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Ten Seconds – PT. 1 OF WHAT DIRECTORS LOOK FOR FROM ACTORS IN AUDITIONS

August 15, 2016

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How long was your last audition – two minutes? If you were prepared with a driving intent, connected alive relationships, dynamic choices AND you started with a strong opening beat than, yes, it probably was 2 minutes.

However, if your first beat was unfocused and weak, it was probably only 10 seconds long.

You see, the first ten seconds is when you need to grab the people in the room and get them to pay attention. Right before you read everyone in the room is waiting for you to blow them away, and hoping that you’re the one. But, if you haven’t prepared your piece in a way that allows you to get out of the gate fast and engage them from the very start – you’ve lost the room.

FirstImpression

Your opening beat will either draw people toward you or push them away. It will secure their full attention for 2 minutes or close the door after 10 seconds.

I hear actors say too often that their reading started off a bit rough, but it picked up after a few lines. Too late. They may let you continue, but you have already been dismissed from their minds and their consideration.

Remember as well that the people auditioning you, whether in the room or on tape, are logging information as to what you would do if you actually had the job. If it takes you one, two three beats to get into a piece what does that tell them? It tells them that when “Action” is called on set you won’t be able to deliver the opening of the scene. If you need warm up beats in your audition, they will assume that’s what you’ll need on set and nothing will have them looking for someone else faster than that.

Also consider that you have to earn their attention. In a performance the assumption is that if people are watching you they are paying close attention. Not so in an audition. There may be people sitting in front of you and looking in your direction, but the degree of attention they pay has everything to do with how you open the piece. When you pick your eyes up and connect to the reader and to your choices, it has to be so compelling that they can’t look anywhere else. If you aren’t fully present from the first moment, they won’t be fully present with you after that.

The beginning of a piece is a real test of your preparation skills and your confidence in the decisions that came from applying those skills. You need a way of preparing that helps you to find an overriding intent that sets you firmly and passionately on your path from moment one – a technique that allows you access to the chambers of your heart that house the most personal and resonant relationships, so that your connections are strong, revealing and captivating right off the bat – a way of working that also brings out the brightest, most dynamic and original choices that hook them immediately and make them realize they’re seeing someone special.

Actors who work have the confidence to jump into their read. They trust that the net that they have woven during their preparation will keep them a loft so they are free to take the initial leap and then continue to soar.


 

CraigWallace

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

 

 

Availability & The Working Actor

July 19, 2016

Are you available? Wait. Before you answer, you might want to read the entire blog.

Every actor I meet tells me they are 100% available to audition and to work. But then when some of them get the call, they are either not available at all or need a reschedule. Sometimes this is possible but most of the time the casting director needs you when he or she makes the request. A lot of parts are cast in one session. And why look at tape when I have a dozen amazing choices standing right in front of me in the flesh? We can adjust them. We can pair them up. We can even mix and match. Most importantly, we can chat a little and get to know you for thirty seconds. Thirty very important seconds.

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You’re not available for my projects unless you live here. Here’s why.

I used to travel to Scottsdale, Arizona regularly to conduct classes and seminars. Each time I stood in front of the class they almost unanimously stated that they could be as easy to hire as actors from Los Angeles. That was a pretty unrealistic promise but since some of them worked for airlines I gave it a shot. Some of them actually showed up on time and were very professional. The trouble popped up when I needed them to come out two days later for the callback or two weeks later to read for another role in a different episode of my TV series. That first trip out was the charm but the L.A. actor shows up over and over without difficulty.

And then there is the issue of the holidays.

The problem of availability just came up on a feature I was producing last December. I needed to hire a couple of actors at the last minute. They wouldn’t need to audition. They just had to show up. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? But I was looking on December 18th for them to work on December 21st. I reached out to several actors and no one was available. They were either already out of town or would be by the work date. Of course I found my actors eventually, but I thought it was a shame that some actors missed out on a paying role in a union feature because they chose not to be available in December.

When producers or casting directors need you to show up on the set, the only response should be “where and when?” The actors I reach out to are the ones that have proven to be on call year-round. I’m not mad at the other actors, but I can’t hire them.

You are NOT available if you are in a play without understudies. I cannot hire you and guarantee a stop time. Why would I? I have thousands of actors who are available 24/7. Whether it’s a studio film, a network series or a tiny indie, you must be available or you are wasting our time coming in. This happens way too often and it damages relationships between actors and casting directors as well as those between casting directors and agents.

