos on Youtube or social media. Share the best of what you find with friends that are actors and ask them to do the same. Do this once a week and before long you will feel more knowledgeable about how Hollywood works.

There’s a ton of great information on IMDb.com and none of it is Starmeter-related! This is the best place to get reliable information about anyone’s credits. You can see how many clients an agent has and how many of them are working regularly. Actors have never before been able to get all of this information at their fingerprints. Client lists used to be top secret. So take advantage of such a valuable resource.

Watch a new show at least once a week. If you want to work on television then you need to know television. What shows do you see your type on a lot and which ones don’t seem to represent you as much? If you are going to target a list of producers or casting directors, shouldn’t you know which ones are most likely to audition you?

And don’t just watch the show. Watch the credits. Then go on our old friend IMDbpro and look up that show and see who is on it and who produces it and who casts it. The credits on TV go by so fast, the internet will be very helpful in making this information memorable.

While you are doing all of this, make sure you are also learning plenty of general information about how the business actually works. I highly recommend first-hand information because it is the most reliable. Intern at a talent agency. Intern at a casting office. Pay attention on set to what all the crew actually does.

Knowledge is power and an actor that knows every aspect of how this industry works will inevitably feel more connected to it. And that connection is crucial to a long, successful career that may have ups and downs along the way.


Mark Sikes began his casting career in 1992 for Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Corman. In the past 25 years, he has cast over 100 films as well as television series, commercials and web series. He has cast projects for Tobe Hooper and Luke Greenfield and many others. In the past few years Mark has also produced four feature films.

Based in Los Angeles, Mark has cast films for many markets including the United Kingdom, Peru, the Philippines and Russia. Domestically, he has cast films that shot all over the country in Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia and multiple projects in Colorado.

He currently teaches three weekly on-camera, audition technique classes in West Los Angeles.  Follow Mark on Twitter @castnguy.

Every Actor Needs A Strategy

July 14, 2017

Whether you are a professional actor, have worked a little or are just starting out, you constantly have to redefine where you are at in your acting career and have a game plan to move forward. You very much have to think of yourself of the “product” and find the best way to market yourself. That requires you to shift the lens from the artist to the businessperson.

  1. Have a great picture

Your headshot needs to be vibrant and alive. Your eyes are key: they must tell a story and reflect a rich inner life. It must make people stop and captivate them when they flip through hundreds of pictures.

  1. Create a show reel

You want to grip people and make them take notice. Your show reel should contain many different characters that make intense and interesting choices. Pick the strongest moments you have from the films and TV shows you have done. With today’s technology you can also shoot yourself performing short scenes with high production quality that you can add to your reel.

  1. Create a professional resume

Pay attention to every detail of your resume—check your spelling and grammar!

  1. Find an agent and/or manager

Make a list of potential agents and managers who you think could best represent you. One way to approach them is to write a letter to them as to why you think they would be a good fit for you. Let them know every time you book a job, invite them to see you in a play, and send them updated pictures. It’s all in how you follow up.

  1. Always be working

Get into a class or a production. You should always be going to the acting gym. People respond to the energy of a working actor!

  1. Find auditions to go to

Always audition. You keep yourself sharp that way. Say yes to student projects. Today’s student directors at USC, UCLA, Chapman and Loyola Marymount are the independent directors of tomorrow, whose films will be at Sundance, SXSW and Tribeca in the next few years. If you’re in front of the camera, acting, you are never wasting your time.

  1. Connect to other professionals

Meet with other actors, directors, producers and writers. Find out what they are up to, what projects they are working on right now or what they are in pre-production for. Pick their brains, have conversations. The more you do that, the more you expand your network and your understanding of how to move your business plan forward.

When you’re thinking about acting, you’re thinking about art—but it’s called show business, so you have to do business as well. Until you build your team (agent, manager, lawyer and publicist) you have to wear their hats yourself. When you have a great strategy you have a great chance to conquer your acting!


 

MicMICHELLE DANNERhelle 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.

Are Your Speech Habits Hurting Your Chances in the Audition Room?

July 11, 2017

When actors prepare for an audition, they look closely at the characters they’re being asked to portray, they familiarize themselves with the project and professionals involved, and they try to maximize their level of self-confidence. But chances are they are not scrutinizing their personal speech patterns while prepping for the part. Nonetheless, casting director Marci Liroff is strongly encouraging actors to examine their own speech habits and consider whether their style of articulation and intonation is hurting their chances in the audition room. Liroff is known for her prolific career in film and television over the span of 38 years. Films which she has cast include Footloose, St. Elmo’s Fire, Pretty in Pink, The Spitfire Grill, Freaky Friday, Mean Girls, and Mr. Popper’s Penguins. The Hollywood veteran recently wrote an article in Business Insider about a growing trend she is seeing in the audition room and has some advice to offer actors hoping to break into the industry. “If you look at an audition for a movie or television show, and compare it to a job interview in another industry, I think you’ll see there are several translatable lessons,” Liroff says. And first off she asserts, “[Casting directors] listen to your voice and intonation.”

Liroff specifies two problematic speech trends. The first, called “vocal fry,” she describes as both an “epidemic” and indeed “annoying.” If you have not heard the term vocal fry before, you almost certainly have heard what it sounds like. It’s a speech pattern that is characterized by distinct low, creaky vibrations that often occur at the end of sentences. It’s often referred to as “creaky voice.” Although males also express themselves in this lowest of registers–and it’s even revered, say, when Morgan Freeman uses it in trailer voice-overs— vocal fry is especially gaining popularity among young adult women who speak American English.

