Prepare to Succeed By Building Your Professional Team and Support System

June 14, 2018

I learned this equation as a kid, and it is still the most valuable math lesson I have ever been taught. Success is not a fluke. It is the result of countless hours spent in preparation for the opportunity of a lifetime. We must prepare for success in order to seize it. A big part of preparing to succeed is putting in place the people and the infrastructure to keep your enterprise afloat. Even before your career is fully off the ground, you need to assemble the team that is best-suited to take you to the top. Some people make the mistake of waiting for opportunity to arrive before seeking out support. Surely you’ve heard the horror stories of successful individuals who somehow lost it all and later discovered the people they called friends were taking them for everything they had. Support is easy to obtain after the fact, that is, after you have attained success. Just ask MC Hammer. But the people you want to have on your team are those who truly believe in you, so much so that they are willing to accompany you on your journey to greatness, starting at the ground floor. In essence, they are investing in your future. They give their time and energy to help you fulfill your potential, and only when you succeed with their support will they get a return on their investment.

So let’s talk about who you need on your team.

  • Devil’s Advocate – The much-needed opposite of a “Yes Man,” this is the person who you can always count on to give it to you straight. Since straight-talk can hurt feelings, this person needs to be someone you trust implicitly and who has weathered a few storms with you. When everyone else is telling you to go right, your devil’s advocate will help you consider the possibility of going left. Ultimately, the decision is yours, but at least it will be an informed one.
  • Cheerleader – Whether you didn’t land the role you wanted or you don’t like your new headshots, this is the person who will always help you find the silver lining in a bad situation. Your cheerleader is not there to enable delusion, but rather to help you maintain perspective. Especially in this industry, you’re going to need a reality check to keep you grounded in what matters and to avoid losing yourself in what casting thinks of you.
  • An Agent – Obviously, right? But not just any agent will do. You and your agent need to be on the same page about the direction of your career. If you see yourself as an ingénue and your agent is submitting you for villains, then there’s a mismatch. Of course, one school of thought might encourage you to take whatever you can get. But how committed will you be to landing roles you don’t see yourself playing? Remember that you and your agent are in a partnership. Therefore, it’s best to find an agent that understands your brand and can find you the roles that allow you to shine.
  • Mentor – You need to have a person on your team who has walked the path you’re traveling and can alert you to potential pitfalls ahead. A good mentor will be a sounding board for the ideas you have about your career, never telling you what to do, but serving as a fountain of knowledge and experience to help you make the best decision for you. Whether by directly advising you with tips to improve your odds of success, or indirectly by connecting you to others in the industry with a good referral, your mentor can be an invaluable resource.
  • Hollywood Outsider – We’ve all heard of those folks who “go Hollywood,” and it never seems to be a good a thing. Having someone in your circle who could care less about who’s who in Hollywood will remind you that there is life outside of acting. So whenever you need to get away for a minute, your Hollywood Outsider can give you the balance you need to refill your tank from the depletion of Hollywood.

Diane Christiansen’s career spans four decades as an actress, coach, director, dancer and author. Diane began coaching actors in 1992 and in 2011 and 2012, Diane’s classes were voted the best acting class for kids and teens separately by Backstage The last three years, Diane was voted One of the Top 10 most effective Coaches in Hollywood by Actors Access. A graduate of the Strasberg Institute, she was mentored by Academy Award Nominee, Sally Kirkland and the late Joseph Bernard. Actively coaching “working ” actors of all ages has led to 90% of her student roster booking jobs consistently.

Visit Diane at DianeChristiansen.com or call 818.523.8283 to sign up for one her classes.

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.

 

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.

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.

The Three Pillars of Comedy (Part 3 of 3)

November 15, 2017

THE UNPREDICTABLE

Storyline The element of surprise is at the heart of any successful sitcom. In terms of storyline, the unpredictable is what keeps us laughing out loud and tuning in week after week. We know the character will want something desperately and will pursue it with comedic gusto. What we don’t know is how they’re going to go about getting their Want, what will stand in their way, or what will happen if and when they do get their Want. If boy wants girl, we know boy will pursue girl. What we can’t predict is how he’ll go about it, what obstacles he’ll face and how he’ll totally screw it up.

Characters – In sitcoms, there is an inherent, unpredictable nature 
to all comedic characters. What makes a good sitcom character is a funny writer with a fresh, humorous perspective on human nature, and a funny actor who brings their own life experience, essence and unique spin to the role. As you will see, each of e Eight Characters of Comedy has room for interpretation, a distinctive “take,” which will naturally make them unpredictable.

