Human Resources

July 14, 2018


I recently released a breakdown for a SAG-AFTRA feature film and I thought I would write a blog about my side of the experience as it was happening. I’ve always considered myself to be the person in charge of Human Resources as it pertains to the cast of any project I work on. I’ve hired thousands of actors over the past 25 years. If that doesn’t make me a human resources expert then I don’t know what will. That’s what I do as a casting director. HR. And if you want to work more and book better projects, you should think of us that way, too.

What’s the first thing a casting director sees when they release a breakdown? Headshots. Lots of teeny, tiny headshots on our computer screen, sometimes thousands for each role. In my latest breakdown I got over 10,000 submissions for only five roles. So how important do you think a great headshot is? It’s very important. It’s your calling card. It’s the first thing we see. So you could easily make the argument that your headshot is the single most important element of the casting process. It can be what keeps many actors from ever seeing the inside of my office. Put “Get great headshots” on the top of any list you have made for 2018.

And just like any other HR executive, I look at what seems to be an endless amount of resumes each time I release a breakdown. Sure, I look at more headshots than resumes because many times the headshot can tell me I need look no further to know I am not bringing you in. But, I look at hundreds of resumes which makes them the second most important piece of your puzzle. If I don’t see competitive credits or training why would I ever bring you in? If your format is wrong, you’re done. One special skill could get you called in.

The week I release my breakdown is not the week you want to send me a Facebook “friend request.” It never fails. I release a breakdown and I get a bunch of friend requests. And I never accept them. Also, if you email me directly that same week please, don’t expect an answer. That’s not how this works. I get emails from actors I have never met or heard of every time I am casting a project. I am too busy going through thousands of submissions and answering agents’ calls and emailing reps back about appointments we are trying to coordinate. So, if you want to lessen your frustration then I would recommend submitting through normal channels and focusing your energies on things that will yield better results.

A week into the process I am still getting submissions. It tapers off but I would say that it takes at least two weeks for them to stop coming in. If I’m moving fast, you better get your materials in front of me that first few days. I’ve cast roles within 48 hours of releasing my breakdown. The best agents and managers make sure I have their submissions and a phone call within that first 48. On a feature, I spend a couple of days talking to my usual suspect reps, the ones I have the best relationships with, the ones I actually trust. I go through the submissions and select my actors and start setting up appointments. If it’s a remote shoot I may ask for self-tapes so make sure you can have an audition in my email in a day or two.

You never know how long my process will last so it is never too late to submit and it is always a good idea to stay on my radar. Your post card or headshot may be just enough to make me think of you the next time I’m casting something.

I may not be the CEO of the project, but I am your direct supervisor and if you remember I’m also the Head of Human Resources you’ll have the best shot of working for the company.

 


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.

Helping Yourself By Getting Involved

June 14, 2018

I tell people all the time that, “If you wait for Hollywood to call you, you will die of old age.” Actors can help themselves by getting involved with small episodic series’ or creating one of their own. These types of projects are a great compliment to any acting class that you may be taking. Getting real world production experience is invaluable and it’s a free education!

I see people who call themselves actors all the time, doing everything but acting. Then when a role comes up, they confirm they will be there, only to never show up! On the other hand, the one who does show up, is professional, and nails the audition gets the role.

First a little background in my company, Cineplex Studios. We have been producing shows for the web and TV in LA since 2009. The key to our success is the fact that we are a small company and are able to get projects done quickly. We have produced sci-fi, political thrillers, fitness shows, commercials, as well as distribute other productions on TV.

Our most recent production, Hawaiian Sovereignty, is a series that is now on Amazon Prime. The show is set in Hawaii and deals with the state’s sovereignty movement and how FBI agents are torn between their loyalty to the United States, their feelings about the movement and the politics involved.

In the casting process, we found an actress who we believed could lead this cast. However this person dropped out after only 6 episodes! We quickly turned to another actress on the cast named Ruby Mercado. She had only a small role in the series but made it known to us that she had a desire to be the lead actress in the series. After giving it some thought, we granted her the leading role in the remaining episodes of Hawaiian Sovereignty.