There are different theories as to why this phenomenon is occurring–and some of the research is contradictory. Some studies reveal that both males and females use lower vocal registers when trying to denote authority and thus argue that this new pattern among women adds to a woman’s perceived credibility. Indeed, scientists have found that people with lower voices tend to make higher salaries. For this reason, women are sometimes advised to use lower registers when going on job interviews. On the other hand, other researchers assert pretty much the opposite: that when women use the lowest registers it’s associated with generally negative connotations in the workplace, that they sound less confident, and it undermines the effectiveness of their communication. Indeed, Liroff represents just one of many who insist it is a drawback during job interviews. And yet others insist that such perceptions represent an attack on women’s speech.

A second speech pattern Liroff highlights is called “uptalking.” Uptalking refers to speech that ends in a high note as if the speaker is asking a question even when he or she is not. Liroff says, “I tell my coaching clients and those who are auditioning for me that uptalk results in the listener not taking them or their content seriously…It communicates the very opposite of confidence or assertiveness. There’s a huge difference between ‘My name is Marci? This is what I believe?’ and ‘My name is Marci. This is what I believe.’”

In the above video, actress and vocal coach Amy Walker demonstrates vocal fry and uptalking and how they have the potential to limit an actor’s pallet.

An individual’s voice is a deeply personal aspect of their identity. And when it comes to being an actor, authenticity is so important. Nobody wants to feel self-conscious about something so personal to them as their voice. With this in mind, it’s up to each actor to determine whether his or her speech patterns reflect an essential aspect of their identity or if such habits might be worth modifying. It’s wise to chose a deliberate decision about which path to chose as Liroff says, “When meeting new clients or potential supervisors your voice is one of your most important instruments. If you’re not aware and in control of it, you will be saying things you don’t mean and your intent will be misunderstood.”

 

Daniel Day-Lewis Announces His Retirement from Acting

June 28, 2017

One of the most acclaimed actors of his generation, Daniel Day-Lewis, is set to retire from acting. The 60-year-old star’s publicist, Leslee Dart, released a statement last week announcing: “Daniel Day-Lewis will no longer be working as an actor. He is immensely grateful to all of his collaborators and audiences over the many years. This is a private decision and neither he nor his representatives will make any further comment on this subject.”

The reasons why the British-Irish star is leaving such a stellar career behind are a bit murky. But what is clear is that Day-Lewis has achieved something that no other man has thus far: He’s the only male actor to win three Academy Awards in the Best Actor category. Additionally, he’s one of only three male actors to win three Oscars. And he’s been nominated for an Oscar five times.

The highly selective Day-Lewis has only starred in five completed films since 1998. Roles he passed on include Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and the lead role in The English Patient. But once he commits to a role, he takes method acting to extreme levels immersing himself in exhaustive character preparation. In his own words, the curiosity about his characters takes him into “all kinds of strange places.” For instance, he lived in the wild for six months and learned how to build a canoe, track and skin animals, and mastered using a 12-pound flintlock gun while preparing to portray the backwoodsman Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans. He caught pneumonia while shooting Gangs of New York because he refused to switch his character’s thin and tattered coat for a warmer one because the warmer did not exist in the 19th century. And for The Crucible he lived in the film set’s replica village without electricity or running water, and built his character’s house using 17th-century tools. This allegiance to the role, combined with his adroit skill with accents and potent emotional and dramatic performances, contributes to his chameleon-like ability to disappear into character.

Day-Lewis has spoken many times about how difficult it is for him to let go of his characters after the final shoot. He once told The Telegraph, “There’s a terrible sadness. The last day of shooting is surreal. Your mind, your body, your spirit are not prepared to accept that this experience is coming to an end. You’ve devoted so much of your time to unleashing, in an unconscious way, some sort of spiritual turmoil, and even if it’s uncomfortable, no part of you wishes to leave that character behind. The sense of bereavement is such that it can take years before you can put it to rest.”

His constant devotion to his characters even shows up in his marriage to filmmaker Rebecca Miller. Daniel once joked, “My wife has lived with some very strange men. But luckily, she’s the versatile one in the family and she’s been the perfect companion to all of them.”

Some people question how long this retirement will last because in the late 1990s, the actor retreated from acting, calling it a “semi-retirement.” During a span of about five years, he apprenticed as a cobbler in Italy as he viewed the craft of shoemaking as an antidote to acting. He once told The Guardian that he “just wanted some time away from it all.” He continued, “I need that quite often…I have quite a strong feeling about when I should work and when I shouldn’t.” It was Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York that drew him back onset as gang leader William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting.

Day-Lewis spends time on his family farm in Ireland where he can live freely and minimize the hassles of fame. Intensely private, he once said, “The work [of acting] itself is never anything but pure pleasure, but there’s an awful lot of peripheral stuff that I find it hard to be surrounded by.” That includes seeing his face on movie posters. “That was, and will always be, difficult for me.”

Day-Lewis’ films Oscar-winning films are Lincoln, There Will Be Blood, and My Left Foot. He’s filming a currently untitled Paul Thomas Anderson film which will be released on December 25th, and Day-Lewis will help promote the film. Will this really be last of Day-Lewis on the big screen? We hope not.

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