That being said, there is one character who is a walking, talking personification of the unpredictable and that is the In Their Own Universe character. However, it’s important to note that each character will come with its own surprises. For example, if a Logical Smart One
 is given an A or B storyline, they could take on the characteristics of another character, like The Neurotic (anxious, over-thinking, fussy) in the desperate pursuit of their Want.

It’s important to note, there is also some humor to be derived from “The Predictable,” especially regarding characters that we are familiar with and have grown to love. We know them and their personalities so well, and we look forward to their funny reactions or their particular style in delivering jokes. They are so well-defined in our minds that
 we know what they say or do is going to be hilarious. But where the element of the unpredictable comes into play is that we don’t know exactly what it is they are going to say or do to make us laugh.

Jokes Jokes are built upon the element of the unpredictable. One particular joke that encompasses this unpredictability, which goes back to the advent of sitcoms, is what I named a Triplet. Triplets are based on the theory that a joke starts by establishing a familiar pattern in the dialogue or action which lulls us into a sense of comfort, as we think we know what’s going to happen next based on that pattern. Then, we are suddenly thrust out of that comfort zone when that pattern is broken or disrupted by something “unfamiliar” (the joke) at the end.

We might know that a joke is coming, but we can’t predict when, what it’s going to be, or, even more important, how clever. We also can’t predict the speed, volume, intensity or intention of how the actor will deliver this joke.

As you can see, there is a lot that goes into building this sitcom house. You need to have The Three Pillars of Comedy working together to support the continued success of a good sitcom. You cannot remove any one of them from the equation. Conflict, Desperation and The Unpredictable will serve as the basis for most, if not all, of the humor in any sitcom. They all need to be present in the storylines, characters and jokes. Again, you can’t neglect any of those elements either. You can’t have a brilliant storyline with weak characters and jokes. The Three Pillars of Comedy will hold up your sitcom house and reinforce it episode-to-episode and season-to-season.


Scott SeditaAbout Scott Sedita – Whether 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.

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 Frustration Can Make You More Creative

October 2, 2017

Frustration can arise for just about any actor in the world due to reasons and circumstances beyond their control. There’s the frustration when work is slow, when you come in second for a desired role, when you feel unsupported by the cast or crew, when you’re low on cash, or when you land roles with which you feel zero connection–to name just a few! When you’re in the thick of a messy situation, seeing an upside can be challenging to say the least. But Tim Harford believes that frustrating situations present unique opportunities to tune into creativity and to excel in unforeseen ways. Citing cognitive psychological studies, he illustrates how the predictable step-by-step gains that occur under typical circumstances pale in comparison to those in which messiness enters the equation. Frustration halts complacency and requires problem solving. But Harford warns that obstacles are often accompanied by unwelcome,  unpleasant feelings–and this is why we humans resist hurdles as much as possible. But what we resist, what we don’t enjoy, that which frustrates us can lead to a better performance.

Take Robert Pattinson for example. He went from playing Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to being cast as telepathic vampire Edward Cullen in Twilight. Although this was a tremendous opportunity for the young actor, Pattinson admitted he had no interest in the character, saying, “When you read the book … [Cullen’s] the most ridiculous person who’s so amazing at everything. I think a lot of actors tried to play that aspect. I just couldn’t do that. And the more I read the script, the more I hated this guy, so that’s how I played him, as a manic-depressive who hates himself.” Pattinson would go on to portray the brooding and moody Cullen for four years, becoming a teen heartthrob to boot. Pattinson never attempted to hide his frustration with the role during interviews. “My entire performance is based on having extreme discomfort having contact lenses in your eyes,” he said.

The Sound of Music is a movie for the ages. Once seen, who will ever forget Julie Andrews as the musical governess sewing children’s clothing out of curtains, Christopher Plummer as the uptight Captain Georg von Trapp, and all the adorable singing and dancing kids? It’s a movie that people enjoy watching over and over again. But one actor who was cast in the film didn’t want to watch it even once! Although Christopher Plummer wanted the role of the romantic lead and was glad to work opposite the multi-talented star Julie Andrews, he was very frustrated with the limitations of the strict and humorless Trapp. “I was a bit bored with the character,” he said. Disgruntled on set, Plummer referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus. He found Trapp to be inhuman, and in his frustration, felt compelled to overcome the problem. “Although we worked hard enough to make him interesting, it was a bit like flogging a dead horse,” he said. Grinning and bearing the repellent part certainly paid off though: the movie went on to be regarded as Plummer’s most memorable film role (among his prolific 50-year career!) the movie won two Oscars and is regarded as one of the all-time best movies by the American Film Institute. Indeed, years would pass before Plummer decided to watch the film. He was pleasantly surprised to see it actually was pretty good–but unpleasant memories of playing the Captain never ceased to cramp his style.