Ruby took the ball and ran with it! I have never worked on a production that ran as smoothly as Hawaiian Sovereignty after Ruby became the lead. She set the bar for all the other actors to follow. Her professionalism was outstanding. Her attitude was always upbeat. She never had a bad thing to say about anyone. The other actors immediately noticed this and quickly followed her example. Ruby helped make Hawaiian Sovereignty a success and brought with her a high energy level that had previously not been there. Now, Ruby has gone onto several well-known Network TV shows. It all started with sticking to the one she was in and completing the season.

But how does one become successful at this like Ruby did?

You stick with a show as long as possible. Get as much camera time in as you can. Ask to continue with your character in more episodes. Talk with the director, the writer, the producer. Keep developing your character in as many episodes as you can.

If you take a look back at the older days of Hollywood TV series, you will find that most of the memorable actors were on shows that lasted for 36 episodes per season! That is a lot of screen time. Then Hollywood started changing and the number of episodes dropped to 24 and now the series of today will like last more 12 episodes.

Regardless, if you are getting paid for an acting role or not, you want (and need) to be in front of the camera as much as possible. You need to be exercising your acting muscles on a daily basis.

How does one standout to get on a series, especially as a lead actor?

Develop and build your fan base via social media. This is one of the hardest things for most actors to do, but it pays off. Using any downtime to build your audience across Instagram, Facebook and YouTube will show producers that you’re a valuable addition to any commercial, episodic or film

In summary, it’s key to do what you can to book an ongoing series. Work hard to build your fan base. Show your professionalism by completing the projects you signed up for. Don’t drop out because you get bored, or there is no money.

You cannot do a little acting here and a little acting there with a couple of acting classes. It’s too easy to drop out and give up.

This is how you can create your own success.

 


Fred CopelandFred Copeland is the Founder and Owner of Cineplex Studios. He has been in the entertainment business for over 35 years and is a former ABC-TV morning News Producer. Fred is also a signatory member with SAG and the WGAw.

 

A Guide on How to Book a Role

May 17, 2018

There is never enough time to be ready for an audition, especially when it’s the one you’ve been waiting for… the one you really want. When an audition comes, you usually have at most one day with the sides to be ready to prove you’re the right pick for the role.

There is a tangible reality, the more you do something the better you get at it.

The more you audition, the better you get at it. The reason being, you are practicing your preparation and discovering what connects and disconnects you to living in the moment. Some characters will be easier and some will be harder.

It’s important to work many kinds of scenes that challenge you. This way you stretch your skill set so you can grasp a range of abilities that support mastering your auditions. The more roles you feel you have rehearsed and worked, the more resources you have to pull from. Your preparation time will shorten the more you practice.

But the fact remains: You must be working on your acting skill prior to actually getting any audition. Being great is allowing yourself to be free to become the choice that will bring the character to life. And it’s up to you to discover it.

Knowing how to prepare for the audition is half the battle. Here are some steps for your preparation.

1) First breathe. Don’t overthink the sides when you first get them. First breathe, relax, and be.

2) Simply read the scene for what is on the page. Find out everything you can about the script. You’ll want to answer these simple questions:

  1. What genre is it: sitcom, film drama, procedural, etc.?
  2. Who are you?
  3. What’s the backstory, what just happened?
  4. Who are you talking to and what is the relationship?
  5. Where are you, what’s the environment?

These simple questions are important and will give you an understanding of the scene. If one or two aren’t evident it is up to you to take clues from the material to decipher its code. This is why being able to analyze a script is so important.

3) Get up and play with a moment before. Experience where the character is emotionally and look for any changes in the feelings of the character. Are they winning or losing their scene objective?

4) Remember to listen and never plan your reactions. Respond organically from listening and hearing in the moment to what they are saying and what it means to you in the scene.

5) Explore and play. Try different choices. Pick the strongest choice that reflects what is most meaningful within the truth of the script.

6) Eliminate any negative thinking, any doubt that you may have in yourself. Run with the love of the process of discovery.

7) See each audition as a learning experience and give yourself plenty of room in your heart to enjoy them. Know that growing as an artist comes with the journey of booking sometimes and not booking sometimes. It’s fun to act. Remember, every time you audition, you get to act!