You are not available if you can’t be in my office in an hour. Many of you have jobs that aren’t as conducive to auditions as you want to believe. You have to rush to every audition. You are not at your best when you are there and you then rush back to work. If this is you, you need to find a new job asap or you made the trip out here for nothing.

You’re not available unless you bought a one-way ticket to Los Angeles. You cannot move home, move back to L.A., move back home and repeat the cycle over and over expecting this to work for an acting career. The majority of actors who leave L.A. do not return. The one thing they all have in common is that they are not working actors in film and television today. Move here. Stay here.

Don’t say you are available unless you are available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. As I learn every time I cast a project, there are actors out there who just don’t seem to know their own availability.


Mark Sikes began his casting career in 1992 for Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Corman. In the past 24 years, he has cast over 100 films as well as television series, commercials and web series. He has cast projects for top directors such as Tobe Hooper, Mark Jones and Luke Greenfield and many others. Domestically, he as cast films in Los Angeles as well as in Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia and multiple projects in Colorado.

What to wear to an audition

July 12, 2016

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The number one question we hear when actors come in for private acting coaching or to our acting school in Los Angeles is, “What do I wear to an audition?”

The best way to answer this question is by first focusing on what NOT to wear. The casting director doesn’t want to come into a waiting area that looks like a Halloween store exploded! If an 8 to 10 year old girl is called in to audition for the role of a fairy, there’s no need to go full Tinkerbell. Leave the wands and the wings at home, little ladies. What the casting director wants is far simpler and much less expensive than going to a costume shop every time you have an audition.

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Here’s what you need to know about audition ensembles: whenever you go into a character specific audition (i.e. fairy, space camp kid, soccer player, etc.) all you need is a HINT of the character. Little fairies wear sparkly shirts, space camp kids have jackets with a spacey looking patch and soccer players wear jerseys (leave the cleats on the field!).

I think you get the picture.

One thing we tell our students in our kids acting classes and acting classes for teens, is that casting directors have already seen your headshots, so they know what you look like even before you step into their office. Don’t distract him or her with complex costumes or over the top outfits.

As for non-character specific auditions, always wear a color that compliments your skin tone, hair shade, and eye color. If you don’t know what colors look good on you, ask a friend, a parent, a sibling. Also, a great way to boost your confidence is to wear a color that makes you feel good! Just make sure to stay away from the following colors: black, white, grey or red. These colors don’t translate well on camera. Black makes everything look dull, white can blow out the camera lighting, no one ever remembers grey and red tends to do funny things to skin tones and camera settings.

Also, stay away from jewelry, logos, stripes and patterns, they take away from the most important subject – YOU!

Now that you know how to look your best, go out there and break a leg!

 


diane_christiansen

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.

7 Power Principles with Acting Coach Alexia Robinson

July 8, 2016

Alexia Robinson is known for her role as Tiffany in Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger, performing in The Nutty Professor, as well as her many television roles like the savvy attorney Alex Perez in The Young and the Restless. But, Alexia is also a producer, director, and world renowned acting coach who operates the Alexia Robinson Acting Studio in North Hollywood. Her classes specialize in scene study training for both TV and film work for adults, teens, and kids alike. She’s trained thousands of actors and has over 15 years industry experience. She also has a division of coaching called SmartActors.com which features coaching, acting classes, and mentoring via the web.

In this clip, Alexia shares Seven Power Principles to give us a glimpse of her online acting classes. She starts with the power tip of humility, insisting this virtue is a “sign of strength” as well as being attractive to others. Secondly, she advises actors to avoid comparing themselves to others. Rather, she asserts the importance of staying “in your own lane and knowing your time will come,” and adding actors should focus on what they do have control over–that is, their training. A third power principle is to be respectful to the casting directors, producers, directors who help you book jobs by coming to the set “prompt and prepared,” being courteous to everyone on set, and being receptive to direction. Next, she encourages actors to be persistent despite times of discouragement. Citing an example in her life when she was on the brink of giving up, she describes how her manager urged her go on one more audition before she called it quits. Good thing Alexia listened because she says, “That one audition was ‘General Hospital.’ I started getting films, I got television shows, and series regular roles.” Power principle number five is discipline; she stands firm that excellent acting requires proper studying, and so it’s critical for actors to take control of their time management skills. Next,  Alexia says the principle of patience allows an actor the needed time and nurturing it takes to “grow” a career. And lastly, she insists faith is essential for actors in their quest for the career they want. “So if you want to win an Academy Award, you have to believe that you’re going to be walking on that stage, see yourself walking on that stage, and accepting your Academy Award.”