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.

Three Tips to Succeed This Episodic Season

July 17, 2017

Episodic season is the time of year when the episodes of many TV shows are being cast. With TV pilots now sold and the leading actors hired, the casting of recurring roles, guest stars and co-stars begins.  This is when working actors have a chance to get really busy.  This is the time when you want to prepare to get into the audition room and nail it.

But how exactly does one do that?

Here are three tips that can help. Let’s start with:

1) RESEARCH.  

When researching an already existing show you can watch the show to see what its style and characters are like. Sometimes, as in the case of new series, the shows haven’t yet aired. Here you are tasked to figure out what the tone of the show is, what the world is, and what the style will be like just from a few script pages.  This is where you can make a huge mistake, simply because you can’t get familiar with the specifics of a show that doesn’t exist yet.  It’s like getting an invitation to a party, without telling you what kind of party it is.

Where do you start?

Look at the Script. Gather as much information as you can from your script. You can ask your agent or manager for any additional information, or to get you a copy of the entire script so you can read it and find out how and where your scenes fit in to the overall story.  But if you can’t get the whole script, work with what you have. Pretty common sense, but what else can you do?

Be a detective. One way to gather a lot of good “intel” on a role is to look up the show creator and his/her style in the present or past projects.  Watch their shows.  What is the style of portrayal– realistic, low-key, stylized, quite broad or theatrical?  What sorts of characters do they place in their worlds?

If the show is a comedy, can you get a clue as to their sense of humor?

Consider if any of the style points you have noted will translate to this project and see if you can find a way to integrate that into your audition. You will stand a better chance of fitting into this new story if you are able to operate within the same basic creative approach.

2) CREATE A UNIQUE CHARACTER

Strive to make an interesting choice.  You will have much more impact if you present a role in your own unique way, different from what anyone else might bring. Your audition will stick out from the crowd if it is unique, not a cookie cutter duplicate that others are also likely to present.

Ask yourself what about the role interests YOU and what can you bring to it that no one else would. That’s what casting agents mean when they ask you to “make bold choices.”

Be specific with your character. What do they like, don’t like, what is their viewpoint on things? Create a real person with a life and then live that life in the script.

3) BE READY FOR ANYTHING

Take the stress out of it. Leave plenty of time to get to the audition, to park and prepare yourself to go in—so you are not feeling rushed. Often at an audition, unusual things will happen that you couldn’t have predicted at home; script changes, last minute character adjustments, phones going off in the room. Be ready for what may come up.

Have confidence in what you are doing. Through research and drilling, be so ready with your choices that nothing can shake you. If you are prepared, and understand the world of the show as much as possible, even if they don’t cast you for this one, you will stick out in their minds for the next project.

Present yourself as a professional, they will at the very least come away knowing that, and that’s the kind of impression you want to make on casting agents in this, and every season of your career.

 


 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

 

International Acting Coach Ivana Chubbuck

June 27, 2017

“We go to the movies, watch TV, and go to the theater to see not the ordinary or dull but the extraordinary people, how a person dealing with pain and trauma overcomes and wins by using that pain as a fuel. This is what I teach.” –Ivana Chubbuck

Ivana Chubbuck boasts a 30-plus year career of coaching actors and many regard her technique as the leading-edge of acting in the twenty-first century. Her long list of impressive clients includes Academy Award winners and nominees Halle Berry, Jake Gyllenhaal, Jared Leto, Charlize Theron, Djimon Hounsou, Brad Pitt, and Elisabeth Shue. She’s the founder and director of the Ivana Chubbuck Studio and author of the book The Power of the Actor which has been translated into 18 different languages.

Ivana considers herself a survivor and insists, “It was either that or die.” Her painful childhood revolved around her mentally ill and hoarding mother who abused Ivana both physically and emotionally. Ivana uses her traumatic history to benefit actors by guiding them to explore their own pain, struggles, and fears. “I’m not just an acting coach, and I’m not a celebrity whisperer…but I bond with people by giving my truth, my stuff, my insecurities, my fears, my neurosis. I’m a screwed-up person and I probably could compete with some of the most screwed-up people on the planet…but I share that and I say, ‘Let’s together as a team try to overcome and evolve as human beings together. I’m not telling you what to do, I’m saying let’s do this together.’” She can use tough love with actors, but she asserts, “You need to go there, but I need to go there too.”