Ultimately you book your dream role, as an actor, by preparing your whole life for it. You never know when it’s coming. It could be next year, in two years, many years down the line or even tomorrow.

Stay focused on what you want and don’t let the disappointments get the best of you. Oftentimes, auditions are opportunities to practice on the way to becoming the actor that makes an impact on the world.

For more on how to book the role and build your skill to achieve your artistic and career goals, get Kimberly’s book, Acting with Impact: Power Tools to Ignite the Actor’s Performance. Available at Samuel French Bookshop and at actingwithimpact.com.

 


Kimberly Jentzen is a multiple winner of Back Stage Reader’s Choice Awards: “Favorite Acting Coach,” “Favorite Acting Teacher” and “Best of: Acting Coach”. She has directed and/or developed over a dozen plays, including Yolanda King’s critically acclaimed homage to her father, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Achieving The Dream. Kimberly won a Best Direction award from the Actors Film Festival for Reign. Reign went on to win nine awards including Best Short and Audience Favorite from the Louisville International Film Festival and New York Independent Film Festival. She also garnered awards for her film, Of Earth & Sky. She is the author of Acting with Impact and Life Emotion Cards, available at Samuel French Bookstore and at Amazon.com.

 

Standing Out And Making It On Your Own

April 19, 2018

With literally thousands of competing actors out there…

What makes you stand out?

What gets you the audition?

What gets you the callback?

What gets you the avail?

What gets you the booking?

It sounds complicated, but, in fact, the answer is quite simple. All of these things occur when you do what only YOU can do. I’d like to repeat this because it is the primary factor to really being successful in this business. The above-mentioned things occur when you do what only YOU can do.

So, what does this actually mean?

It means that you MUST make what you do your own with complete confidence! This is what will set you aside from all the others. Every person is unique and when you are able to let that shine, positive things will start to happen.

The actors who come in and read with no emotions, forget their lines, try to be funny, try to be liked, rush through the scene or are so nervous that basic human functions are compromised, any chance of a fun and authentic read will be completely shattered and the chance of booking the job will be destroyed.

Now we have all been there and there is nothing worse than walking out of an audition with any of those, but on the flip side there is also no greater feeling than walking out knowing that you killed it in the room.

That’s what keeps us going – that high you feel when you are 100% certain your agent is going to call with some great news. When the casting director thanks you on the way out with a big smile or when everyone in the room looks away from their laptop and laughs out loud at your read or when you shock even yourself on the way home from the improv choices you made or when you trust yourself and know that no matter what choice you make, it will be the right one.

Nobody is capable of bringing your personal uniqueness into the room because you are one of a kind. When you are able to fully embrace that fact, it will ultimately set you apart from the assembly line of standard actors who are constantly seeking approval by pretending to be someone they are not. These needy actors plague audition rooms day in and day out and casting sees right through them.

There will be so many things that will get in your way: the traffic in route to the audition, the lack of parking when you get there, waiting over an hour because they are running behind, noticing everyone around you in the waiting area that looks like a better fit for the role, the clients, writer, director, and ad agency who aren’t paying attention.

All of these things must be pushed aside. You can’t worry about any of these and you certainly can’t take it personal because they are truly out of your hands. If the job is meant to be yours, nobody can take it away from you, and if it’s not, then you won’t get it. It’s that simple. There is no point in beating yourself up, especially for things that are out of your control.

The minute I realized that I should not sweat the stuff beyond my control, my bookings went through the roof.

When heading into the audition room…

Be prepared Make strong choices Bring a little bit of our own personality to the role Have fun (Most importantly).  Sure, there are times we have our best audition in the car on the way home from the audition and we begin to question ourselves…

Why didn’t I say this? Why didn’t I think of that?

We are human and it’s bound to happen again and again. But the more you do this, the more you will have those amazing auditions right there in the room where they need to be.There is something I heard years ago and I will never forget. Don’t worry about the booking because that will only last a day or so, concentrate on making a new fan in that room because that will last a lifetime. How do you make a fan?

Confidence is seriously the key.

But let me preface that by saying there is a big difference between confidence and arrogance. Never trespassing into cockiness, but sheer confidence. You have to know that when you walk into that audition room, you will win it over regardless of the outcome.