Alexia emphasizes that this online class is not only beneficial for actors to increase their chances of booking jobs, but are helpful life lessons for everyone regardless of career choice.

Keys to Booking a Procedural

June 13, 2016

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Procedural dramas, loosely defined as shows where a problem is introduced, investigated and solved in the course of an episode, are taking over television. Not only are there more than ever before, but there are more types than ever before. We have crime, legal, medical, (three new hospital dramas this season) military and science procedurals as well as procedurals that go all season long in the solving of a single crime.

In this landscape, you’ll have opportunities to audition for procedurals more than any other type of show. It is essential for you to have a way of working that allows you to recognize the genre, sub-genre, the type of role, the requirements of that role, and that also gives you the skills to still bring your singular point of view and voice to role.

Let’s take a brief look at three of the roles most commonly cast on crime procedurals as well as some tips on how to audition for them:

Booking a procedural role

Suspect:

These roles are usually comprised of a scene or scenes in which you are being questioned/interviewed by detectives. There are almost always two people doing the interrogating. It’s very important when auditioning for one of these roles to establish different relationships with each of the detectives – it’s a rookie mistake to lump them together. You can tell from the lines if there’s a good/bad cop dynamic taking place. If not, it’s up to you to decide, for example, which of the two you find more understanding and who you find more threatening. If you watch crime procedurals, you’ll notice during these scenes that the camera spends a lot of time on the suspects face, gauging their reaction to each detective’s questions. It is essential they see in the audition that you have the ability to have two separate relationships and sets of reactions.

Listening is paramount for the suspect. These are reactionary roles and casting directors will need to see that you can be just as interesting in your silences as you are when you’re speaking. Plus, there’s a lot at stake! If you’re the killer, you have to hear exactly what they’re saying in order to not step in a trap. And if you’re innocent, you need to prove it to them, by answering their questions believably. There are plenty of reasons to be active in your listening when you’re auditioning to be a suspect.

Witness:

When you’re auditioning for a witness to a crime, you need to bring a very strong intent to the story that you’re telling. You can’t just recount the incident. If you book the role you will be responsible for delivering the emotional content of the event, as well as the facts. A personal intent that resonates deeply with you will drive you through the description of the events and give the incident a heartbeat. It’s that heartbeat, so personal and urgent that will show the people in the room that you’re the strongest and most compelling choice for the role

Expert:

As our detectives move through their investigation they may seek the help of a forensic examiner, a coroner, a professor, a legal scholar or some other type of expert. These can be really fun and challenging roles to play. Here are some tips on how to “book the expert.”

You have to be believable in the profession that you’re auditioning for. This means having a sense of natural ease with any of the technical dialogue. If it doesn’t sound like a second language coming out of your mouth, you won’t get the job. When you’re preparing, have fun getting to know the sounds and feelings of the words, from how they feel crossing your vocal cords to where they resonate in your body. If you simply memorize the lines you’ll sound like an actor reciting. If you take the time to embody the words, you’ll sound like an expert speaking.

In order to bring all of that expert dialogue to life requires that you have a compelling relationship to your job. These roles often have no backstory and little emotional content and yet you are a person and people come alive in relationship to what/who is important to them. Really dig into the feelings you have for your job, how secure or insecure you are in it, if you’re passionate or tired etc. Make it interesting to you, so that the words contain the life and weight of the career as you feel it and as the expert lives it.

Also, as with the suspect, the relationships with the detectives are also key. Does the fact that you’re talking to detectives make you feel smug, enthusiastic, and defensive? And which one of them really bugs you?

When you watch crime procedurals you’ll see that the people who book these roles always have a strong point of view on what they do and how they share their expertise to the people in front of them.