Sylvester Stallone

When Sylvester Stallone was to star in Creed, he approached Chubbuck saying he was terrified to take on the role of Rocky Balboa at the age of 69. He admitted that he felt his acting skills had atrophied. Also, the part presented a much more tragic storyline than the triumphant plots he was used to exploring. As Stallone once shared on NPR, “[Chubbuck] right away got into really subliminal, exploratory personal chambers that I wanted to keep closed. Like my son’s death. I said, ‘I really don’t want to go there, I really don’t want to talk about that.’ She said, ‘Well, that’s what needs to come out. You need to express that. This is what this character is dealing with, that kind of loss, that kind of grief.’” With Chubbuck’s guidance, Stallone soon came to feel safe enough to zero in on his deepest heartache. Indeed, he went on to win a Golden Globe and receive an Oscar nomination for his Creed performance. “It was very very cathartic to say the least,” Stallone said of working with Chubbuck.

Ivana Chubbuck is used to being praised for her technique. She says actors across the globe approach her saying how she changed their lives, helped them feel more empowered, and even more hopeful in life. She believes when actors inform their performances with their personal sufferings, it leads to them overcoming those trials and results in a sense of joy.

 

Handling Audition-Room Mistakes

June 14, 2017

Mistakes are an inevitable part of life. Even the most prepared and experienced actors experience blunders at the most inopportune times–namely, the audition room. In this video, Casting Director Erica Arvold and Acting Coach Richard Warner discuss beneficial ways to navigate audition-room mishaps. In a nutshell, they advise actors to “Keep going!” But more specifically, they detail two types of errors they often encounter when actors read for a part.

Technical mistakes

Common technical slip-ups can include when an actor stumbles on his or her words, omits a sentence, or mispronounces a name or word. Arvold assures actors that “Everyone does it.” With this in mind, she urges talent to focus on what is most important: “It is about the character, and about the essence, and about the story much more than it is about every single word.” When actors hold mistakes against themselves and ask permission to restart the reading, it draws too much attention to that mistake and is inefficient. Instead, Arvold encourages actors to demonstrate how fluidly they can recover. “When you have the thought, ‘Oh no, I skipped a line,’ and then you choose to keep going, I as a casting director see that, and I go, ‘Oh look at them! They recovered and they kept going.’” After all, auditions give casting directors a glimpse at how talent will behave on set; actors who keep the momentum of a scene moving forward make work in the editing room easier. Indeed, blunders made during a shoot can be quickly cut out with the best lines salvaged for the final product.

Warner strongly believes that talent should never apologize when errors are made. He views auditions as an improv. “Don’t see it as a mistake,” he says. “Turn it into something.” Challenging actors to use their mistakes as an opportunity to be creative, he states, “It’s about making your thoughts fuse with the thoughts of the character.” Again, let it roll off your back, refocus, and keep going.

Craft-level mistakes

Craft-level mishaps occur when actors themselves notice they are reading with too much or too little enthusiasm or volume–or they’re not fully plugged into their character. Arvold and Warner encourage actors to not stop the reading, but rather to self-correct mid-audition. “It’s really fun, and part of the art of casting is being able to witness someone’s process and how they get back onto track. And I think that is equally as important as the character development and portraying something authentically and with solid choices. The ability to be thrown off-balance and then find your balance again is actually an important part of the craft,” Arvold asserts.

Additionally, sometimes actors make impressive creative choices during a first take; but, when their efforts are met with the casting director giving direction, they sometimes infer their choice was off the mark. Arvold describes how some actors apologize in a self-deprecating manner for their artistic decisions. But she insists, “Please know, the first way you do it, if someone gives you direction to even change it on its head, that you didn’t get it ‘wrong.’” She urges talent to accept the direction with a playful spirit and a willing-and-ready attitude. This frame of mind showcases the actor’s professionalism. And ultimately, when actors choose to keep going, it reveals how they are allowing themselves to be human and be authentic–two essential qualities in any actor.

The Callback vs. The Shoot

April 14, 2017

Casting Frontier | Frontier Insider

I have been teaching commercial acting for 20 years and auditioning for 38 and have never figured out a way to teach actors how to work on set. I have found numerous techniques to hone their skills in the audition room. I have created techniques on how to stand out and be noticed for good solid work. I have even found ways to recreate a callback setting so actors can deal with the nerves when a job is at stake.

But being on set is its own beast. I am going to give my sage advice on things to do and things to avoid once you have booked the elusive job.