You may not book this commercial, but you can bet that they will remember you and will call you in for something else. I can tell you from experience because it’s happened numerous times. There will be directors who will ask for you by name from an audition you did months ago because, although you may not have been right for that particular job, you stuck with them.

You never know why you do or do not book a job, so once you leave the audition room, put it behind you and move on. It’s out of your hands at that point. So before you beat yourself up for not booking the job, I can assure you there will be another one right around the corner, and chances are it will be even better.

They say this business is 33% Luck 33% timing and 33% who you know, but I think it’s more like 75% who you know.

When they know they can count on you to show up, deliver with confidence, and make them look good, you can bet they will continue to call you in again and again. Despite popular perception, this is actually quite a small business and casting directors all talk and you can’t keep talent a secret in this town.

The brand new book by David Banks
How To Make a Living As a Commercial Actor is available now at Amazon or Barnes & Noble


David Banks is an American actor. He is well known for his performance in several funny commercials. He has appeared in over 100 national commercials.
David studied at the Groundlings, which claims some of the funniest comedians such as John Lovitz, Will Farrell, Chris Katan, and Lisa Kudrow.
Since David’s move to Southern California he has appeared in commercials with companies like Coors Light, Samsung, Eastwood, Reebok, Motorola, Best Buy, Hoover, Elephant Insurance,Little Caesars, Comcast, Red Robin, Mitsubishi, EA Games, Ditech, Milk, and Citibank to name a few. Banks recently joined Lisa Kudrow, Janeane Garofalo, and Fred Willard in the new hit cartoon Lovesick Fool. Directed by Dominic Polcino (The Simpsons, Family Guy, and King of the Hill).

The Role That Got Away

April 16, 2018

As actors, we audition, but we don’t always get the role. This is part of the job. Sometimes we may not even be in the running, and other times we get so close we can smell craft services.

The director, casting director, or producer may respond positively; they may seem to love you. You’re moving forward in the process. You perform for more members of their team in callbacks. They laugh, cry, are moved as you audition for them again.

Your agent calls: you’re “pinned”, or you’re the “top choice”, or “it’s down to you and just a couple of others, but they love you!”

You think to yourself, “This is it! I got this role!”

Alas, your agent calls and breaks the news that they “went another way.”

After hearing this, it can be hard to accept the compliments your agent relays about how much they “love your work.”  All that resonates in your mind is that you didn’t get it.

This can sometimes lead one to look inward– wondering, “what did I do wrong?  Why aren’t I as good as that other actor?  What am I missing? Is it my look?  Are my dreams of playing roles like that just delusions?”  Etc., etc., etc.

This trip down “Self-Doubt Lane” is crippling to an artist.

So what can one do about it?

The Artistic Facts

Let’s break this down into facts:

FACT 1

If you don’t feel confident about how to consistently create a character and perform it in a compelling way, then you need to learn workable, reliable facts (not opinions) about the process of acting. 

These facts are exactly what we teach at The Acting Center.

In the above scenario, understanding what acting is wasn’t the problem. You did great. They legitimately loved you!  They actually do admire your work.

Throw any question of “am I good enough?” out the window. That was not the problem.

Hold on to the fact that you performed a character that was  admired, and was engaging, exciting or moving.

This is the reason why you continued to be in the running.  You did your job well.

FACT 2.

Final casting decisions are made in relationship to many things that have nothing to do with the actor’s skills or performance. 

Behind the scenes of a casting process there are many “cooks in the kitchen”. The director, producer, studio or network all have their own ideas about the way the meal should come together. This relates to every aspect of the show – the style, lighting, shooting style, how the characters look or sound together, how they contrast with or complement each other, and on and on.

There are also financial considerations; how much money this or that actor will require, based on their popularity.

All these things, of course, are outside of your control.

The aspects that one can control are in preparing and researching the character, and in doing a great audition.

Again, in the scenario above, you already made it through many hoops. They called you in because you were the look and type of person they wanted. You survived the process as long as you did because you performed well, and they liked your take on the role.

Whatever behind-the-scenes factors played a part in another actor being considering a better choice is something you could not have predicted or controlled, and has nothing to do, really, with your “rightness” or “wrongness” for this particular part.