Experts are easy roles to go generic on in an audition– don’t! The information that the expert conveys must be clear and memorable. It’s often the case that the outcome of the show hinges on something the expert said in the first 15 minutes of the episode and the audience needs to remember when and where they heard it. So, while you won’t be going into the audition to put on a huge show, you need to have great commitment to the specific decisions you’ve made for the piece. Your audition hinges on it


CraigWallace

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

The Best Reasons You Didn’t Get The Part

April 15, 2016

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Can there ever be a good reason not to get the part? I know that you’re probably thinking “No!” Trust me, that’s the wrong answer.

I know that many actors walk into my office with one thing in mind, and one thing only: Booking that role! That’s a nice goal, but anyone who has worked in casting more than a couple of years will tell you, that should not be the goal on that day. Your goal every time you walk into a casting office is to deliver a strong enough audition for us to call you again in the future. Do that enough times and you will work. A lot.

 

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Actors that understand the long-term aspect of auditioning tend to be the ones that book over and over. It’s about booking the room so that we call you in for years for many of our future projects. We don’t look at it the same way as actors. If you deliver consistently in the room and you are the right look, I want to use you in the best way possible. I do not want to waste my time reading you for a part you aren’t going to get.

There are actually several great reasons why you didn’t get the part.

If the part went to a name, it is one of the best reasons you were not cast. It means that they had the money for a name and that name accepted. Nothing was going to get you that part if the name said “yes.” We often have offers out to names while we are seeing other actors. We might cast the role while you are sitting in the waiting room. If this seems harsh then you are forgetting the cardinal rule of casting. The project always comes first. Over you, over me and maybe even over the producer.

Another good reason you might not have booked is because we decided after reading you that we were going to hold off until something better came along. What a compliment that is! I have done this so many times. I read an actor for a small role. I had never met them before. They blew me away. But since they didn’t get a callback for that small role they assume I hate them. Oh, so wrong.

This happens in television every day. We assume we have 100 episodes to cast and how we use each actor matters because anyone can say one line, but only a small percentage can handle a strong guest-star role. Add to this equation actors with very specific looks and it can be a true shortage if the show lasts long enough. We want to cast you however it best benefits the project.

And here’s maybe the most important reason an actor didn’t get the part and it’s a beauty. You simply weren’t right for the part. Sure, you may have fit the general, physical description in the breakdown, but so did a thousand other actors. It doesn’t do you any favors to cast you when you’re not right for the part. There’s nothing worse than the wrong actor in a role. How many times have you seen this in films and on television? It ruins the entire project.

I know you would all like nothing more than to book the role. But it’s important to remember that on any given day, it may not happen, and that actually may be for the best.


Mark Sikes began his casting career in 1992 for Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Corman. In the past 24 years, he has cast over 100 films as well as television series, commercials and web series. He has cast projects for top directors such as Tobe Hooper, Mark Jones and Luke Greenfield and many others. Domestically, he as cast films in Los Angeles as well as in Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia and multiple projects in Colorado.

 

Bryan Cranston’s BreakThrough Philosophy

January 1, 2016

Bryan Cranston was once asked to give advice to aspiring actors, and in turn he spoke about a “breakthrough” in his career when he shifted the way he mentally approached auditions. The Breaking Bad actor said, “About eighteen years ago, I had this cognition that, I realized I was going into auditions trying to get a job. And that simply wasn’t what I was doing. That wasn’t what I’m supposed to be doing. An actor is supposed to create a compelling, interesting character that serves the text, presented in the environment where your audition happens, and then you walk away–and that’s it. Everything else is out of your control, so don’t even think of it…You’re not going there to get a job. You’re going there to present what you do: You act. And there it is; you walk away.”

Cranston says this altering of his mind frame both empowered him and fueled him with confidence. Afterall, he continues, “The decision of who might get a job is so out of your control that, really when you analyze it, it makes no sense to hold onto that.” And indeed, he says the fruit of this philosophy was an increase in work. “I’ve never been busier in my life,” the Emmy Award-winning actor asserts.

If this advice sounds simplistic to you, you might be interested to know that other actors have noticed a leap in their success by adapting to this same philosophy.