Let’s start with the fitting, which is usually the first time you will interact with the director and clients if it is a commercial. I strongly suggest you come dressed in an option for the role. If they ask you to bring some wardrobe choices to the fitting, bring a few. You don’t need to bring your entire closet, just one or two strong choices and wear one of them to the fitting. Make sure your hair is washed and you wear makeup or come as if you were going to the callback. I have seen people lose the job after being cast because they are so casual or unkempt and that is not how the CLIENT sees the character. You should always present your most cast-able self anytime you are around those hiring you.

Often what I wear to the fitting is selected for the job. Make sure you wear nude underwear or things that will not detract from the outfits you will be trying on. I suggest pantyhose for women because they may have you change behind the clothes rack or some other makeshift dressing area.

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Great! On to the shoot day

First: Get to the set at least a half hour early. Walk around and say hello to people. Introduce yourself. Have a bite to eat and relax into the setting. Find a place to drop your things in your room.

Note that often nowadays there are rarely separate trailers for actors especially on commercials. Budget cuts and the like have impacted this. So find a spot that you can put your stuff down and travel light. Bring a phone, a book and maybe some comfy shoes… that is it.

Second, Get to know the names of the AD (assistant director) or second AD who will be signing you in and monitoring your whereabouts. Let them know where you are, so they can find you. Nothing irritates them more than looking for you when they need you in makeup or on set. The more you can know names of the folks working on the shoot the better and the more comfortable you will be

In all likelihood, one of the first things you will do is sign your contract. ALWAYS SNAP A PHOTO OF IT and send a copy to your agent even if you think it is fine. You want the agent to deal with discrepancies, not you. You are there to act, to create, and to be of service. Let the agents negotiate on your behalf.

Be kind, respectful and professional. Have your photo ID, passport or social security card handy for them and any other paperwork you need. Know the address of your agency. Uou can always download contracts on line and practice filling them out so you look like a pro.

SIT AROUND AND WAIT

Yes they called you at 6:00 am but don’t get around to shooting you till 3:00 in the afternoon. It does happen. This is where your patience and professionalism must come into play. You CANNOT complain. They are paying you for the day and you are to be ready and energetic when they call you to the set. Do whatever you have to do. Walk, exercise, nap, eat, read to amuse yourself and stay focused.

SHOOTING—when the 2nd AD calls you to the set, be ready to go. First, they will do a rehearsal with the director and the DP (Director of Photography) to see how they are going to shoot the scene. Give your all in the rehearsal. This is where they can see what will work and what won’t. Don’t hold it back for the actual shoot as they may not know how to cover it. Drop the ego and listen to what all of the moving parts are. They may need to make changes because of lighting, or cast, or angles, nothing to do with you, but it will affect what you do in the scene.

LISTEN. Then they may ask you to step away while they light or set up the scene. Stay close by and make sure they know where you are. Keep your energy up and pleasant and be respectful of the others doing their equally important work.

They usually start with a wide shot, covering the whole scene. Still give it your all in every take. Be open and available for notes from the director. Be open to listening to the assistant director as well because the director will frequently tell the AD what they want from you in the shot.

After they have THE WIDE… Then they will come in closer, for perhaps a two shot or just another angle. Things may adjust. They might pullout the table that you had in the scene because they need to get in closer with the equipment. People are all around sticking things in your face, light meters, make-up people with powder puffs or maybe you are sweating and the makeup person is nowhere to be found. Don’t be afraid to quietly ask the AD if the makeup person is close by because you feel shiny.

Be open to the notes and when and if they do several or many takes, it is often other factors, lighting, camera, focus that is causing them to do so many takes to achieve the desired effect. You want to keep it fresh and new as if it was the first time you said it, but unless they suggest it, keep doing what they asked for. If the director seems to be reaching for something in your performance, try it. Repeat what the director said in a playable action. If the director says, let’s speed it up. You can ask “so more urgency?” Or if the director says take more time, you can ask, “so languish in the moment?” This way, you are collaborating with the director and giving yourself something playable to do.

Often the producer or clients will have a way they want to try and it doesn’t mean what you were doing was wrong; they just want to have options to look at in order to pick the right one for the spot, film or episode.

I AM READY FOR MY CLOSEUP – this is where most actors fall apart. Something about the camera being up close and personal gets them all shook up. Remember who you are talking to and what you want and try to anchor yourself with something or someone.

You might be looking at a blue piece of tape, when before in the wide shot you had an actual person or something real to look at. Now you have to have the same reaction with a piece of tape. Use your memory or emotional recall to capture the picture in your mind’s eye and make it as believable as you can..


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About the author:
Judy Kain is an actress who has been in over 400 commercials. Her television credits include recurring roles in The Odd Couple, Hand Of God and The Fosters. Judy owns Keep It Real Acting Studios in North Hollywood.

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