So skip the self-doubt! You did great work; they know it, you know it. You may not have booked the job, but you very likely made some new fans that will think of you for other roles in the future.

FACT 3.

The freedom to make personal choices as to how something should look, feel or come together is necessary to achieving effective art. 

This is a key point in letting go of any concerns about “the role that got away.”

Let’s say you had a show that you were casting. Wouldn’t you want to have full artistic control on who was cast in each role, so it would come together the way you envisioned it?

This is one of the realities of the casting process: the creators get to choose the cast that works best for their vision, or for the vision of the creative team as a whole.

It is also one of the rules of making any art: one is free to choose what is made and how.

The freedom to make choices is part of the joy of artistic creation.

Your individual choices and ideas are actually what make your work desired and admired.

If one allows that freedom to exist in one’s own work, one must allow for others to have that same freedom in theirs.

Focus On What’s Next

Now that the “almost booked” audition is behind you, it’s time to focus on the future.

If you feel you could be more confident or consistent in creating characters and performing them, don’t wait–get into class!

If that role you lost is still something you would like to tackle, work on that type of role in class. You could find or get someone to write a short scene with that type of character and work on it in class.  You can even shoot it for your reel so that others can you envision you in this kind of role.

Lastly, realize that there are no lack of characters as alive and interesting as that one that “got away.” New scripts and roles are written every day, and if you are actively honing your craft, you will be ready for them when you get the call.

Opportunities arise again and again in the course of a actor’s career. Follow your interests. Create and perform all kinds of different characters at every opportunity, and the future will be filled with many roles for you to book and play!

 


The 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.

Commercial Acting— Training is Essential

March 16, 2018

 

Use what you know. Don’t worry about what you don’t know.

—Michael Shurtleff, playwright, casting director, and author

Maybe your friends tell you, “You’re so attractive, you should be in commercials!” Or perhaps you’ve been approached at the mall by a talent agent who says your child is a natural and it’ll be easy to get her into commercials.

Acting in commercials has the lure of seeming to be a simple profession. Everyone believes it’s easy to get into, easy to achieve quick success, and of course you will make piles of money!

But as commercial director Kevin Emmons says about a British actor: “I was working with this actor on a shoot. He was classically trained and brilliant, and he is now suddenly in front of a teleprompter with all these lines, and he has to do this specific action while walking and talking . . . and by the third take he was overwhelmed. He said he acted his whole life and this [commercial stuff] is hard!”

Good actors make commercial acting look easy. However, saying words that are product-driven with little- to-no time to practice or rehearse, getting virtually no background explanation whatsoever, making it look like you’re having an everyday conversation with a friend in front of complete strangers while the camera is rolling—it is all a lot more challenging than it looks.

A student in his late 50s took my 6-week A-Z commercial class. He was a successful ear/nose/throat surgeon, and typically impatient. After the final class he asked, “How long does it take to get a job?”

“Well, how long did it take you before you began prac- ticing surgery?” I asked with a smile.

He said, “Four years of college, two years of grad school and four years in a residency.”

“Okay, and so what makes you think you can master commercial acting in six weeks?” I said with a little glint in my eye and steel in my tone. He was speechless.

Casting director Ross Lacy told me once, “I always laugh when someone says, ‘Omigosh, I would like to be in commercials,’ and I say, ‘Sure you would! So would everybody. That’s why these people are training and go to improv classes all night long because they make it look easy—and it’s not! And the people who think it is are mistaken!’

Ross continues, “The one thing I know is that training is imperative if you want a lasting career in commercials. Of course there are stories of the person who walked in, booked the job, and made a pile of money off one spot. This is definitely the exception. The same odds apply to winning the lottery.”

Just like my acting student /surgeon, most people wouldn’t dream of trying to start a new career in any field other than acting without getting the proper training, doing whatever it takes to make themselves competitive.


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.

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.

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.

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 Make Your Web Series Go Viral

May 19, 2017

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Nowadays shooting a web video is as simple as having a low-budget digital camera, a bootstrap crew, or even just a few willing friends and a cell phone. Given the wide-open nature of the digital media space, it has become more and more difficult to make a mark in web series content. However, there are some simple tricks that you can employ in order to take an average series and make it go viral. Ideally, this newfound fame will open lots of doors for your actors and the creators behind the series.