For instance, Dallas Buyers Club‘s Michael O’Neill describes a similar scenario in his journey as an actor. Of one frustrating point in his career he says, “I couldn’t get thrown in jail. Just nothing was working. And I felt like I was auditioning really poorly.” A director friend of his attempted to help O’Neill out of his slump by inviting him to observe other actors auditioning for a play she was casting. Among the many lessons he learned from the experience was that the most professional actors who gave solid, strong auditions quickly exited the room after presenting their worthwhile takes on the role. He, on the other hand, was tending to stay beyond his audition performance in hopes of making a stronger connection with casting to attain the job. But this observational exercise made O’Neill realize that as long as he did his best work, he could trust doing so was enough. From then on, as he explains, “Especially if I nailed the audition, I’m outta there, they’re gonna have to catch me by the coat tail, I’m done, I’m gone. Because I did what I was supposed to do. I did my job. And I can’t do it any better, I can’t do it any more.”

What kind of philosophy do you embrace when you enter the audition room? Are you like Cranston and O’Neill used to be: focussed on landing the job? If so, has this approach worked out well for you? Or have you likewise observed an improvement in the results of your auditioning when you consciously remain centered on giving your best performance instead of focusing on being hired for a job?

Planning for a Long Acting Career: The Secrets to Career Longevity

October 26, 2015

Building a Lasting Career

Every actor and actress knows that a successful acting career requires years of hard work. From the great Lucille Ball to Jon Hamm, there are plenty of actors whose careers have started late, but the fame matters less than the longevity of their careers. In order to have staying power, you must have a strategy in order to maintain your career. Here are the secrets to career longevity.

How to Maintain Your Acting Career

Using your own unique experiences can be your starting point in creating a long lasting career. Over the course of auditioning, you will find that your experiences will shape how you approach roles. It is one way to stand out amongst your competition since they cannot offer a director what you can.
Within the industry, you will have to face moments when you have to push yourself. This may be the times when you have to talk yourself into auditioning for a part. You may be resistant because you do not feel like you are the right fit simply because of nerves. Being afraid should not be a reason for not trying. Besides, a casting director may see something you do not and find a part better suited for you. How will you earn roles if you never try?
Even if you do not land the part, it does not mean that you will walk away empty handed. Through an audition you will gain experience, and hopefully feedback, from the casting director. Learning how to take feedback is also a vital aspect of acting. You must be able to differentiate constructive criticism from comments that will not help you to improve your technique.
Having confidence is key to a lifelong career. A director will want an individual who is sure of their abilities while remaining authentic. Perfection or lack of confidence will turn off a director because they are not attributes any audience will want to relate to.
Everyone’s idea of success differs. Early on in your career, try define what a successful career will encompass. You will find that over the years, your standards may change and you can adjust accordingly.

Auditions in Los Angeles

The secret to any successful career is utilizing all of the resources you have in your arsenal. With acting, it is everything that comes from within. Kickstart your career by booking jobs with Casting Frontier.

Brilliant or Ridiculous Auditioning Advice?

April 12, 2015

If you recognize this actor, but can’t think of his name, it’s probably because he’s often cast in small roles in high-profile films and TV shows. Glenn Morshower is best known for playing Secret Service Agent Aaron Pierce in the award-winning Fox serial drama 24. But he often portrays law enforcement characters, military personnel, and government agents; thus, you might recognize him as Colonel Hendry from X-Men: First Class, or Transformers: Dark of the Moon‘s General Morshower, or CSI: Crime Scene Investigation‘s Sheriff Brian Mobley.

With decades of steady work under his belt, what golden nuggets of wisdom does Glenn share in this clip? Read on!

He says, “I ask actors, ‘How many of you have ever had the experience of the finest version of the audition be the one that takes place in the car on the way home–after the audition?’ And they always raise their hands.” In an effort to help actors relax in the audition room, Morshower shares “a harmless secret” that he insists he’s been doing for years to help him effectively stay loose and calm while in tense auditioning circumstances or important meetings: He puts items like bologna or breakfast cereal in his underwear. Giving a thumbs up, Glenn says he discovered, “Food in my undershorts was the secret to success. Now here’s the point: I’m not joking.” Morshower says it’s hard to let your nerves mess up a meeting when you’ve got food items in your undergarments because when you’re in that high-pressure situation, “you don’t care.”

Morshower is used to giving life advice. He wrote and performs in a series of performances called The Extra Mile which are a combination of motivational speaking and dramatic and comedic storytelling. He seeks to help audiences “discover clarity, a passion, and an indefatigable commitment to the deepest yearnings of the soul.”

So what do you think? Is this brilliant or ridiculous relaxation technique for auditions and high-powered meetings?

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