 

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Attach a celebrity, and lacking that, the best actors possible

It might be easier said that done, but having celebrities as part of your web series will guarantee at least a few hundred thousand views outright. Reach out to managers and agents once your first script and/or sizzle reel is completed and see if they’ll have their clients star. If you hit a wall, then cast up-and-coming talent or unknowns that are amazing actors. At the very least, this will make your web series watchable and get your concept across for later distribution.

Pick the largest platform possible for distribution

Instead of just posting your series on YouTube and hoping for the best, consider if other outlets (Buzzfeed, Vimeo etc.) might be better homes for your series. Reach out to the heads of PR at video platforms and see if they’d be open to featuring your work.

Promote on social media. And promote often.

Before filming even begins on the first episode of your series, you should have a Twitter account and a Facebook page announcing it. Sharing and saturation of the marketplace via social media are the bread and butter of a viral series. Every time an episode is released or the show is mentioned in the press there should be a mention on your social sites. Another way of achieving reposts is by getting a blog to feature your web series. Make friends with PR representatives at major websites and make sure you tell them when your episodes are released.

Invest in music

Nothing lends a polished look to a piece of content more than good music. If there’s anything to go over-budget on it is your sound-mix/music. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated for a comedy web series, but comedy without music is suddenly FAR less funny to the viewer.

Try and sell your series to a larger broadcaster

Once your web series achieves a high level of success, the best way to continue its growth is to make a deal with a major channel or over-the-top distributor (Netflix, Amazon etc). Some examples of shows that did this are BROAD CITY (HBO) or GENTELEMEN LOBSTERS (Seeso).

The main takeaway however, should be that your content must be something you believe in deeply. The path to a successful web series is long nights, big edits and many re-writes. If you don’t love the project in the first place, you’re better off not trying to achieve viral fame.

 

They Break Me Down

December 19, 2016

 

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.

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

December 17, 2016

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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.

 


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

 

Do You Have An Acting Approach?

December 15, 2016

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

7 Ways TV Commercials Can Help Build Your Television and Film Career

November 15, 2016

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  1. TV Commercials are the fastest way to get on national television, make great residual income and begin building a recognizable brand in the TV/Film casting community.
  1. The Actors Search! When you do a National Commercial, due to the hundreds of times it runs on television, the exposure can lead to a TV/Film Casting Director that is casting a project calling you in to audition because you fit the type they are looking for in one of the roles they are casting.
  1. Commercial Casting Directors that also cast films. Some Commercial Casting Directors also cast Independent and major Films. When you work well with commercial casting offices you can also get called in to audition for Films.
  1. Commercial Directors that also direct television shows. The Russo Brothers, Ridley Scott, Joe Pytka etc…are Television and Film Directors that also direct TV Commercials. When you work well on-set on a TV Commercial, you will be remembered and favored in casting offices, by Commercial Directors that also direct TV and Film.
  1. Commercials to put on your Theatrical Demo Reel! The “Slice of Life” TV commercial (the 30 second scene in a sitcom type of commercials) can be put on your Theatrical Demo Reel. Some Theatrical Agents even request it as it can help the Agent pitch you for certain TV/Film roles, especially when you don’t have a reel.
  1. On-Camera Audition Skill Building. Some of your TV/Film auditions will be recorded in the Casting Directors office and sent to the Director. Most Scene Study and Improv classes are not on-camera so the actor does not develop the skills needed to audition well at TV/Film castings when being recorded on-camera. All work in our 4 Week Course is done on-camera. Helping the actor build great audition technique skills that are necessary and helpful in TV/Film Casting Offices.
  1. The fastest way to become SAG/AFTRA and make all or most of the money back quickly to regain the dues you had to spend to join the Union (Guild). Moreover, most major TV/Film Casting Directors will not audition you for television shows and films if you are not SAG/AFTRA. Your major TV/Film career trajectory will accelerate when you become SAG/AFTRA. Commercials can help you get there faster!

mikepointer

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

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